Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Do Americans Remember the Civil War?

How Do Americans Remember the Civil War?: Pictured above is the Pennsylvania Monument at the Gettysburg Battlefield. Dedicated at a cost of about $250,000 in 1910, it commemorates the 35,000 Pennsylvania soldiers who fought in the battle. Constructed of iron, concrete, bronze, and granite, it's one of the most elaborate state monuments at Gettysburg. If a monument such as this can be viewed as signifying a kind of collective memory toward the Civil War, then how do individuals approach the subject? According to historian David Blight, there are three main visions for how people generally remember the war. First, and perhaps the most obvious, is the Reconciliationist vision. Embodied initially by Abraham Lincoln and his Second Inaugural Address, the Reconciliationist vision encourages Americans to recognize that faults existed on both sides (North and South) during the war. Next is the Emancipationist vision, which was popular among anti-slavery activists like Frederick Douglass. With this vision, the rights and privileges of citizenship were to be extended to all Americans, especially freed slaves. And lastly, there's the White Supremacist vision, which trumpets the "Lost Cause" mythology and emphasizes the roles of Confederate heroes such as Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee.

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