Sewanee Symposium and the Memory of the Civil War and Reconstruction

The legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction have been very much on my mind as late, particularly after attending the Sewanee Symposium on the 14th Amendment, which featured an amazing array of scholars such as David Blight, Annette Gordon Reed, Kate Masur, and Daniel Sharfstein, to name a few. I thank Vice Chancellor John McCardell, Prof. Woody Register, and Tanner Potts for all their hard work, and it’s certainly enriched my course in African American history.

Blight’s public lecture in particular generated a wealth of memorable quotes, my favorite perhaps being “When in doubt quote Frederick Douglass.” His point which resonated with me most was referring to the 14th Amendment as the “legal and constitutional DNA under which you live.” As a cultural historian who hails from the “antebellum homes capital of Tennessee,” I often think about the legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction in terms of historical memory, influenced by scholars like Blight, but this symposium brought legal history to life in a remarkable way, which I resolved to carry over into my course. 

All this in my mind, I recently wrote a letter to the editor in my hometown newspaper, the Columbia Daily Herald, in response to an article on the groundbreaking of a planned confederate museum. My letter was then quoted in a Smithsonian Magazine online piece about the museum. I will leave it to others to decide what they think.