tv The Civil War CSPAN October 2, 2016 2:50pm-4:01pm EDT
weekend on c-span3. >> a panel of historians talk about efforts to include the history of reconstruction in the more historic site of literature. until they recently published books as part of a larger effort to start a national conversation on the events and effects of the reconstruction era. they comer columbia at this event. >> when name is michael allen and i'm with the national parks service. he and i are probably only thele sitting here today remember this. that then outgoing secretary of others visited for
two or three days in december of 2000. it was a simple thought in the simple mission, to look at the buildings, the landscape, the environment, which was essential reconstruction, potentially with an opportunity to establish some sort of park service presence in the area. consonant today as it was 2016, there are no national parks services directly associated chronicle and talk about the history of reconstruction. to give you some background, we after the doctor and the secretary of the interior left. under the bush administration we toll continue to sally forth accomplish that task. [laughter]
we we recap to partners like the buford, the usc city of buford, the county of buford. we try to make sure that we were casting a wide net. a partnership of inclusion. from the political side we both reached out lyrically until at the congress that represented buford, joe wilson, applied some of the facts of our past and what we hoped to accomplish. we asked for his support and blessing. so, we continue to move forward and we began to hear the quiet voices of rumbling. rumbling that came from a group that did not reach out as well as it should have.
the sons of the confederate veterans. serviceonal parks inquired -- what are you all doing in buford? since we are a public federal agency, we have nothing to hide. so, we shared with them what our thoughts were, the impetus of it we were doing it and why was important for the net -- american public. this is what we do as a national park service. well, we reported back to them. i guess they digested what we had sent and somehow it was presented to us by congressman joe wilson perhaps this is not the time nor the season over the -- or the place to have a conversation about reconstruction. so unfortunately, in 2002, we were told to cease. so that's what we did. but in the back of many of our
minds, we knew that the day would come when the national park service would take up the mantle again to have a serious conversation about reconstruction in our agency. low and behold, about five years ago, i got a call one day indicating to me that two of our historians were to look at national historic sites in buford. i was to show them around and part of them coming was to see these particular sites had connectivity to reconstruction. i took the historians around buford in every place that we went in 2000, we went again. they were still there. [laughter] and so, that worked out well. and then i got another phone call and e-mail saying i was -- the associate director for the southeast region wanted to go and look around buford and so i
picked her up and again, every place that we went in 2000, we went again because they were still there. [laughter] and by that time, we realized that there was some effort afoot in the national park service to really begin to address this matter. again, i was in the washington office for another meeting i was attending. one of the senior leadership's pulled me to the side and i said, what have i done out? -- now? she said, we are moving forward in looking at reconstruction in buford and we needed to be a part of this. again, we are going forward. so at that point, i had been afraid -- i said, madame, the last time we engaged in this journey, we were not as well prepared as we should have been. there were fundamental things
that we should have addressed that we did not. and in some places, we may have been uncomfortable or afraid. i said, i know this time we will be successful. if you ask me to be a part of the process, i'm going to bring my a-game. in the things that we did not do last time, we will do this time. one of the first things that we did, we gathered in washington a number of historians to actually sit with us. i think you were invited. to look at the whole history and the spectrum of reconstruction, its impact, its legacy, the connectivity to life today into big into look at the themes we could begin to address and the concept of this type of process.
that's the first step we did. the next thing we did is we pulled together two great americans that we called part of our team, greg and kate. [laughter] that we would have scholarship on our side as we move forward. and then we also realized, the -- besides andrew johnson, i have to defend my friend. lindsay is a good friend of mine -- >> to be clear, you mean libby is your friend -- [laughter] michael: she realized the challenges that come with it. we are moving her forward in terms of what needs to be done. she just has to continue to engage the community that they will also move forward, as well. so, the next step was bringing us together, but also realizing several things to put into place.
before we looked at buford, we focused on the county. we made a tactical decision to look at the entire southeast in to look at all of the states of the confederacy and the dynamics that came with that in terms of reconstruction. mind you, there are other parts of our nation beyond the south that were also impacted by reconstruction. that does not mean we are going to cut off the rest of the nation. but our focus in our working canvas is the south, first step. earlier today, you heard congressman clyburn -- he gave an outline of reconstruction. i think you made a said 1865 through 1877. one year ago, i shared with him that on this journey our timeline is 1861-1895. he grumbled a little bit when i said that to him. he and i have a good relationship and at the end the
conversation he said all right. for our purposes of our work, we are looking at 1861, bringing in the port royal experience and hilton head all the way through plessy versus ferguson in 1898. there's some folks trying to pull us into the 20th century but we haven't got there yet. that is our working time. the next decision we made is that in addition to looking at sites and places and buildings across the landscape, we need to look internally. look at the existing park service sites in the southeast specifically that have connectivity to reconstruction but perhaps at the present time are not addressing it. and so we pulled together another team working out of our plan to office, looking specifically at park service sites across the south specifically and their connectivity to reconstruction. and then for the broader
context, we reached out to the state historic preservation offices across the south, universities and colleges, groups, entities, organizations, whomever that can bring this information. we are cataloging locations, buildings associated with reconstruction across the entire southeast because we realized that reconstruction in many americans minds is a challenged -- challenging subject. we are going to move forward in terms of having a conversation about that time in our american experience. we need to be able to tell people where they can go and see and experience where these places are. we are doing internally as well as externally in a way that i believe, at the end of the day, when this is all said and done, thatwill be a report
doesn't sit on the shelf, but when the qb used by the american public. to that end, one of the things and want to highlight with you here, many of you have probably visited national park service sites across united states. perhaps, when you go to that site, used to try to buy a handbook and i hope you do. you better. [laughter] in my hand aere recently released handbook -- i think from the last month, the says reconstruction era. so this is your tax dollars at work because we are putting our money -- your money where our mouth is. [laughter] tangibleof having a product that talks about the history and the legacy of reconstruction. there people sitting on this panel that have some arts of what is in this document here. the last time, we didn't do this.
now we have something tangible that is coming out of the work that we are doing. the last thing you want to share with you is a we realize that reconstruction is a challenged subject in many americans minds. we tried to put it in a context of people perhaps can relate to the work that we are doing. so we looked at some themes and sub themes developed by the park a civil unrest and violence in the context of what that brought about in that time. black institution building, family churches in businesses. and franchise met and new democracy. land and labor. federal power. modernizing and rethinking of the south. those are broad themes. at the end of the day, when this is all said and done, stephen gray can get into that specifically. i think we will have not only primer, but a textbook and a
roadmap. the reality is you look relegation today and our decisions are social and political that tie into the efforts of reconstruction. but many americans may not know that the conversations we have have and congressmen lunch our conductivity to reconstruction. it is a vision and goals of the national park service to have a concerted conversation about this time. many of you sitting in this room supported us in the previous four to five years during the centennial, which is another challenging time of how do we interpret the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the civil war and how we did in a way that is broad-based, diverse and holistic. we survived that. few survived that your so the next chapter in our american solvay's reconstruction. , my mission, my
lot in life to work diligently with you, the american public, with historians with the canonal park service so we reconstruct the construction. a cute. -- reconstruct reconstruction. thank you. [applause] gregory: before i came out here, before i got on the plane, i called a friend of mine from greenville, south carolina who now lives in los angeles and i said i'm flying out to columbia to talk about a museum they are developing on reconstruction and he is a bit older than i am and he paused and he said, for or against? [laughter] gregory: i said, for. and he said, you are doing is voluntarily? or they were made to? so i said, voluntarily because they believe in it. he said, south carolina has come a long way. not to say there is not more to -- there is a long way to go but we want to thank you for having us here and it is amazingly
heartening for the things that we do in large present the country where reconstruction is barely mentioned or kind of hidden in euphemisms to see a place that is really embracing the idea of its country already to their culture, history, development, and i feel like you all will be a model not just for the kinds of ideas that we'll talk about with the national park service but i hope a model to lots of other communities. i will quickly give you a sense of how kate and i came to be interested in this before i do that, i will about how i got to be there. eric talked about the politics of history. there is also along with that, the propaganda of history. i grow up -- nobody can talk a south carolinians in crazy stories but i grew up in central kentucky and in the center of the town square, there is a cannonball stuck in a brick with a big brass arrow pointing to it. and if you ask people what
it was from, it was the union, the union army, of which was no such thing -- the united states army had fired at the town of when it was held by confederate. if you walk a couple blocks off is that there was a marker and it said, george custer, custer state in 1874 to 1875 when he was overseeing the seventh cavalry efforts to collect taxes against moonshiners. both of these are total nonsense. [laughter] the first thing was at the town square burned to the ground in 1929 and when it burned to the ground, somebody walked through and pulled out the cannonball and when they rebuilt it he got on the latter and stuck it out there. the second thing is that the town was a unionist town, a loyal town, a patriotic town, not a treasonous town -- i mean, kentucky has a lot to answer for, i don't me to say that, but
as you will see in the next part. and the canon was fired by confederates attacking the town. the third is that custer was stationed at the depot in elizabethtown in 1874 because the seventh cavalry had been sent in both in the green river valley in kentucky but then down down the train lines of alabama and mississippi to put on a wave of insurrectionary violence against african americans and loyal whites. a second wave of what had followed up with came from putting down the ku klux klan in the carolinas in 1871, not to collect taxes from moonshiners. but this is the same propaganda, right, which is to say the problem of why we misunderstand reconstruction is tied up with the problem of why we misunderstand the civil war. it is necessary to have a propaganda about reconstruction to support a propaganda about the civil war in that if we are
going to undo that propaganda, we cannot just undo the propaganda of the civil war and then stop. they have to be interconnected. now, kate and i have each individually been writing about work on reconstruction. it seems like there is nothing new to be said and there is an uncanny way in which you think of something and think it is any pick up eric's book and you're like how did he think that in there? which anticipates sort of everything that one would want to be said that she had written a book about reconstruction and civil rights in washington dc here and i wrote one on north carolina which i apologize for that i picked the wrong carolina and then one on the u.s. army and the occupation of the south in the middle of this together collected new scholarship for
this book. but we began as a lot of people in this room, we were speaking during the sesquicentennials and we were increasingly dissatisfied that as we would go around we would ask people in the new york times about the civil war which we and others participated in -- what are you going to do about reconstruction and the answer was nothing. the new york times series closed in 2015. many historical societies seemed to imagine you get to appomattox and you close the door to the -- and you are done commemorating the civil war and you are onto something else. this frustrated us as it did many of our colleagues. we are certainly not unique enough. we follow the example of eric and many of the people in this room and drying figure out how to fulfill our responsibility to the public. we were led with the help of the american historical association
and others in national park service where we were lucky to find for the reasons mike and a group of people in the park service who had been working towards this and planning for this for a long time. talk about harmonic convergence. so what i will do is talk about the poorest piece of that and cable talk about the second piece. and so one of the things it has to be met and we talked about was the problem that eric as usual anticipated and last night which is that at one point there was a stage in which a lot of people of generations had false views of reconstruction, that over the generational period it seems like an especially so among the that they have no view of reconstruction at all. they don't know anything. in a way that means we don't have to undo the mistakes of the past, but they don't have any idea why it is important. they understood that it was important. and that we had to be put a figure how to convey to people
that it mattered. and so this was the motivation behind the group of us at the national park service and kate and myself on the handbook that mike mentioned. but we aimed to do there is to provide information but also contemporary interpretations of reconstruction that are aimed at a lay audience where it is not presumed that you committed all of eric's book to memory that it is a requirement by the time they finish but that people who have interesting curiosity by not knowledge to pick it up. we also aimed, while i didn't have the good sense to study south carolina we included people who do including native south carolinians among many others including eric and many others and that the goal of the book was to convey to people why reconstruction mattered.
so that the people who walk into a park and say what is this about, have a place they can turn to that is really aimed for them and aimed to capture their interests. so i will very quickly sum up how it begins and ends in an -- i will turn it over to kate. so i am happy to say despite my own bias toward north carolina and actually begins a guy and not making this up -- in south carolina -- and it begins -- i have not making this up either -- with robert small, right? so confirmation on multiple sides of the importance of what it means to think about this transformative figure out somebody who goes from a slave, a pilot, moving out of the cover of darkness, the u.s. blockade, his political involvement over decades, constitutional convention of congress and also, the disappointment that congressman clyburn narrated at the end of his career as way to understand the revolutionary change and the disappointed conclusion of reconstruction. at the end we talk about the value of the introduction. not just that it has a thematic coincidence with questions of civil rights but also particular
statutes, constitutional commitments and shape reconstruction, and the civil rights movement and continue to shape of the day. and as we conclude in sending reconstruction offers america's messages that are at once heartening and disheartening. it reminds us that american values of democracy, freedom and equality are not simply slogans or legal doctrines, they are processes that must be defended and redefined, not just by the government, but by the people themselves. [applause] kate: thank you. i want to reiterate my thanks for you all for inviting us here and me here and for having this. it's been as a person who mainly works in academic history and kind of has gotten increasingly involved in his public history venture and working with the national park service, i feel like it is a huge honor to be up to be part of this process of trying to have all the conversations about how we remember history and how we
remember in particular this really important and difficult period. what i'm going to do is mostly focus on another part of the work that greg and i and the national park service are doing this and the creation of what is called a national historic landmark theme study. that is the official name of the kind of study that the national park service commissioned from time to time. there has been a number of these studies already on all kinds of different topics. there is one of the history of american aviation, there is one on public accommodations and civil rights. they kind of range 11 the map. if you can think of anything in american history that the park service might be interested in. and with the pre-service does is commission these kind of study is to get a sense of the lay of the land. what is this thing and we are talking about, this theme or topic in american history? and then a concrete question, how should it be remembered? what
structures, what places, what kinds of sites exist when we can tell the story? or components of this story. i'm going to touch on a few things that mike already talked about but i will give a different spin of it as someone who has been outside of the park service. and that is that the idea that the park service has in parking on this multifaceted project in the history of reconstruction is especially significant in light of the fact that the park service has been so incredibly involved in the interpretation of civil war battlefields for such a long time. to really understand the glaring omission of not having a reconstruction site, one way of thinking about that is to think that most of the time when people go visit a historic battlefield from the civil war, they are at a national park service site. and many of you are probably familiar with discussions over the years about how those battlefields are interpreted. and the movement of the national park service made from mostly
only talking about civil war battles as conflicts between two great armies and uniforms and guns and "guns and drums" was the kind of catchphrases, to acknowledging the causes of the civil war, the way that it is usually talked about to really talking about, why did this conflict happen in the first place? acknowledging because of the civil war -- to really talk about why it happened in the first place. a bold move of the time that the park service made several years ago to officially come out and say, that slavery was at the heart of the cause. that is part of the mission of the park service to say that. to make sure that visitors understand that they come to visit. but nevertheless, you begin to see that the park service begins to tell the story of slavery, and emancipation as part of the history of the military conflict. but then the omission of the reconstruction becomes clear. what happened next? you just cut it off in 1865 and
leave us hanging. what is the next part? another question is, why? why has this not happen before? if the park service is so interested in this period, why is there an omission? the answer is clear. most everyone in this room knows, one reason for a long time many people thought, why would you want to remember a time so horrible? why would you say, let's commemorate this time when most people associate it with a period of errors, trauma, unfair policies on the defeated south. why member something awful with no redeeming features could be one reason why this was not part of the story of the national park service told. which historically was more invested in commemorating things that felt like things the american people could be proud of. the other thing, of course, academic history writing has
moved beyond the idea for decades the idea there is no redeeming, good qualities in reconstruction. i'm going back to 1988 reconstruction -- but before that, quite a while before that it was a dramatic revision of how we understand reconstruction. it was associated with the civil rights era. from a 1960's forward, the scholars and historians have been churning out studies that talk about the democratic mobilization of free people. they talk about this as a time of development of public schools for the first time in the south. they talk about the creation of the civil rights laws that were often were overturned or forgotten. it also talks about the overthrow of the democratic possibilities through a range of behaviors that we would now they are highly disreputable including violence, violence by white people against black people. as well as extreme amount of political corruption of just about every kind.
there was this huge revision, and almost a kind of 180 degree turn in the scholarship, but it had not sort of somehow made it out, percolated out into the public. perhaps one thing that was stopping it was there were no venues for the national park service, this very important place for the american public intersects with history to tell that story. there is a complete change in how people in universities are understanding and teaching, by the way that has struggled into -- struggled -- trickled into textbooks, including eric's. we can see ways that mainstream text books are introduced to students. they have begun to change that. nevertheless, there has not been ways that the public interact with this new history that is actually about 50 years old or more. so then the question becomes, why now? what makes it possible now at this moment to change? one short-term explanation is
anniversaries give us a great opportunity to talk about things. it is really exciting and delightful that we can tag all of this to the 150th anniversary of this time. i think there are a couple of other reasons why now it is possible for the parks service and other entities to begin to talk more about reconstruction. i would be curious to hear more reflections on this, but one is, and linked to the reinterpretation of reconstruction, people identify it as something americans should embrace and feel proud of. all of the positive changes from this period, the links to the civil rights era of the 20th century. the ways this was an incredibly democratic movement in american history. constitutional amendments that emerged.
we have to understand, these are not amendments that just appeared in the constitution, they were there for a reason, to do particular work. it is important to understand the context for those amendments. there is a way in which we can kind of publicly talk about the positive aspects of this period, and the ways it gives us things to feel good about. we have seen that in the presentations here. the other thing happening is an increasing ability on the part of a lot of organizations, including the parks service to commemorate things that are uncomfortable. do not always have to feel like you're commemorating something we can all feel great about, but rather it is important to engage with pasts that bring people into uncomfortable conversations. maybe they cause people to reflect on problems, rather than triumphs. the parks service again has really kind of embraced this with things like park service sites on japanese internment. the massacre site by the united states soldiers against native americans in colorado. which was famously the first
park service site to recognize as a massacre, something that u.s. soldiers perpetrated. it is not a massacre against white americans, as some of the other kinds of stories in the west were told, but a massacre by u.s. soldiers against a vulnerable population. the park service has been able to find ways of commemorating difficult histories. so too are other organizations. i want to reference elsa's talked this morning, the importance of talking about talking about the history of racist violence in the united states. she talked about it in relation
to talking to teachers. and another project that i have been following closely is equal justice initiatives project to commemorate lynchings and to identify them, to count them, to accurately get a sense of how many there were. and then to work with communities to find ways that make sense locally of kind of commemorating and recognizing that these things happened. i think we are in a moment where there is a new kind of grappling with this. just to briefly touch on a little bit about the study we are working on. as michael mentioned, we had a meeting in washington dc. with historians from universities and also with people from within the parks service. it was a big brainstorming session where we defined the kind of parameters of this study. we are focusing on the states of the former confederacy. it was just that in and of
itself was a huge task. the idea that we would also look at the reconstruction events of the far west, north, midwest, or for that matter we are not even closely focusing on a slave states that state within the union. we just had to start somewhere. truly dynamic because of how policymaking work, there is a particular kind of story that is shared by the former confederate states not shared elsewhere. we are also going from 1861 to the end of the 1890's, as mike mentioned. we're beginning with the earliest days of u.s. occupation of the confederacy. both here and south carolina and also in places like coastal virginia where u.s. soldiers came on shore. the process of the destruction of slavery began with slaves escaping from slavery to find freedom and security within the lines of the united states army and the conflicts that ensued. they had repercussions all the
way back to washington. the question of what would happen to those people? would they be considered free people? would they be returned to their owners? and also consequences locally with some of those areas becoming long-term settlements of former slaves. that is where we begin. although the traditional cut off for the end of reconstruction is 1877, the compromise of 1877, there are good reasons to think about this as a sweeping time that begins with the beginning of emancipation and ends with the kind of consolidation of the jim crow order at the end of the 1890's. i'm not going to go into that here. we have come to the idea that this actually makes a lot of sense as a kind of broad cycle of american history. that the 1877 cutoff point is kind of an artifact of a certain kind of political history narrative that does not make as much sense if you look in a more holistic way. things that happened in the end of the 1890's marked the end of an era are the plessy versus ferguson decision of 1890, the
williamson massacre in williamson, north carolina, and also the voting rights decision in 1898. there are a lot of markers the end of the 1890's that are helpful. we did identify six different themes that are associated with reconstruction. that allows us to kind of think about what kinds of sites would allow us to talk about which seems. some sites might be identified with all six themes. some maybe two or three. i will say again, they are land and labor, the struggle over how labor relations would be organized, who would get access to land. african-american institution building, including the creation of independent black churches, the consolidation of families in the wake of slavery. the creation of other kinds of black civic organizations. fraternal and sorority
institutions. the creation of a new democracy. this area focuses on voter rights, voter registration, right to vote. including the struggle of that period over the question of women's voting rights. that reverberated in local areas, but also in the united states congress where women's rights activist lobby congress to do something when they were doing federal policymaking. let's bring women into this. obviously it did not happen, but there is a lot of interesting debate going on at that time. the fourth theme is federal power -- changes in federal power and changes in structures of federalism. the extension and new uses of the united states military. andy long-term ramifications between the states and federal government. the fifth is violence and civil unrest. that is clearly mostly about white violence against african americans and also white unionist. the ways that violence where
political and kind of left exclusively political violence, that is the way that people use violence to influence the outcomes of elections and influence it was in charge of political power, but also interpersonal violence over things like the control of labor, land. because our period goes all the way to the end of the 1890's it would include the rise of lynching, spectacle lynching. the modernization of the south because as for example, the woodrow wilson museum shows this is also a period of intense economic development. also kind of initiated by the republican reconstruction government, but also continued by the democratic successors, building railroads, schools, new kinds of public institutions. because that is also a signal, that is also part of the study. that is kind of what we have been doing. the shape of it. it has been, again, a really exciting opportunity to bring the kind of work we do in our own research and writing into a different context. the work continues. thanks. [applause] jennifer: hello, my name is jennifer taylor. i am going to move us in a
different direction. we are hearing a lot about me -- the national parks service, but i want talk about the woodrow wilson family home. which we believe it is the first museum of reconstruction in the nation. some of the successes and challenges we have seen there, which may actually be of use hopefully things move forward with the national park service site. sorry, i'm a little short. is it on? is that better? ok. i am currently writing my dissertation on the woodrow wilson family home and its transformation from a shrine to woodrow wilson, the first historic house museum to voted
-- devoted to woodrow wilson into the museum of reconstruction. i was brought on a couple of months before it opened on presidents' day of 2014. knowing a little bit about the struggles that the nps had or trying to national park service movement in buford started, i was nervous. i knew the sense of confederate veterans had been powerful. i am not from the great state of south carolina, but i was aware that there is a stronghold on the lost cause, particularly that interpretation of reconstruction. i know congressman clyburn talked about his background as a teacher, i suspect at some point more than likely he had to deal with mary's textbook, as many in the audience did as well. i wasn't sure exactly what i would find when people came into the home. i was a little bit nervous.
i was pleasantly surprised about what i found. i know you're thinking, first off, what does woodrow wilson have to do with reconstruction? the obvious connection, and i think the doctor mentioned this last night in the keynote, the "birth of a nation." he screened the film in the white house. it is a tale about reconstruction in south carolina. one has to imagine whether he thought about this place where he once lived when he watched the film in the white house. it actually extends beyond the screening of the film in 1915 while he was president. woodrow wilson as a teenager is living in this time and place in columbia. as it makes this remarkable transformation. he has a black representative that is up the road at the statehouse. he is living in a largely presbyterian world as the black community begins to really build a very strong black church. a variety of denominations. he is also going to be the president will sign the 19th amendment, yet as a teenager he will hear debates and probably have conversations and his own
parlor about the 15th amendment. granting suffrage to black men. for a lot of these issues he experienced growing up, they're certainly going to come back around as an adult and as president. we knew we had this opportunity where we could use this very influential great man to talk about a subject that is very complex. it is kind of difficult to get at. we took this opportunity to use him as a lens to think about how complex reconstruction was. we have this wonderful home he lived then, the first home his family ever owned. a real showplace. he is going to be experiencing reconstruction along with others south carolinians, both the successes and of course the eventual demise. so we knew that we wanted to have docents lead the experience, but we also created a 21st century exhibit that went within the house. because reconstruction really lacks a lot of material culture, objects to be a challenge. i don't know how many of you visit historic house museums, but they tend to be full of a lot of furniture, a lot of pieces. we knew that was not something
we would experience with the woodrow wilson home. to explain the complexity of reconstruction required a lot of panels. a lot of information. some folks like to read, some folks don't. some people want to be told a little bit about what they are supposed to take away. we knew we wanted a semi-guided experience. part of what i did for historic columbia was create a semi-guided tour. that the volunteer and paid weekend docents staff could conduct. we decided to continue the lens of woodrow wilson and reconstruction. give you a little background on wilson and reconstruction and open up some of the larger themes that people have been talking about over the course of this symposium in the last 24
hours. one of the things i wanted to do was gauge what the public knew about reconstruction. the very beginning of the tour we designed a question that when i say the word "reconstruction," what comes to mind? a lot of people could actually tell you post civil war. the post civil war era, they knew it was rooted somewhere in that time. the most popular answer after that was carpetbaggers. it didn't matter whether you are northern, midwestern, southern -- this is what the american people seem to gravitate to. what they seem to remember from their history lessons in middle school and high school. that sort of demonstrated we had our work cut out for us as the tour began. but one of the things i think and michael hit on this a little bit, what we discovered come at you in the first year, about
3000 people came to the home in the first year. about a quarter of those individuals filled out evaluations and we were able to learn a little bit about what they were able to retain going out. an overwhelming 88% of them learned new information. that gives you an idea of how little reconstruction really registers in people's minds today and how much they really know about it. we also had some challenges as we moved through the home. one of the things dr. brown talked a little bit about in the panel this morning, that is the subject of violent. we had several participants today that have spoken a little bit about this long history of violence, particularly against black bodies, not just in the south, but across the nation. i think this is one of the things that many docents struggled with. we know that a lot of museums typically are institutions created by white staff. they are often attended by white visitors. and so conversations about violence can be difficult to have both as a visitor and as a
docent. i did some interviews for my dissertation with some of the docents. one of the things that came out was they felt that when of the most powerful stories they could tell, the one that most resonated with them and visitors was when you got to the next to be last room in the house and you talked about the redshirt him of the overthrow of reconstruction on the state level in 1870's asked, of course we know the klan operating in a south, but doing justice to that narrative and what that meant. and the long-term implications we still see today. some docents found that they were nervous to talk about this issue. one, because they wanted to do proper justice to it. others were more comfortable talking about this violence in the moment because they had things like a red shirt on display. they had rifles, things that really cemented the violence that was alive in this period. there was evidence on panels about massacres that certainly strengthened their argument, they didn't feel they could be
contested. when it came to connecting that with woodrow wilson, and you touched on the epidemic of lynching that would have been around under wilson's administration, it becomes more challenging as we start to bring ourselves into the 20th and 21st century and thinking about these issues and how they might still extend beyond reconstruction. there was an issue of, i think, hidden voices. both in the historical record and woodrow wilson's world. sometimes i will refer to him as tommy. that is what he went by when he lived here in columbia. we don't know very much about the men and women that work for the family. we had to fill in the gaps with some of the academic literature. one of the things someone talked about with women moving out of the plantation. the opportunities they had. being able to incorporate that into a space where we knew very little about the people that were moving in these spaces also presented a challenge. without a doubt, what we found were that people were ready to hear this story.
we had over 99% success rate, i think from visitors that came into the home that did take the evaluation. 26% found their extreme good. 73% found it excellent. these are people that came into the home initially knowing very little about reconstruction, or having a very lost cause interpretation of it. for those that did not fill out the evaluation, we will never know how they feel. there are at least in presented the narrative, and they are going home and they have to sit with it for a while. [laughter] we are planting seeds as some of my docents have said and laying the groundwork i think for hopefully in the next 10-12 years as we celebrate the anniversary, hopefully beginning to change the public narrative. we know that the doctor has done great work to correct the
academic narrative. that is really important as well. i look forward if you have questions about the process, discussing this with you today. thank you. [applause] >> thanks to all of the panelists for fascinating discussions. just one little point, jennifer's point about people knowing about carpetbaggers and that is about it, reminds me that maybe 20 years ago there was an educator, e.d. hirsch published a book called cultural literacy where he listed 800 or 1000 things that you had to know to be an educated person. i got the book and i thought, i wonder if reconstruction is in there. no. it is not. [laughter] you can be a fully educated person and not knowing anything about it, but carpetbagger was in it. [laughter] according to professor hirsch, who does not mind my saying this
because he left all the way to the bank with this, you can know a lot of -- you can know about carpetbaggers, but if you do not know about reconstruction -- i guess that is not really the way to know if somebody is educated. i think one of the points that comes out is there is no one single way to bring reconstruction to the public. local sites like the woodrow wilson home -- there is only one so let's hope there will be more. but certainly this kind of thing ought to be replicated in many communities around the south. indeed as we heard this morning, you could do it in the west probably. that takes local initiative. people willing to spend a lot of time. you have the national park service is a whole different system.
one of the things i wanted to ask about that is, you mentioned briefly, but maybe a little more about what can be done to make places like civil war sites that already exist deal with reconstruction. i think in the 1990's, representative jesse jackson junior got congress to instruct the national park service to make sure that slavery is dealt with comprehensively in national park service sites, civil war sites, of which there are many. as we all know. that gave the park service and instruction and the backing, so to speak to go around and do that. i was involved in doing that at gettysburg. many other -- charleston, fort sumter is really excellent on this. without a law declaring this, can the park service just say to the antietam battlefield or any other better field, you have to talk about what happens after this. you at least have to introduce something about reconstruction and how the civil war leads into
reconstruction. or you don't really have the ability and a sense to make existing sites revamp how they do or don't deal with it? >> i come from two angles. i was a part of rally on the high ground in 2001 in which the national park service came to grips with slavery as one of the central tenets of the civil war. at rally on the high ground we all met in ford theater. in that theater, the secretary of the interior said we shall. the director of the park service said we will and shall. major historians came and said, all need to. as a result of what was shared with rally on the high ground that provided us the foundation to address slavery.
the essential tenet of the civil war. it also provided us a foundation of how we commemorated this at -- the sesquicentennial. as i shared earlier, a part of this process, we are looking internally -- i have seen his preliminary work, he has identified a number of park service site in the southeast where he has compiled in credible information that is related to reconstruction that ties into that park, history, mission, vision, and goals. one of the things -- you all maybe not know, this coming august, the park service turns 100. it is the centennial. it was signed into law by woodrow wilson. [laughter] 1916. as we move towards the centennial, we are being challenged by the current director of the national park service in terms of relevancy, diversity, and inclusion. with that he is asking, what has
worked? the previous 100 years? what has not worked in the previous 100 years? what can we take into our second century that can make us better than we were in the first century? to answer a question, i believe that the work we are doing, once that is all said and done and put into place, i don't think it will be sitting on a shelf. conversations to us as an entire agency, as we have done in the past will i think, precipitate. there is another piece to this. you, the american public. you know now that we are doing this. it is not a secret. it is not preclude you from reaching out to the national park service official to share within your knowledge of this work, to ensure that this is being utilized by park staff across the national park service. i don't think this will go for not. i think when it is said and done, this will be utilized by our agency. >> are you planning to have,
just as a leading question, rally on the high ground was a meeting for national parks service people. are you planning to have another such meeting at some point for national park service directors and site superintendents and everything on reconstruction to sort of emphasize the point. bring people together, like the civil war? >> i am not the director. [laughter] however, i think what you said is credible. between kate and greg and i, we can report. we have been concerned. >> i would love to hear the responses you got.
when there were superintendents were not interested in going down this route, they would say, people want to know a kind of cannonball they were using. they wanted to know if there were troops up there at the right moment. they don't want to know what happened after the war or before the war. there was a lot of openness to it. find among -- i'm not asking you to criticize. you find people saying, look, it is working pretty desperately well now. what is the problem? there is an amazing amount of openness to it. i think that many of the people who -- at least of the ones we met, are among the generation coming to maturity at the moment when the specter of the civil war was happening.
conceptually, they understand it. many of them know much less reconstruction than the civil war because of their training further expressed a strong desire for information to make sure what comes out of this process gives in some thing to work with. there is also a challenge of money. you can have a superintendent who wants to do it, but it does require funding in order to change exhibits, to change materials. so i think there is a concern about us delivering them an unfunded mandate. that's where i think putting pressure on the -- your on the parkle or service to make sure there is institutional support might help. >> i would add that i agree and have the same feeling as greg did about the kind of openness in terms of the people we met with.
we didn't choose the particular people we met with. we don't know who else is out there. [laughter] one thing that is remarkable, as you might expect if you are somebody interested in the history of your era -- area is that when we got to the places that we visited, we were shown around and met people who cared about local historic sites and what to make an argument for the national importance of their particular local his work sites -- local historic sites. to give you an example of how much information about reconstruction people have locally, but don't necessarily have the resources to kind of put it out there for the public. when we were in natchez, mississippi, a town with a long history of historic preservation, but a local hysteria in -- historian, mimi weller maybe, a local historian
was very involved in the historical society had been collecting information on that time of emancipation and reconstruction for a long time and has given lots of two wars and worked with a lot of graduate students. there is a large kind of national park service presence, there is also the home of a freed african-american person -- it is a park service site of a freed black person, it is periphery connected to reconstruction. there's a lot of park service stuff there, but we got a tour of some plantations thereby that had -- nearby that had a fascination -- fascinating read construction, for example one where free people purchased a plantation of their former owner in the early 1870's.
one of the same family that bobby plantation or bobby plantation in which they were born. -- plantation -- one of the same family members bought a plantation in which they were born. i wanted to mention a story it really moves me. it is an architecturally significant house, the largest octagonal structure in north america. it was built by a unionist family. they were unionist -- never completed because it was still being built when the civil war began. you might go there as a tourist
and you might tour this architecturally significant house and see what lovely furniture is in there, the amazing fan of the dining room table. you might not hear anything about the enslaved people who lived there, or for that matter what happened after emancipation. local history and found a news article from the summer of 18 six, after the reconstruction act that act had passed. people were going to mobilize to become voters. in natchez, thousands of african americans gathered in the streets to march to his particular plantation where the owners had allowed them to have a celebration. it was a fourth is the -- fourth of july celebration. there was a long description in the newspaper of people coming together, veterans, people from the community, thousands marching down the road a few miles to the plantation. in that area, it was significant because vicksburg fell. that area of mississippi fell --
defeated around july 4. the celebration is a national holiday. it was something they did not celebrate. you have this account that nobody that visited -- it happened right there, but nobody that visited whatever no would ever know. not necessarily out of malignancy of the people who run the place, but because that is not the usual story. i am telling that story to say that these stories are everywhere. people that the research, people begin to look at the digitized newspapers in the 19th century, you can find the stunning stories of this time from all across the south that are kind of hiding in plain sight. it was a kind of moment of, this places using -- oozing, but we don't know.
>> i would be remiss if we did not mention one of my colleagues on the national park service has been coordinating with local people about how to build locally-based commemorations. questions of violence and how to deal with it that came up -- he found people, especially tied to different civic organizations in mississippi, they are having the first-ever commemoration of the massacre of memphis and $.18 -- 18 626 in a few weeks -- 1866 in a few weeks. the historic commission has helped with markers to commemorate it. it has been building momentum for ways to capture the testimony that people of memphis, regular people come a grocery store workers and so on gave to the congressional committee that came into the investigate what was mislabeled
a race riot, but was really a massacre in 1866. the hope is this will be a model for all kinds of community bases. there are no shortage of violent -- violence and massacres that have been covered up or forgotten but barely remembered even on the site. unfortunately we will be going through the anniversaries of those. many of those do produce, not all, but like memphis, interesting testimony from people on the ground. they do make for a compelling way to capture the duality both of the violence and terror of the white insurgency, but also the voices of african americans, newly able to speak to the national government in this moment where nobody could be sure how things work. by the way, lest anyone think the problem of correctly dealing with reconstruction is confined to southern sites, i live 10 blocks away from grants to -- grants tomb in manhattan, i love
the national park service, but sometimes dealing with governmental bureaucracies takes a long time. i had a stroll up there one day some years ago and i noticed that in the historical -- grant was president for eight years. they dealt with reconstruction, but some of the labels were definitely from the dark era. they had not been changed in a long time. i spoke to be superintendent there, as i wrote a few suggested changes in the labels. even to change a label requires going through so many different layers of bureaucracy -- the new york city director, the regional director, eventually we talking about three or four years to change one sentence. it takes a while. i wanted to ask, in terms of this -- we know that in many places, including south carolina and let's say old plantation homes and many of them are trying to introduce real candid
consideration of slavery, not just furniture and things. we have said that the woodrow wilson home here is the only historic house fully devoted to reconstruction anywhere. have you had any indications since this opened from people in other homes like this elsewhere that they would like to try to -- have you inspired others to do this? maybe you don't know. jennifer: i don't know if we have inspired other organizations yet. i like to think we are on the path. i know we have inspired visitors to seek them out. i have had several docents with visitors so overwhelmed with the narrative and this different experience they have by not just looking at these homes and thinking about complex issues, they want to know where other
institutions that do similar things are. do they deal with reconstruction? obviously not. giving us tools and resources we know that historic house museum's are built on shrine mentalities. we have learned today that women are often ignored. there are ways to use these places to find these hidden stories. we can find women's voices. colfax massacre, approaching the anniversary, if you read the newspaper accounts when those that are held accountable for the massacre go to trial, you can hear these women telling me stories of finding their loved one's bodies and that trauma. it is maybe a profound as anything i have read. these are ways we can connect on a local level. >> yes, very good. i think national consciousness of reconstruction will be given a big boost in the fall when the new museum of african american history opens in washington dc.
in which reconstruction will be featured, very strongly. it is an entire history of african americans, not just about the civil war. there will be a lot about reconstruction. several million visitors are likely to come each year. they will go back to their communities, we hope, knowing more about reconstruction and wanting to find out on the local level. thanks to everybody who organized the two days. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] you are watching american history tv. follow us on twitter at c-span
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