This week I read two more secondary sources that I thought would be significant to my studies. The first, David W. Blight’s Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War (2002) is a collection of Blight’s essays and lectures, all on the topic of Civil War memory. His introduction treats the intersection of history and memory broadly, and addresses the significance of such studies: as he writes, “History is often weak in the face of the mythic power of memory and its many oracles. But we run the greatest risk in ignoring that weakness, wishing that the public would adopt a more critical, interpretive sense of the past…As historians, we are bound by our craft and by our humanity to study the problem of memory, and thereby help make a future” (p. 4). His sixth essay discusses many of the same issues he tackles in full in Race and Reunion, which was published after the essay here first came out. I think Race and Reunion will be more useful to me, then, but it’s good to have looked at this book too. Blight’s essay stops at 1913, our familiar endpoint for many studies of Civil War commemoration…and one which I want to extend.
I also read Sustaining Identity, Recapturing Heritage: Exploring Issues of Public History, Tourism, and Race in a Southern Town (2007) by Ann Denkler. Denkler’s book is about the town of Luray, in the Shenandoah Valley. She argues that in Luray, “heritage and public history…are vital components to white individual and white community identity and are reflected in its commemorative landscape” (p. 2). By examining the “interplay of history, public history, race, and tourism,” Denkler concludes that the collective memory of Luray’s white citizens has for a long time overshadowed the town’s African American history. She has discussions here about the two Confederate monuments in the town—one erected in 1898 and the other in 1917. The first one was sculpted by a local artist, but Luray’s citizens found enough problems with it and its creator by 1917 to erect another one, purchased from the McNeel Marble Co. in Marietta, GA. According to a contemporary newspaper article, 75 percent of Confederate monuments in the South came from this company. Denkler’s book will probably be helpful, as will her sources, especially in the records of the Page County library—I may want to explore them myself to see if the 1917 monument’s dedications were immortalized in pamphlet or news form.
I met with Dr. Quigley to bring him up to speed on everything Thursday. We went over my bibliography thus far and he suggested some more additions which I will be on the lookout for soon. I was glad to get my adviser’s perspective that things are moving along well.