A couple of days ago, Smithsonian published an article by Keri Leigh Merritt criticizing the Ken Burns Civil War documentary Why We Need a New Civil War Documentary It’s a worthwhile read, here’s the thesis:
The documentary had an outsized effect on how many Americans think about the war, but it’s one that unfortunately lead to a fundamental misunderstanding about slavery and its legacies—a failing that both undergirds and fuels the flames of racism today.
Along with her criticism of the principal focus on the military aspects of the war and minimization of the slavery that caused it, she went after Shelby Foote, whose 45 minutes in the series (as opposed to historian Barbara Field’s 8 1/2 minutes) had him pontificating in “an accent as thick and sweet as Tupelo honey” though he had no training as a historian. Her piece was not well received by the “Civil War Enthusiast” crowd.
The real gem of the story of Merritt’s piece and its reaction on Twitter was a post by Trae Wisecarver, a PhD student at Texas A&M University. It’s a priceless 2 1/2 minutes. Students should know that all historians are not all hermits hidden away in dusty archives, some are passionate warriors for the truth. On another note, what did you think of Trae when you first saw him and heard his voice?