The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

Where did the Civil War “go” during the 1970s?

It was, again, nearly forgotten. The nation, which was attempting to put both the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights struggle behind it, was much more interested in celebrating the American Revolution. Seventeen seventy-six was the date most often mentioned, not 1861. There was a “feel-good” experience to the Revolution that was seldom found with the Civil War because in the former Americans had not—for the most part—fought and killed each other. Some scholars pointed to the eventual 150th anniversary of the Civil War, pointing out it was not that far off, but the public as a whole banished the Civil War from its mind.

The early 1980s took American minds even further away from the Civil War. Heightened tensions between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union made a nuclear war seem possible, and present-day concerns trumped the past. The 125th anniversary celebrations of the Civil War were muted, to say the least. But a series of events was about to alter that situation.


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