My Civic Workout: Captain Historica: Civil War

Captain Historica: Civil War

The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

Although it feels like ancient history after all the recent headlines, it was only at the beginning of this month that our current president publicly mused about why the American Civil War was fought. Last week, New Orleans completed its controversial removal of Confederate monuments. For this Memorial Day weekend, we’ll explore the bloodiest of American wars, and how it influences us still.

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5-Minute Workout

Why were Confederate monuments erected in New Orleans? And why were they taken down? Read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s speech here to learn more about the story and New Orleans history. Did you learn something or change your mind from Landrieu’s speech? Talk to a friend or family member about your thoughts.

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10-Minute Workout

What was the Civil War *really* about? Slavery. But don’t take our word for it. Read through this informative and colorful document produced by our national park service on slavery and its direct role in causing the Civil War. Share a fact you learned on social media, and remember to tag @MyCivicWorkout.

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30-Minute Workout

Are there Confederate monuments in your state? Even if you live outside the South, there might be. Use this map to explore a database of Confederate monuments across the country. An interactive map of both Union and Confederate monuments is here. If a Confederate monument is in your neighborhood, contact your state and local officials to urge them to follow Mitch Landrieu’s example.

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Second Wind

What are the Civil War origins of Memorial Day? How was the holiday first celebrated by freed slaves, and how has the holiday and Civil War history been used for various political ends since 1865? Yale historian David Blight explores this in Forgetting Why We Remember.

By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city’s official surrender. Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war.

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