Saturday, December 23, 2006

Behind the Plantation Facade, Historical Societies and selective memory

The Abbeville Institute, the current Neo-Confederate institute, (, with the usual Neo-Confederate leaders announces that they are getting a grant from the Watson Brown foundation ( Evidently this isn't the first time they have supported the Abbeville Institute, according to their newsletter, "Legacy," in 2002 they gave a grant to the Abbeville Institute (

One of the Heroes of the Watson-Brown foundation is Thomas E. Watson, and this is their bio of Watson ( This is the bio of Thomas E. Watson of the "Georgia Encyclopedia" (

I think that this selective memory of the past is typical of all too many small historical foundations and local historical societies. When you erase the past are you preserving heritage? For all too many, heritage is not history, but a gilded past that never existed, but is a fantasy. It is mostly a form of historical destruction and not preservation.

The other lesson is to see that the activities of the this foundation provide a beautiful exterior to the inner core of their mentality, support of radical Neo-Confederacy. The restored plantation houses, house a plantation mentality.

Here I stumble across the inner truth of this foundation, behind the token African Americans and the smiling faces. I doubt the local press or the "Atlanta Constitution" will report this, even if they know, and perhaps they will get some local African American group to defend them.

Just be aware, whether it is in Vermont or Georgia, or California or Minnesota, that often the "history" given out by historical organizations isn't but a frothy fantasy of the past, and this in itself is a political agenda. It is often a back door access to your thinking. Can you enjoy a beautiful plantation house, without subconsiously buying into certain views and fantasies? It is a question I can't definitely answer.

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