Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kevin Levin, Sons of Confederate Veterans and Beauvoir

Developments concerning Beauvoir in Mississippi where Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy spent his last days, still a racist and pro-slavery, are very gratifying. It is also an opportunity to view and understand the true nature of Kevin Levine.

What happened at Beauvoir is that the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) who own it decided that they wanted to fly the Confederate battle flag over it. No one should be surprised by this. It has been documented that the SCV is run by neo-Confederates with a neo-Confederate agenda. This is an article in Black Commentator about them. The Southern Poverty Law Center has also reported on them.

In the conflict at Beauvoir between the staff, some directors and the SCV there were three resignations and two dismissals.  The Sun Herald had an article on it, 3/15/14, but I see that they pulled the article. I was able to find this article.

The website for the Beauvoir property is online at It is being redesigned and announces that it is under "Un-reconstruction." I can only imagine what it will be like when the SCV is done changing it.

The program for Beauvoir had been this subtle banal white nationalism of making Beauvoir a shrine to Davis and Varina Davis his wife, avoiding the issues of slavery and the Civil War and instead obsessing over things like Varina Davis plan for Beauvoir's garden.

Bertram Hayes-Davis, a direct descendant of Davis, and his wife Carol came down from Dallas to work at Beauvoir. This is good in itself because the fewer of these type of people in Dallas the better. (Sorry Biloxi better there than here.) I am sure Hayes-Davis was looking forward to living out his ancestral fantasies of being a descendant of Davis at Beauvoir.   The Sun Herald article reports:
He oversaw the opening of the library and the completion of Varina's Garden, which recreates the garden of Davis' wife, and with his resemblance to his grandfather and extensive knowledge of the family history, became the spokesman for Beauvoir. 
It is revealing of his attitudes towards race that he would want to be in Beauvoir rather than trying to move on from Jefferson Davis a pro-slavery advocate and white supremacist, though his attitudes do fit right in with that of the old guard of Dallas.

The SCV didn't want to go along with the usual so-called "professional" historical interpretation and not surprisingly wanted to use it to advance their agenda. This conflict has resulted in the resignations of three board members including Bertram Hayes-Davis and dismissal of two staff members.

I don't have any sympathy for any of them. They refused to acknowledge that the SCV wasn't really the sentimental "heritage" organization that it represented itself to be, refused to recognize the SCV for what it was and then were surprised that the SCV turned out to be what it obviously was. The agenda of the resigned and dismissed is actually worse than the SCV agenda. Instead of engaging the issues of Jefferson Davis and his pro-slavery views and actions and his white supremacy, they avoided these issues and instead pursued an agenda of avoiding these issues in the interpretation thus making a Confederate shrine which the public often uncritically accepts. Some call this a professional interpretation.

The article does point out that in Varina's will the Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans have the house unless they can't maintain it, then it goes to the state of Mississippi. If the state of Mississippi gets the house I am sure will promptly adopt the typical Confederate shrine interpretation and obsess over "Varina's garden" and avoid many issues about Davis, race, the Civil War, and slavery.

The SCV better keep Beauvoir in tip-top condition, because I am sure there will be people running to the state of Mississippi if they see as much as single paint flake or rusty nail or a leaf not raked up.

Kevin Levin wasn't happy over this turn of events.

Levin's comment about this change is:
Apparently, management is consulting with the Virginia Flaggers on how to respectfully and tastefully display the Confederate flag. I visited Beauvoir once years ago. It is a beautiful site and one that deserves to be preserved and professionally interpreted. It looks like the Mississippi SCV is capable of doing neither.
Levin believes himself to be a member of the elite interpreters of the Civil War and is upset that Beauvoir isn't going to be interpreted by people like him. Note his terms "professionally interpreted" and "respectfully and tastefully." He would be quite happy with Beauvoir continuing to be used as a Confederate shrine by "professional" interpreters as he is with the Museum of the Confederacy being a Confederate shrine.

Levin is also upset with manifestations of the neo-Confederate agenda. He puts neo-Confederate in quotes in his blog posts, as if it is a questionable term. With the SCV agenda at Beauvoir, it becomes harder to ignore the reality of the neo-Confederate movement when it is highly visible. The SCV agenda for Beauvoir will discredit the Confederacy whereas the "professional" interpretation would work to increase identification with the Confederacy.

This increased visibility is good since it will alert the public. It will also serve to discredit the Civil War enthusiasts who want the Civil War to be anything and everything but the issues of race and slavery and would like to enthuse over Varina's garden and count buttons on uniforms. These Civil War enthusiasts will also be seen as enablers as since they surely should have been aware of the neo-Confederate movement and did nothing.

Kevin Levin is representative of a certain faction of Civil War enthusiasts which would like to avoid a lot of the issues about the historical memory of the Civil War. So it is instructive to observe him. As the the issues of historical memory regarding the Civil War move into a future and away from representations that might have been acceptable in the past he is reacting to it and his blog postings are very revealing. I next hope to blog on his coverage of the opposition to neo-Confederacy at Washington and Lee University by African American students.  It is both hilarious and revealing.

The old regime is passing away.

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