Tag: slavery

Bad Play Friday 1: A. R. Calhoun’s The Color Guard

Welcome to the Bad Play Friday series!

Each week, I will share some quick thoughts on a late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century US play. 1 This series is really a way of keeping me honest as I work through my monograph on Civil War memories; because it is monograph-related, the play will somehow touch upon the war, slavery, or Reconstruction. I’ll be revisiting some plays I’ve already read/written about, but many will be texts I just recently acquired, thanks to a generous PSC-CUNY grant. The grant sent me to the Sherman Theatre archive, part of the Morris Library Special Collections at Southern Illinois University this past February.… Read more

Notes:

  1. My commentary will most likely be rife with sarcasm because it’s my second language, although my doctoral program would not accept it as one of the language requirements.

Reacting to the Past/Learning Community Syllabus

This semester I’ll be facilitating my first learning community at LaGuardia: the cluster for first-year students is typically an interdisciplinary grouping of courses, including both composition and a research paper class (ENG 101 & 103) and two other content courses, with one shared co-taught hour (I’m responsible for the ENG classes, clearly). I proposed a learning community entitled “Reacting to the Past: Race, Violence, and US History,” with antebellum US history and public speaking courses. These classes seemed like a natural grouping for the Reacting to the Past game Frederick Douglass, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Constitution: 1845  by Mark Higbee and James Brewer Stewart. … Read more

Gettysburg Sesquicentennial: Day 5

PennMemorial
Pennsylvania Memorial

I parked my rental car along West Confederate Avenue this morning in Gettysburg National Military Park, racing to get to the outdoor amphitheater. I could hear a small horn band playing, and I didn’t want to miss the sermon: my host – Walt Powell, PhD – was the speaker at this inter-denominational service. 1 Walt began his speech by explaining how he had considered using the words of Reverend James Brand, a veteran of the 27th Connecticut, who had delivered a rather political oration at a monument dedication for his regiment in 1885 – wherein he talked about corruption and the “liquor oligarchy.” Instead, Walt discussed the sacred ground of Gettysburg, and what it meant for us today.… Read more

Notes:

  1. Walt and Sue Powell are incredibly plugged in to the Gettysburg community, and as Walt is also a reenactor (though mostly colonial things these days), they have been invaluable resources during this research trip.
  2. I’m not doing the speech full justice here, but suffice to say it eloquently wrestled with the overlap between memory, history, commemoration, and what we should take away from the war and the sesquicentennial.

Gettysburg Sesquicentennial: Day 4

When I arrived at the reenactment at the Redding farm this morning, I was determined to spend more time with the living historians, who had seemed – overall – quite a bit more chatty and willing to engage with the spectators than the reenactors in the camps. This is part and parcel of the division between reenacting and living history though as I understand it: reenactors may engage with the performance for a variety of reasons, but living historians have a pedagogical interest. Yesterday, tintype photographer Rob Gibson suggested the main reason people began re-enacting was “99% fun” from what he’s gathered in his many encounters.… Read more

Gettysburg Sesquicentennial: Day 3

It was the second day of the official reenactment at the privately-owned farm, but I did not sally forth to witness another battle today. Instead I went downtown to get a sense of the local market: some of the museums, the businesses, the institutions and individuals that profit from and cater to the visitors to Gettysburg. While I did get a sampling of the wares, I also finally found a way into the big issue that had been looming – largely unspoken – over the past couple of days. Slavery, finally, was front and center in the narratives and places that I encountered today.… Read more

Charles Sager’s The Negro; or, a Largely Overlooked Turn-of-the-Century Pageant

Researching black performance in the late nineteenth century poses a host of problems for a theatre historian. The archive is, at best, spotty, though there have been many excellent recent attempts to redress these gaps. In my efforts to find plays and productions speaking to slavery and Civil War memories staged by black performers in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, I found a short but tantalizing bit about Charles Sager’s production The Negro (1899) in Errol G. Hill and James V. Hatch’s A History of African American Theatre. 1 I decided the production merited a bit more digging, as it was a rare example of black history staged for a larger audience around the turn-of-the-century, when touring plantation shows were the most popular modes of black performance.… Read more

Notes:

  1. See Errol G. Hill, “New Vistas: Plays, Spectacles, Musicals, and Opera,” A History of African American Theatre, eds. Errol G. Hill and James V. Hatch’s (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 140.

Reading Ex-Slave Profiles in the 1894 Atlanta Constitution

During my research, I stumbled across an 1894 article from the Atlanta Constitution that crystallizes many of the tensions in US Civil War memories at the end of the nineteenth century – and how these memories participated in the construction of race. While it turns out I will not be incorporating this archival bit into the chapter I’m drafting, it did seem a shame to relegate it to an untapped digital dissertation-research cloud somewhere.

To begin, one must understand the power of plantation nostalgia, running rampant through the increasingly industrialized landscape of the late nineteenth-century US.  Northern cultural products produced by and for predominantly white audiences bemoaned and romanticized the supposed loss of the Southern planter elite of the antebellum system and slavery alike towards the century’s close.… Read more

Notes:

  1. “They’re Dying Out,” Atlanta Constitution, September 9, 1894, 2.