The American civil war battles go on
150 years after the US conflict started, history still divides those who would commemorate it
No so much as you might think really. From the piece:
In 1961 an official US commission oversaw thousands of events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American civil war. All 50 states joined in, but not surprisingly the biggest events took place in the 11 southern states that made up the defeated Confederacy. Citizens in Alabama celebrated with a full-scale re-enactment of the swearing in of the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, in front of 50,000 spectators, followed by an inauguration ball attended by 5,000 guests. In South Carolina, where the first shots of the four-year war were fired, Confederate flags were flown from every building. There was a Miss Confederate beauty pageant, parades, and even a re-enactment of South Carolina\’s declaration of secession.
So that was 50 years ago. Today?
Fifty years ago, when the civil rights movement was in its infancy, the prospect of black protests was considered more a public order issue than a political problem. But now just the threat of protests meant not a single Alabaman politician showed up for this year\’s re-enactment of Jefferson Davis\’s swearing-in. In Charleston, South Carolina, organisers of a \”secession ball\” continued despite a barrage of media criticism, and having to run the gauntlet of protesters on the night.
In an attempt to forestall similar trouble this week the body that looks after Charleston\’s battle sites is adopting a deliberately sombre approach. Instead of fireworks, a single beam of light will emanate from Fort Sumter up to the sky before splitting into two, symbolising the division of the nation.
I\’d be surprised if it was \”fear of protestors\”, of a rampaging mob, which caused the change.
For there really has been a sea change in American public opinion over race in the past 50 years. Back then most of the South had laws against interacial marriage. Laws that were still enforced furthermore. They\’ve not quite reached the levels of the UK, where intermarriage rates reach 30, 35% for some (say, Afro Caribbean) groups, but they\’re certainly on the way….to the point that one of the louder voices against such marriage across race boundaries comes from parts of the black side of it all. That such intermarriage will dilute the uniquely African American experience.
The US certainly ain\’t perfect on race as with so many other matters (it being populated with those fallible beings, humans, it\’s just like everywhere else on that point) but it\’s certainly better than it was.
Two fun Civil War facts. The last widow\’s pension was finally stopped in 2004 when that widow died. The Confederate dollar has been a stronger currency than the US dollar for the past 50 years.