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Two Island Narratives, Part II: Sapelo

As a part of a troupe of teachers studying Reconstruction, perhaps the most misremembered time in America’s past, I headed to Sapelo Island off the Georgia coast. There a secluded community still lives today, descendants of the former enslaved peoples of the lowcountry south where sea-island cotton was grown for export to textile mills in places like New York, Manchester, and Liverpool. Our group had the chance to get to know the place ourselves. We enjoyed eating the Low Country Boil, a meal consisting of shrimp, potatoes, sausage, and corn in a broth, which locals had enjoyed for centuries. We swam in the warm waters and looked up at the starry night sky while thunder rolled in the distance. I quickly appreciated the natural beauty of the place, and why those who had toiled and bled in the fields would want their children and their children’s children to construct a new life there. Like the “mixed race people” of Malaga in the north, the Gullah-Geechee culture that lives on Sapelo today were likely maligned over the past century and a half as somehow inferior, incapable of caring for the land properly.... Read More
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In Defense of Radical Responses to Civil War Monuments

I began writing on this topic several weeks ago, well before the despicable rally that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend. The controversy over Confederate monuments has been unquestionably transformed by the alliance of neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and the so-called Alt-Right that came out “in defense” of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee monument. […]... Read More
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Episodic History: Bryan’s Picks

In just a few days, Friday will see the premier of the much-anticipated movie Dunkirk, which tells the story of the World War II battle of the same name in which British and French forces were evacuated across the English Channel by civilian watercraft under the guns of the Third Reich. When done well, all of us here at Concerning History love seeing history on the big and small screens, as it seems to bring the past to life with a vibrancy and immediacy lacking in other media as well as powerfully impact public perception and memory of events. The number of history-related series on television or streaming services especially has blossomed in recent years. We all have our special interests, though, and can’t help but pine for some of our pet topics to get the attention we know they deserve. In what we hope will become a long-running series, I’ve decided to pull together a list of a few historical events and periods I feel would make for highly compelling or necessary television.... Read More
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Finding John Brown’s Body

There is a place in North Elba, New York, where pine trees encircle a meadow. Looming over the pines are two ski jump towers used during the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. From the parking lot can be seen a small enclosure, a weathered barn, a wooden farmhouse, and a pond. Standing before it all is a larger-than-life statue depicting an unbowed and unbroken John Brown with his arm over the shoulder of an African American child.... Read More
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States’ Rights, the Slave Power Conspiracy, and the Causes of the Civil War

Recently I was reading a textbook’s account for the cause of the Civil War. This textbook was attempting to wade a middle ground between the two major arguments for the Civil War’s cause: slavery (and its extension) versus states’ rights. While the States’ Rights argument is definitively refuted by the primary document evidence of the secession crisis, this textbook made the following claim: that the issue of states’ rights was connected to the right of individuals in the states’ to own slaves. I decided that such a claim was worth some thoughtful debunking.... Read More