EDITORIAL: History in context

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi State University’s offer to house the Mississippi Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission in Mitchell Memorial Library places in correct context – study, assessment and reflection – commemoration of the defining event in the post-revolutionary United States.
The United States Civil War Center at Louisiana State University and the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, Pa., have been designated by the federal government to facilitate the nationwide observance, making inter-university partnerships a natural extension.
It is noteworthy that Mississippi State’s library houses one of the important collections about the American presidency – the papers of Ulysses S. Grant. As a Civil War general, Grant in effect conquered Mississippi, then closed out the Civil War as the supreme Union commander.
The sesquicentennial, which begins April 12, 2011 – the 150th anniversary of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor – will run for four years, with events and discussions focusing – not just on battles – but on the causes, post-war constitutional changes, and lingering convictions – whose line of demarcation is the Confederate surrender to the United States in 1865, three days shy of four years at war.
Mississippi, whose U.S. Sen. Jefferson Davis was the first and only president of the Confederacy, lay in tatters following the war, its economy ruined and its culture in upheaval because slavery was abolished and everything needed to change to inclusion and equality.
That didn’t happen.
Our state remained in de facto and judicial resistance to equality under the constitution for more than 100 years, and we are still paying the price for those bad decisions.
A congressional resolution on the sesquicentennial couches observance in a positive and enlightened context, one that could unite Americans rather than aggravate still-hard feelings:
* The American people continue to struggle with issues of race, civil rights, the politics of federalism, and heritage which are legacies of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
* There’s a resurgence of interest in the Civil War that is evidenced by the multitude of publications, exhibits, reenactments, research organizations, Internet and multimedia resources, historic parks, and preservation associations focused on the Civil War.
* The sesquicentennial presents a significant opportunity for Americans to recall and reflect on the Civil War and its legacy in a spirit of reconciliation and reflection.
The 21st century requires a united nation looking to the future rather than grasping at illusions of the past.
All of us need to learn from our nation’s history, especially reaffirming the inviolate Union envisioned by the Founders and Framers.