Memory, race, and gender

I read two useful books for my topic this week, which have helped me start to get a handle on where my question fits into larger happenings. First I read David Blight’s Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2002). This is an important work for anyone studying the Lost Cause to be familiar with. Blight argues that over the course of the fifty years following the Civil War, white Northerners and Southerners were able to reconcile by downplaying the aspects of the war that had to do directly with the end of slavery. White Southerners led the way in this by embracing a Lost Cause mentality that largely ignored the role slavery had played in secession and the conflict itself. White Northerners, Blight says, were willing to reconcile on the South’s terms in order to speed up reunion at the expense of black Civil War memory. Though the South lost the war, by the early twentieth century they were winning the war of ideas in conjunction with equally white-supremacist Northerners.

The second book I read was Caroline E. Janney’s Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause (2008). The book is about Ladies’ Memorial Associations (LMAs) in five Virginia communities during the first fifty years after the Civil War. These LMAs sought to keep alive the memory of their town’s local soldiers and a feeling of Confederate identity through public commemorations, including the building of monuments and the organization of Confederate cemeteries. Janney argues that participation in LMAs allowed white Virginian ladies to continue a tradition of civic engagement in an area they defended against male encroachment, the realm of memory. In doing so, the Ladies crafted the particular brand of Confederate memory we have come to know as the Lost Cause. Their work has been overshadowed, however, since the rise of national organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). [taken in part from my secondary source reception essay for this week]

With these books as guides, I will be able to incorporate questions of race and gender into my own research. I’m excited to move beyond 1915, which is where both of these books stop. Since I am going to look at the memory of war during another war (at least WWI, possibly the Spanish-American War), my question will be slightly different from each of these but will benefit from these well-respected previous works.

Spotsylvania Confederate Cemetery Monument

Spotsylvania Confederate Cemetery monument, dedicated 1918

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