Friday, August 18, 2017

On Charlottesville

Legal historians have been speaking out in the wake of violent white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville:

Risa Goluboff, dean of UVA law, has issued multiple statements, including this one. Here’s an excerpt:
As I seek to understand these events, the historian in me moves away from the present to contemplate both the past and the future. When the story of the long march of civil rights is told, this moment will—I hope, if I don’t quite predict—be seen as a late and ultimately futile response to the successes of the freedom struggles of the last fifty years. Those successes are far from complete. This weekend was a disturbing reminder that progress is all too often accompanied by reaction. In the words of Thurgood Marshall: “I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust…. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”
Not surprisingly, given his work on Confederate monuments and the legacies of slavery on university campuses, Alfred Brophy (University of Alabama) has been much sought-after by journalists. He’s quoted here, in an article at FiveThirtyEight. Also here, in Vox.

The New York Times ran an article titled "Historians Question Trump’s Comments on Confederate Monuments." It includes quotes from legal historians John Fabian Witt (Yale) and Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard).

Witt also recently chaired a Yale University committee charged with considering the renaming of Calhoun College and establishing a general set of principles for navigating this terrain. As journalist Matthew Yglesias pointed out on twitter, the committee's report includes some useful concepts for thinking about Charlottesville and Confederate monuments.

Giuliana Perrone (University of California, Santa Barbara) has an op-ed in Haaretz, titled "Charlottesville Proves: Confederate Monuments Always Embodied a White Heritage of Hate."

Steven Lubet (Northwestern) has an op-ed up at "How much longer can decent people serve in Trump's cabinet?"

Over at the Huffington Post, Jane Dailey (University of Chicago) writes about Baltimore's Confederate monument -- which she says "was never about 'history and culture.'"

And at History News Network, Matthew Crow (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) discusses "Jeffersonian Democracy after Charlottesville."

If we've missed anything, let us know and we'll update the post. Please also consider this message from the American Historical Association:
In the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy, historians across the country are providing important historical context and insight to the public. If you have written an op-ed, given an interview, or otherwise participated in a media conversation about the importance of historical thinking and knowledge within the current debate, please send a link to us at We will be compiling our members’ statements on a resource page that all historians and educators can use.