The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

What did Blight say?

His words were informed by his own personal story. Like many young people in the 1960s, he had been inspired by the writings of Bruce Catton, and he felt something very large was left out: the black presence. In American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era, published in 2011, Blight pointed out the discrepancies between the promises of the 1860s and the disillusionment of the 1960s.

At the beginning of the Civil War Centennial in 1961, blacks could not even stay at the same hotels as whites, and even if this had not been the case, only two or three blacks were given any roles during the opening ceremonies in Charleston. It was, to Blight, as if the African Americans had not been present, as if the Civil War had been fought between two white peoples, with the blacks merely holding the bags and watching till the event was over. Blight captured the depth of his feeling, and that of many of his generation, when he wrote: “As a broad culture Americans seem incapable of completely shucking this event from its protective shells of sentimentalism, pathos, romance, in order to see to its heart of tragedy.”


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