Today marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. For whites in the south, the anniversary marks the start of a proud military engagement. For blacks in the south, the war led to the end of slavery and the start of the civil rights movement. And while celebrations for the event will be grand in scale and scope, this year's commemoration will not reverberate nationally as it did during the centennial. How do the two anniversaries compare?
Many Americans are related to people who fought and died in the Civil War. But imagine that you’re related not just to one figure we associate with the Civil War and aftermath, but two. This is the case for Kenneth Morris. Not only is he the great-great-great grandson of abolitionist and Lincoln adviser Frederick Douglass, he’s also the great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington, the post-Civil War educator and activist. On top of that, Morris is the Founder president of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, which aims to eradicate modern-day slavery.
Today is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. And while history buffs all appreciate the influence that the war had over the future well being of our nation – it can be easy to gloss over the details of the war. Like who fought in it. Joining us to talk about the history of black confederate soldiers is Stan Armstrong, director of a documentary called "Black Confederates: The Forgotten Men in Gray.” Stan’s great-great-grandfather was a black confederate soldier.
On Tuesday, to mark the 150-year anniversary of the start of the Civil War, we aired a segment featuring two African-American men whose ancestors fought with the confederate army. Nelson Winbush and Stan Armstrong said they are proud of their relatives' military service. But to some of our listeners the segment smacked of misinformation. Did African-Americans fight in the Confederate Army in the Civil War? And if so, did they do so out of free will or as enslaved people?
I can easily trace my family line back to the Civil War. I imagine a lot of people can, and I'm sure that there are more than a few whose lives were altered by that conflict. It was slavery that brought my mother's family to the U.S, it was slavery that produced my great-grandmother, a product of a slave named Anne and her Scotch-Irish owner. It was slavery that was at the heart of the rift that caused the Civil War. It was the Civil War that gave Anne her freedom, and allowed her daughter to get an education.
Most Americans have an ancestor that fought on one side of the war or the other. Maybe you had a great-great-great grandfather who fought against "Northern aggression," or a far removed aunt who nursed the boys in blue at an army hospital. Maybe both. The branches of my family tree include both slaves and owners, both the blue and the grey. In 1861, it was brother against brother; in 2011, it's an internal war against ourselves.
It's the 150th anniversary of The Civil War and the effects are still with us. Celeste Headlee reflects on her family's role in the Civil War; the branches of her family tree include both slaves and owners. The Civil War is over, but the fight continues; we still argue over whether to fly the Confederate flag and how to teach the history of the war.