In Confederates in the Attic, what are Horwitz’s conclusions about the racial aspects of historical remembrance as evident in Vicksburg, MS, and elsewhere?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Horwitz's recollections of Vicksburg, and the South, in general are that the issues of race and remembrance are linked to the Civil War.  Horwitz explains that White Southerners and Black Southerners view the issue of the Civil War in different contexts that are mutually exclusive with one another:

Vicksburg confirmed the dispiriting pattern I'd seen elsewhere in the South.... Everywhere , it seemed, I had to explore two pasts and two presents, one white, one black, separate and unreconcilable. The past had poisoned the present and the present, in turn, now poisoned remembrance of things past.

There are many ideas in this quote that help to explain the issue of race and remembrance.  For White Southerners, Horwitz finds that there is a nostalgia about the Civil War and about the Pre- Civil War South.  It is a romanticism of the past that dangerously overlooks some of the negative elements of the South's history such as slavery, repression of rights, and fairly horrific treatment of African- Americans.  For Black Southerners, the Civil War is being erased from memory out of pure apathy.  Horwitz discovers that Black Southerners fail to see the historical significance of the Civil War, justifying that the racism they experience is a repeat of slavery, simply "branded" in a new way.  It is here where the past in terms of historical remembrance carries profound implications with it regarding race.  The diametrically opposed views held regarding the Civil War help to convince Horwitz that the issue of race has filtered through historical remembrance, contributing in yet another way in which both sides cannot engage in dialogue and construct something  progressive in a setting that is far from it.


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