Black History, White Guilt, and 28 Reasons

Screen shot 2014-02-05 at 9.23.12 AMUsually during this time of year I will (re)post Morgan Freeman’s claim that Black History Month is Ridiculous. You know…he makes a compelling argument and asks a pointed question: Black history is American history. Why relegate it to a single month?  Fair enough. But now that that has sort of been played to death on the Internet I would like to have a look at something else. Today I offer SNL’s Black History Month highlight – a list of 28 reasons to hug a black guy. In case you missed the skit, a trio of black high school students recite a Black History Month project enumerating said 28 reasons. The punchline?  Reasons #2-28 are slavery. Yes – not only the baggage associated with the institution but the word itself makes their white classmates and white teacher really really uncomfortable and admittedly guilty.

White people – does this seem accurate to you? If a black person mentions slavery do you feel guilty? Would a frank discussion about the institution or even a mention of the word make you stare at your shoes?

I am extremely interested everyone’s take on this skit. I personally would be happy to discuss the skit, racism, and the social, political, and economic resonance of slavery with anyone (black, white, or whatever). I promise not to get all fidgety.

With compliments,

Keith

PS – in case you haven’t seen it yet…

Does Anyone Know More About George McKee?

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 2.21.59 PMI was walking around the National Cemetery in Los Angeles today and I came across the grave of Medal of Honor recipient George McKee. McKee was the Color Sergeant, Company D, 89th New York Infantry. He was awarded the medal for gallantry in the assault on Fort Gregg, at Petersburg, April 2, 1865. I know that he was born in Ireland – but that’s about all. I do not know the circumstances of his relocation to California after the war or what he did once he got there. If anyone has more information on McKee (Damian Shiels….I am thinking of you), please let me know.

With compliments,

Keith

 

 

 

Is Bruce Catton Still the Civil War Gateway Drug?

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 8.19.33 PMI hear it from historians of my generation (give or take a decade or so) all the time. They were first introduced to Civil War history by a Bruce Catton book. This is certainly my story. Mine was a single volume general history of the war that my grandparents got me for Christmas when I was ten. I still have it. Catton’s genius for narrative really fueled my growing interest in Civil War history. And I kept reading. In high school, when I was perfecting my rockabilly chops, my real passion was  reading the history of the war – I kept the Army of the Potomac Trilogy next to my bed.

But I wonder…does Catton still captivate young readers as he did years ago? And if not him, then who? Who are the authors that capture the imaginations of young historians today?

With compliments,

Keith