Should we care 150 years later?

I can remember the first time I saw the movie Glory*.  I was in a junior high school History class, and I was just as dismayed then to listen to the Civil War and Emancipation discourse as I am today…

It’s a bit unsettling at times, to have discussions about slavery with white people, partly because it’s an emotionally charged page in history, and also because it’s tempting to become defensive if the discussion turns into a blame game.  The bottom line is that we all know slavery was/is wrong, and yet it’s difficult to move past, even today.

But probably what challenges me (to put it nicely) more than having a discussion about slavery with white people, is having a discussion about slavery with black people.  Yes, I said it.  But let me be specific.  There is something about history in schools today that seems to turn most black kids off, and it’s completely understandable.  The content is seemingly irrelevant, often taught in a manner that heroifies our forefathers, demonizes those who have in someway opposed our country, and makes so predictable the discussion of black and brown people in America.  And what’s the consequence?  Apathetic, ignorant, and mentally enslaved youth who have decided that they no longer care.   Having once been that “turned-off” kid, and having taught a middle school Humanities and American History class, I quickly learned how to approach a classroom full of detached pre-teens.  I had to remember my own sentiments, and the moment I learned to actually care about history in order to do any real teaching

I’ll skip my identity story and get to the point.  As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and we think about all those soldiers in both the Union armies and volunteer companies, as well as Confederates who sacrificed themselves for their beliefs and for the future of the country, it’s extremely crucial to also evaluate the true history and purpose of the war, and if we’ve really moved passed it.  It’s also important to consider why people may seemingly not care before assumptions are made and boxes are drawn for groups of people.

I read an article on the NPR today, and it’s title (The Root: Blacks Should Care About the Civil War) really got me thinking. We should care, and I can guarantee you, we do care.  Even if some of us have not yet realized.  Our youth today have not yet had to face any political or socially defining moment or had to fight for their freedoms in the way that our ancestors or forefathers had to.  Many of them, regardless of race or ethnicity, have not been tested in that way.  We also need to remember, the history books, classes, and teachers who lead them don’t always give the full story, told from multiple perspectives and in a way that maintains the dignity of all engaged in the conversation.  We can’t make anyone care, but if we present the facts, share the conflicts and controversies, and allow people to work through their confusions, disagreements, or pain, the indifference will fade…

*Glory tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the first Northern black volunteer regiment of the Civil War.  For more information, click here.


About Ashley Snowden

Educator, Idealist, Humanitarian Sister, Daughter, Aunt, Wife Queen, Lover, Warrior View all posts by Ashley Snowden

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