Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina

Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina

Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina

Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina

Synopsis

In this expansive history of South Carolina's commemoration of the Civil War era, Thomas Brown uses the lens of place to examine the ways that landmarks of Confederate memory have helped white southerners negotiate their shifting political, social, and economic positions. By looking at prominent sites such as Fort Sumter, Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery, and the South Carolina statehouse, Brown reveals a dynamic pattern of contestation and change. He highlights transformations of gender norms and establishes a fresh perspective on race in Civil War remembrance by emphasizing the fluidity of racial identity within the politics of white supremacy.

Despite the conservative ideology that connects these sites, Brown argues that the Confederate canon of memory has adapted to address varied challenges of modernity from the war's end to the present, when enthusiasts turn to fantasy to renew a faded myth while children of the civil rights era look for a usable Confederate past. In surveying a rich, controversial, and sometimes even comical cultural landscape, Brown illuminates the workings of collective memory sustained by engagement with the particularity of place.

Excerpt

We were not too intoxicated to clamber over the waist-high iron fence and invade the darkened churchyard. I was in Columbia because I worked for a federal judge who had come to the city for a week to hear cases. My former college roommate Ted Phillips was finishing law school at the University of South Carolina. I had visited his home state four years earlier, when we both should have been college seniors. Then he had introduced me to his beloved Charleston. Now he was eager to expand my sense of local orientation.

The trip to Charleston took place a few months into Ted’s rustication, the consequence of his overzealousness in the ritual feud between the campus newspaper and the humor magazine. As he packed his belongings, he presented me with his fine copy of David Donald’s Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (1960). My mentor’s masterpiece, the brilliant but problematic book was the stuff of which academic ambition is made. The gift also served as an inside joke. During our first year of college, Ted and I had shared with two other roommates the suite in which Sumner had lived during his senior year at Harvard. Ted was from South Carolina and I was from Massachusetts . . .

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