And though the Civil War ended on that day, the issues, that prompted and prolonged the war-slavery, conceptions of equality and democracy, and race relations, perhaps did not. David W. Blight of The Atlantic explores this topic in the recently released article "The Civil War Isn't Over."
Much has changed in the fifty years since the crises of 1963—in law, in schooling, in scholarship, in race relations. But whatever the engines of history actually are, what seems apparent is that the legacies of the American Civil War have tended to subside and reemerge in a never-ending succession of revolutions and counter-revolutions.
He continues, highlighting the ebbs and flows of history and divisions that continue in contemporary politics.
American society seems to surge forward one moment, and then in the next sink back into polarization over race and ethnicity, over the advent of the nation’s first black president, over the rights of immigrants, over religious tolerance and birthright citizenship, over reproductive freedom, over the use of basic science to understand climate change, over the extent and protection of voting rights, over civil rights based on sexual preference, and over endless and incompatible claims of “liberty” about the possession and use of firearms, taxation, environmental protection, or the right to health insurance...In short, despite enormous changes of heart, head and law, Americans still struggle every day to discern and enact that society of equality that the Civil War at least made imaginable.
What do you think of Blight's piece? Is the Civil War ongoing? How do we enact the "society of equality" that the end of the Civil War suggested? Harriet Beecher Stowe helped galvanize the abolitionist movement with Uncle Tom's Cabin and as a result President Lincoln dubbed her "the little woman who started the Great War." What do you think Stowe's conceptions of the "Great War" were? What would she think today, 150 years after the war?
If you are interested in more Civil War discussion, check out this podcast with Dr. Jelani Cobb and scholar Eric Foner on The Legacy of Reconstruction. On April 30th, the Stowe Center will present Writing about Race with Dr. Jelani Cobb from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.