The 150th Commemoration of the Civil War began last December (2010) with the first 150th anniversary, the anniversary of South Carolina's secession. Obviously, the Civil War is of large importance to United States History. It truly is a critical turning point in our nation’s history and can be seen as a second American Revolution. American politics, society and the economy, even geography in some places, were drastically changed through four years of bitter war. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered by their own countrymen and millions of lives were affected. As I mentioned in a previous post, civil wars are usually the least civil of wars and the trauma of this war rattled a generation and shaped the future of the nation.
Even though this is a pivotal event in history textbooks, the understanding of it is not limited to textbooks, websites or the published works of historians. A century and a half later, this event is still debated today. It still hooks the interest of ordinary people around the world. The Civil War is the most written about single event in world history. Walk into any bookstore and you will find volumes of recently published works all about this one war 150 years ago. (See my previous post)
One popular topic of debate, and one of the many reasons this event is still so thoroughly studied today, is the root cause of the war: the debate on slavery. The Civil War simply cannot be understood without understanding slavery as the core issue. As I write this, I know that some disagree on this point.
Since I will most likely be gone on “paternity leave” when we discuss this topic in class, I leave you with the following items:
1. Viewing slavery as a cause for secession is still controversial today. Here’s an example from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. (I’m not usually a fan of this show, but it does bring forth some valid discussion)
2. Why is there such a controversy?
Here are some historians on this point:
(sorry about the advertisement, wish I could help that! be sure to stop the clip at the end)
3. Questions for Class Discussion:
- Why does naming slavery as the main cause of the Civil War (though there are others) create so much controversy today?
- Why do some high school history teachers find it difficult to teach about slavery? (some teachers I have encountered at conferences are very uncomfortable even discussing slavery)
- How is this commemoration of the Civil War (the 150th) different from previous commemorations (50th, 100th, etc)?
- Why does the Civil War still receive such attention, by historians, by ordinary people, by Hollywood?
- Is it appropriate for states to allow the Confederate flag to be displayed in public buildings?
For further interest, here are a few additional resources on this topic:
- My previous blog post on the Civil War: http://broachblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/war-has-begun.html
- How We’ve Commemorated the Civil War: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/How-Weve-Commemorated-the-Civil-War.html
- Civil War 150 from the History Channel: http://www.history.com/interactives/civil-war-150#/home
- More on my links page: http://delicious.com/mbroachbkhs/CivilWar150
- Search this hashtag on Twitter: #CW150
- Follow me on Twitter @michaelbroach – I’ll be tweeting and re-tweeting 150th-anniversary items!