I think the first thing that should be said about this past weekend is that, despite the rain, it was very successful. There are two aspects that I would like to touch on in this post. The first is the teacher workshop on saturday morning and the second is David Blight’s lecture.
Regarding the teaching workshop, what stood out to me was the general enthusiasm of the teachers involved. Actually getting to see the most up to date version of the database in action was quite an experience. I’m 20 years old, and a junior in college, but I’m also not so far removed from my days of high school that I can’t remember what its like. Frankly, part of me envies the k-12 students who will get to use this new database in the classroom. I was fortunate enough to discover history and become fascinated by it at an early age, but I know plenty of my peers who didn’t like history because it resembled simply a collection of dates and facts. What the house divided database does is make history accessible for everyone who uses it. This is important simply to generate interest and to bring history into classrooms as more than readings from textbooks.
Regarding the Blight lecture, I thought it was captivating. More than anything it has caused me to think about the ways in which the civil war has made inroads into popular culture. This is popular memory as Blight was speaking of – the ways in which we remember and experience it on a regular basis. I think one of the most remarkable is the way the idea of the “southern legend” or “mythology” has lived on in music. This is particularly true of the second half of the 20th century. Some artists reference the war literally in one or more of their songs (Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr and Steve Earle) These songs by these artists vary between celebratory and sorrowful. Others approach the topic through some symbols but do not talk about the war itself. Bands such as Alabama many others do this using the flag, tunes reminiscent of Confederate music (especially Dixie). What I think this illustrates, is that, not only does our country continue to remember the war, but it is remembered differently by different people, and that music illustrates this point as clearly as any other aspect of popular culture.