Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 619
As Tony Horwitz investigates the roots and results of interest in the Confederacy, he travels to small Southern towns and interviews people. Sometimes this puts him in dangerous situations. At one point, he is almost attacked by a man at a bar who notices him taking notes. He describes the...
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As Tony Horwitz investigates the roots and results of interest in the Confederacy, he travels to small Southern towns and interviews people. Sometimes this puts him in dangerous situations. At one point, he is almost attacked by a man at a bar who notices him taking notes. He describes the bar, saying:
A week earlier, Redbone’s Saloon had celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with a "Thank God for James Earl Ray Party." Flyers posted in the nearby town of Guthrie, Kentucky, proclaimed "Fuck Martin Luther King’s B.Day" and invited folks to play pool and eat "Chicken-Ribs-Fixins" for three bucks a plate.
He escapes unharmed and continues to stay at a motel. There, he sees the counterpoint to the hateful, racist people at the bar. The motel owner explains how the community's racism came to a head over their pool:
Eskridge had one other thing to show me. She led me across the motel’s forecourt to a fence enclosing picnic tables, beach umbrellas and a rectangle of patchy grass. “That used to be our swimming pool,” she said. Guthrie had no public parks or pools, so locals paid two dollars to swim at the motel. Then, two summers ago, several black kids paid their money and jumped in. “It was like we sent an electrical charge through the water,” she said. “As soon as the blacks got in, all the whites got out.” Whites demanded that Eskridge tell the blacks to leave. Her response: kiss my grits.
When whites kept complaining, Eskridge and her husband filled the pool with pond dirt rather than let it become the scene of racial strife. A dogwood and weeping willow now sprouted in the deep end.
This is one thing that he finds as he travels. Some people who are obsessed with the Confederacy are not good people; other people with the same interests are good people. It is all a matter of where the interest comes from.
He also notices, unsurprisingly, that black people and white people have different views of the Confederacy and Civil War and that these views are not ones that can be shared. He says:
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. So there needed to be a black Memorial Day and a white Veterans Day. A black city museum and a white one. A black history month and a white calendar of remembrance. The best that could be hoped for was a grudging toleration of each other’s historical memory. You Wear Your X, I’ll Wear Mine.
What he noticed in Vicksburg was that the town was not celebrating each other's holidays. For example, the white high school band did not want to participate in the black Memorial Day parade.
As Horwitz travels, he notices that Confederacy enthusiasts and Civil War culture are not the same in each place that he visits. There are microcultures that spring up depending on the population, their history, and what happened in the time during and since the war. He writes:
It was foolish to speak of "one South," just as it was to speak of one North. The former states of the Confederacy encompassed dozens of subcultures, from the Hispanic enclaves of Florida and Texas, to the Cajun country of south Louisiana, to the hardscrabble hills of Appalachia. Still, the geographic kinship between far-flung stretches of the backcountry South offered some clue to the cohesion and resilience the region displayed during the Civil War, and to the South’s cherishing of Confederate memory ever since.