Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Change of Plans, Perhaps...

It may disappoint some of you to know that I am considering scrapping the Alabama leg of the trip. After speaking with my thesis adviser today, I have come to the conclusion that I might have too much material already to work with. A comparison of Richmond and Atlanta could be a tenable project, but to add Alabama to the mix just doesn't make sense.

Besides, the angle for Richmond and Atlanta is largely the same: how public memory of the Confederacy has changed since the inception of monuments in those cities. Furthermore, Richmond and Atlanta have a special iconic status --Richmond as the capital of the CSA, and Atlanta as the South's most devistated city. Moulton, Alabama has no such reputation. So while I am fascinated by the decision of the Lawrence County Commission to erect a new memorial to the Confederacy, I think it makes sense to drop this part of the project. Still, I might make a few phone calls and just poke around to see what's going on over in Alabama. They actually erected the monument on June 25, but I can't find newspaper record of its unveiling anywhere.

Here is my tentative interpretation of the differing approaches to memorializing in Richmond and Atlanta: Richmond takes its history more seriously than Atlanta. Harsh, I know. Battles are still waged in Richmond over what historical figures constitute heroes (ie, the controversies over the Ashe monument, the Lee mural and the Lincoln statue); race and the legacy of slavery still loom large over local politics (and some politicians successfully play the "race card"). Like every other city in America, Atlanta has its racial tensions. However, in the case of Stone Mountain at least, black/white hostilities are secondary to love of green.

One easy response to this argument is that the physical constitution of these monuments lend themselves to different types of interaction. That is, because Stone Mountain is a mountain, it is more of a natural tourist attraction than, say, Monument Avenue. I am still wrestling with how to deal with this criticism. Of course, a comparison of any two cities is never a controlled experiment. But I still think there must be something to the fact that longtime Atlanta residents think of laser lights and The Charlie Daniels Band when they hear "Stone Mountain." Somehow, those neon lights and an aggressive marketing campaign have blinded people to the mountain's not-so-distant history.


At 5:40 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

My guess is that you were able to find a great deal of material at the Virginia Historical Society and Museum of the Confederacy. The comparison between Virginia and Atlanta is a good one. W. Fitzhugh Brundage explores the postwar public debates over how to remember the war in _Southern Pasts: A Clash of Pasts_ (Harvard Univ. Press, 2005). It is well worth your time.

At 11:11 AM, Anonymous David Corbett said...

Dear Sarah ,
I enjoy your project ! Re: Atlanta - Once while at Gettyburg I met a fellow from Georgia who informed me that "Atlanta was a city in the South , not a Southern city and he prayed Sherman would return and burn it down again . Keep up the good work.
Cordially ,
David Corbett

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Wax pa Pelo said...

I will give you $100 to come home within 7 days. We will all be richer.

I will confess to skepticiam at your projects onset suspicious of a clever but idle dalliance. You have proven me wrong with several meaningful insights and original thoughts. I am very proud of you. As the CEO of the foundation sponsoring your work I look forward to its reading.

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At 5:41 AM, Anonymous SCV Member said...

Interesting blog. I'm always interested in anything to do with the civil war, especially in the area of Bartow County, Georgia. I'm an active member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

SCV member


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