Memory’s Neighborhoods

I wrote about the different ways, and places, we’ve chosen to commemorate the Civil War and its aftermath for the Washington Post:

The truth is that there is a great deal of history we have chosen, or allowed ourselves, to forget. The Fort Pillow garrison, I learned, consisted not only of whites and former slaves together, but Northerners and southern Unionists together. While Forrest’s statue stands tall in Memphis, his bust keeps watch at the state capitol, and his name graces numerous schools, the names of those who opposed him at such terrible cost remain obscure. This is not an oversight. It was, and is, intentional.

Visiting Fort Pillow in 2016, shortly after going to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, was intense. I took my daughter, strapped to my back, on the walk from the visitors’ center to the recreated fort on the original site. It’s a remote site within a remote site, a solid mile away from the parking lot. I can still remember the painting of the battle/massacre in an old Civil War book I had as a kid. It was good to see the place in person. The forest has grown back up the hill and the Mississippi has shifted west since the Civil War, so you can’t get a great sense of what the battle looked like. But it’s powerful nonetheless.

(Left, me behind the earthworks. Right, my daughter being patient in the heat)


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