Remembering And Commemorating The War Essay

1549 words - 7 pages

Remembering and Commemorating the War Essay
According to Blight, Fredrick Douglas fought hard to protect the memory of the war. What was Douglas’s memory of the war and why did he try to protect it?

North vs. South, Confederates vs. The Union. Rifles were fired… brother vs. brother. Men were named heroes for seemingly valiant acts in battle. We learn many things from the past. A nation was literally ripped in half in what was called the bloodiest conflict in American History. History is not an obsolete thing. Rather, it teachers valuable lessons. It can’t be denied how tragic the Civil War really was in American History. “It is not well to forget the past. Memory was given to man for ...view middle of the document...

Some equated the four terrible years of murderous combat to passion, devotion, and sacrifice of the generation whose “hearts were touched with fire”(99). History is a mirror to the future meaning that what happened in the past is a reflection of what is to come. Douglas realized that political decisions such as wars were based on ideas and happenings of the society and culture of the past. “Douglass viewed emancipation as the central reference point of black history”(94). He did not want the emancipation (his idea of a step toward well earned equality toward Black Americans) to melt away. Injustice due to white supremacy in national policy prevailed in a Supreme Court decision that led to the Jim Crow laws in the South. “It is the old spirit of slavery, and nothing else. Those who could best shape interpretations of the war would win the struggle of moral will and historical consciousness. The outline of the future was a question ... of power, of persuasion”(95). This is the memory that Douglas fought to not only protect but preserve, and instill in those living in times way after the original proclamation was made; during the Reconstruction Era and thereafter.
Douglas’s memory was obviously caliginous but he didn’t want white supremacy to continue to keep Black Americans down. “Death has no power to change moral qualities”(114). The Civil War was a catalyst to blacks earning more human rights in the United States. Forgetting that catalyst and allowing that fact to be shadowed by the blood and the gore of the battlefield would not only be a disservice to the principles of freedom, justice, and civil rights; it would also be a convenient travesty to white supremacists. Forgetting the moral qualities of equality and allowing white power to prevail would be the direct result. “The Civil War will continue to be used for the ends that serve the present”(146). Douglas feared that if the American Society simply let a little injustice be okay—to chuck it up to a small act, this would be a catalyst. The supremacists in power would take that little leeway and slowly suppress the civil rights, until the nation slipped back to where it started before the Emancipation Proclamation: a nation that condones slavery and racism. This is precisely what Douglas fought against in order to protect the memory of the principle behind the Civil War.
Despite Douglass’s strong efforts to fight to preserve the memory of the Civil War, “historical amnesia”(109) was still strong as a whole within Americans’ collective memory regarding the causes of the Civil War. “Race theory whether held passively or advanced aggressively, had everything to do with the way white Americans choose to remember emancipation, or whether they choose to remember it at all”(132). Blight talks a lot about how, by 1935, both Douglas and W.E.B. Du Bois agreed that it was extremely shocking to see the manner in which historians had revoked and at times completely diminished the importance of...

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