Ta-Nehisi Coates gave Mitch McConnell a powerful lesson on reparations

The writer Ta-Nehisi Coates testified for Congress on a bill that discusses reparations for slavery. Mitch McConnell weighed in with the following quote, which would be a lot less cynical if he didn’t use “We”. A politician who devoted himself to undermining the entire African American presidency he namechecks isn’t one to claim that efforts have been made.

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago when none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” the Kentucky senator told reporters. “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American president.”

Source: Ta-Nehisi Coates gave Mitch McConnell a powerful lesson on reparations – Vox

What Is Juneteenth?

I fell behind on my posting and missed Juneteenth! For those unfamiliar with the holiday on June 19th, let the eminent professor Henry Louis Gates explain it to you by clicking through to his article.

”‘The way it was explained to me,’ ” one heir to the tradition is quoted in Hayes Turner’s essay, ” ‘the 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free … And my daddy told me that they whooped and hollered and bored holes in trees with augers and stopped it up with [gun] powder and light and that would be their blast for the celebration.’ ”

Source: What Is Juneteenth? African American History Blog | The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Armies of Deliverance

A glowing review for a new Civil War book, Armies of Deliverance, by Elizabeth Varon. I usually avoid quoting last paragraphs of the articles I link, but this is quite the parting comment by the reviewer.

While Varon doesn’t quite deliver on her argument about deliverance, she narrates battles and campaigns with an unusually deft, at times even gorgeous touch. This is some of the finest battle writing around, and a sweeping analysis of both United States and Confederate strategy and tactics. While the book can’t displace James M. McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom,” still perhaps the single greatest volume ever written on the Civil War or even on United States history, it belongs beside it on the shelf. Give

Source: Book review of Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War by Elizabeth R. Varon – The Washington Post

Ken Burns on Monument Debate

Ken Burns gives a great response to the Confederate Monuments debate. I’ll have to keep this in mind for the next time the topic comes up in our Round Table group.

At one point, Tulane professor Walter Isaacson asked, “Do you think that by pulling down these monuments we’re losing some feel for history?” Burns responded, “No, we’re actually increasing our feel for history. We’re making it much more dimensional. We’re asking other people who have been involved in this narrative, who have systematically and consciously been excluded from the narrative to come in and have a place…”

Source: Ken Burns and the Importance of Portraying History Through Film

Gettysburg ‘Witness Trees’

Turns out one of the “witness trees” on Gettysburg has proven to be unusually resilient.

Though water-loving honey locusts usually do not live much more than 100 years, this one is approaching 170 on high ground in the cemetery.

Even more, it seemed doomed a decade ago after a wind storm sheared off much of its top. Park officials worried that what remained would prove unstable and pose a safety hazard to the thousands of tourists who walk nearby each year.

But they gave it a chance. The tree proved more resilient than expected and has been re-growing its canopy, a little at a time, ever since.

Source: Gettysburg ‘Witness Trees’: How they survived, tell Civil War stories

How hardtack won the Civil War

Another small town article that I enjoyed. This one’s not quite as compelling as the Virginia story, but still has some fun facts to impart.

Bakers of the day played their part as well. They made the biscuits as hard as possible because the biscuit would soften and become more palatable with time, due to exposure to humidity and other weather elements.

Because it was hard and dry, with proper storage and handling, hardtack can last indefinitely. As a matter of fact, early hardtack used at the beginning of the Civil War was leftover from the Mexican-American War.

Source: In the Museum: How hardtack won the Civil War | News | chippewa.com

Virginia debated ending slavery after Nat Turner’s revolt

One of the reasons I check out every small-town paper’s Civil War related stories is that you occasionally find some delicious wheat amongst the “round table meets tonight” or “Lincoln impersonator to speak at library” chaff. This article is one of the kernels that makes it worthwhile. A surprisingly in-depth look at some radical proposals in the wake of the Nat Turner uprising, leading to some big historical what-ifs.

The first thing white people did after Nat Turner’s violent slave insurrection in 1831 was round up more than 120 black people and kill them.

But the next thing white people did was surprising.

Hundreds of them sent petitions to the Virginia General Assembly calling for an end to slavery.

Source: Virginia debated ending slavery after Nat Turner’s revolt – Plainview Daily Herald

Atlanta History Center acquires rare flag

The Atlanta History Centre has made a rare purchase, and boy is it a beaut! This USCT flag looks in great shape. I loved the added detail that there were famous flag-painters. Quite a niche specialty, but one that must have been a heyday during the war!



Measuring 72 by 55 inches, the silk banner depicts a black soldier carrying a rifle and bidding farewell to Columbia, the mythical goddess of liberty. A motto above the soldier reads “We will prove ourselves men.” On the flag’s reverse side, an American bald eagle bears a ribbon with the nation’s motto “E pluribus unum” — or, “Out of many, one.”

This is the only surviving example of 11 flags painted by African American artist David Bustill Bowser, who lived from 1820-1890. Bowser was a noted Philadelphia sign-painter, portraitist and anti-slavery activist noted for his portraits of John Brown and President Abraham Lincoln, the release said.

Source: Atlanta History Center acquires rare Civil War African American troop flag – Reporter Newspapers

The South’s Remedies Will Rise Again

When the Union blockade squeezed the South’s access to medicines, the Southern scientists turned to folk remedies. Modern researchers are turning to their findings, too, to test the efficacy of some of these remedies in our antibiotic-resistant era.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), Union forces suffocated the South with a blockade, dramatically limiting the amount of goods available to the Confederacy—including its access to conventional medicines. With soaring infection rates among wounded soldiers, Confederate Surgeon General Samuel Moore commissioned Francis Porcher, a botanist and surgeon from South Carolina, to compile a book of medicinal plants found in the Southern states. Porcher was asked to include folk remedies used by white Southerners, as well as those used by enslaved Africans and indigenous peoples.

Source: Medicinal Plants Used During the U.S. Civil War Are Surprisingly Good at Fighting Bacteria