Hey everybody, I am sorry about the lack of posts these past few days but I have been working hard on my encyclopedia article. Last night I wrote about four hundred words. Tonight I am going to finish the draft before heading off to the Apple store for a One to One session on my Mac Air. Tomorrow I will put the final touches on the piece and then send off to the editor Friday. Encyclopedia articles are interesting because every word must count within the tight framework of the assignment. The Hayfoot noticed something awhile back that I never realized: I always listen to reggae when I write. Last night it was Black Uhuru’s Red and several cds of the greatest reggae group of them all, Culture. I think the reason I listen to reggae while writing is because it talks about contemporary problems whose roots lie in historical events.
It’s Sunday morning. I just got back from a walk in Green-Wood. Instead of working on the encyclopedia article soon coming due, I’m dawdling and watching toy soldiers videos online. The first time I walked into one of the shops on Steinwehr Avenue a few years ago I was hooked. Much to the Hayfoot’s chagrin the regiments are expanding into 54mm brigades at Our Old Campground. Here’s a great one.
Now back to my article. Enjoy your Sunday.
I would love to know the full story behind this:
One of the nation’s largest American Indian tribes has sent letters to about 2,800 descendants of slaves once owned by its members, revoking their citizenship and cutting their medical care, food stipends, low-income homeowners’ assistance and other services. The Cherokee Nation acted this week after its Supreme Court upheld the results of a 2007 special vote to amend the Cherokee constitution and remove the slaves’ descendants and other non-Indians from tribal rolls. The 300,000-member tribe is the biggest in Oklahoma, although many of its members live elsewhere.
My wife and I watched an extraordinary film last night called Moving Midway. Midway is a plantation built in 1848 on land bequeathed to the Hinton family of North Carolina decades prior to the American Revolution. Concerns over urban sprawl led the current owner, Charles Hinton Silver, to a dramatic decision in 2003: he would literally lift the house from its foundation and move it several miles across country to a more secluded spot. The undertaking is documented by his cousin Godfrey Cheshire, a New York film critic who grew up in a Raleigh and cherishes the memories of his boyhood visits to the place his mother called “out home.”
Cheshire discovered something unexpected halfway through the project—he has over one hundred African American relatives. Here the film takes a dramatic turn.
Cheshire is aided by Robert Hinton, a professor of Africana Studies who also grew up in Raleigh and whose ancestors were slaves on Midway Plantation. The two did not meet until the relocation project was underway but share an immediate rapport. Struggling to make sense of it all Hinton confesses to Cheshire that, “This would be easier if didn’t like you.” Still, the underlying tension is at times palpable. Robert and Godfrey do not appear to be themselves related.
Both men struggle with their identity. Professor Hinton explains that he has always been conflicted between his African American and Southern identities, with the Southern often winning out. He also recounts that as a young college student in the 1960s he felt more comfortable in the presence of white graduate students than the Black Power crowd he briefly embraced. Cheshire’s struggles are only beginning, as he explores the implications of the complicated story for himself, his family, the region, and even the nation itself. He concludes that the only way to see the South today is as a mixed race society.
Moving Midway is many things: a meditation on the meaning of home; an exploration of family; an examination of American history; and even a short course on cinematic history. (As a film critic Cheshire is well positioned to examine the Moonlight and Magnolias version of the Plantation South offered up by Hollywood during the years of the Studio System.) Above all it is an example of what some call courage history, the willingness to look closely even at the people and things we love and ask the difficult questions.
I could go on but won’t. Moving Midway is available on dvd.
I have been to Gettysburg each of the past four summers and what I find endlessly compelling is the number of approaches one can take to studying the events that took place there. Obviously there is the military aspect of the battle itself. Then there is how the battle fits into the larger scheme of the war. Next comes the history of the park as a place of memory and forgetting. To me, the myths and meanings of the battle—and of the war itself—are the most interesting. The uses and misuses of personal narrative (by the veterans) and of history (by everyone who comes after) are especially compelling now during the sesquicentennial, when so many of our assumptions about the war are under scrutiny. Another aspect of Gettysburg that is often overlooked is its art. Gettysburg holds one of the largest collections of outdoor sculpture in the world. Artistically they have a great deal to tell us. And of course there is the Cyclorama. Later this month Gettysburg National Military Park will host the 2011 International Panorama Conference.
Panoramas (or cyclormas, as they are called here in the United States) were a popular entertainment in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Before the advent of moving images they offered viewers a chance to experience an event multidimensionally, all for a mere dime, franc, or ruble. Like historical movies, panoramas were not always true to real life. Nonetheless, they are beautiful works of art to be appreciated for their own merits. This is only the third time the conference is being held in the United States. Should you be in Gettysburg September 14-17, here are the details.
I hope you have been enjoying your Labor Day weekend. As I said yesterday we have been taking it easy. In a little while we’re going to Little India with friends to have lunch and do some shopping. I needed a few days to just relax and not think about the Civil War too much. On Saturday David Blight’s American Oracle arrived in the mail from Ye Olde Online Book Shoppe. I am going to start it tomorrow. Later this week I’m also going to submit proposals for an article and a conference paper. This weekend, though, is just about relaxation.
One of my things this year has been buying Civil War Centennial tschoskes online. This is all going to be fodder for a future post, but one of my favorite acquisitions is a baseball card of General Grant from Topps’s Civil War News series. The graphic nature of some of the cards is jarring. Here is a short video.
Enjoy your day.
My tenure became official today. It was a long process—nearly ten years—that included a return to graduate school. My second interview was on September 10, 2001. The next day was 9/11; a few weeks later I had made the move from public to academic librarianship at a campus in downtown Brooklyn nearly within sight of downtown Manhattan.
A decade is a pretty good slice of life. When I began here I was single; now I am married and my father passed away in the meantime. Last November I walked my acceptance of tenure letter down to the administrative office on what would have been his seventy-first birthday. I’ve gotten a lot of help and advice from friends and colleagues over the years. I have been especially fortunate to have a department chair who has supported me throughout the process.
It’s a beginning as much as an end. The work goes on. The new academic year started this week and I already have a number of projects in the works, which I will share on the blog. Now is an interesting time with the sesquicentennial in full swing. We will see what the future brings.