Posts Tagged ‘American Civil War’

Crime and misdemeanors: A crowd tears down a Confederate monument in my home town

August 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 15, 2017

It’s not every day that Durham, N.C., gets national attention — and it’s even rarer when the City of Medicine generates widespread news coverage for something other than college basketball. Unfortunately, despite being in town yesterday, I was completely unaware of what might be a seminal moment in an important national news story until a few hours after the event had taken place.

On Monday evening, protesters pulled down a monument to Confederate soldiers that stood in front of the Durham County Administration Building, which served as the county courthouse from 1916 through 1978. The statue in question was erected in 1924; the front of its pedestal reads, “In memory of ‘The Boys who Wore the Gray.’”

I won’t miss the statue; it venerated soldiers who, while they may have fought bravely, did so in service to a disloyal would-be nation that was dedicated to keeping black men, women and children in bondage.

Durham, like many American cities, is full of symbols of disdain for African-Americans, some more explicit than others. One example — subtler than the statue of the rebel soldier, but more prominent in a way — is the Durham Freeway, a.k.a. N.C. 147, an expressway built in the late 1960s that devastated a once-thriving black community named Hayti. These badges of dishonor can never be wholly erased; nor should they, for to plaster over past injustices is to invite their repetition. But neither should such affronts be afforded undeserved esteem.

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Donald Trump and Barack Obama: Examining off-the-cuff American history lessons from our two most recent presidents

May 3, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 3, 2017

I was tickled to my cynical core Monday morning when I learned that President Donald Trump had bloviated about Andrew Jackson, one of his antecedents in the Oval Office, and the Civil War. After all, who better than Trump — who in February became the first to discover, regarding health care policy, “It’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated” — to lecture the American public on history?

In an interview with SiriusXM’s Salena Zito that aired Monday, Trump said the following about the nation’s seventh president:

I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

There are plenty of analyses of (this edition of) Trump’s dunderheaded comments; see, for instance, this Jeet Heer joint at The New Republic. But it got me wondering: Did Trump’s predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama, ever speak extemporaneously about Andrew Jackson or the Civil War? And if so, had he ever made such dumbfounding remarks?

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