Conceived as a demonstration of American Cold War consensus, the Civil War centennial, 1961-1965, revealed how divided the country remained one hundred years after Fort Sumter. Several states organized impressive centennial observances, with none on so grand a scale or as widely recognized as Virginia’s. While the Virginia celebration attracted little controversy and many tourists, at the national level the commercialized “brothers’ war” commemoration struck many as a diversion from the key issue of slavery. African Americans’ ongoing struggle for civil rights nearly one hundred years after abolition contrasted sharply with a celebration that glorified the Confederacy and for the most part ignored African Americans. And when the Centennial Commission scheduled their national assembly at a segregated hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, the papered-over cracks in the American consensus broke open for the world to see.
Images of the exhibit are available from Swem Library on Flickr.
Curator: David Pratt, American Studies Graduate Student Apprentice; Exhibit design and installation: Jennie Davy, Burger Archives Specialist, with assistance from Ashley Irizarry, History Graduate Student Apprentice, and Andrew Cavell, Undergraduate Student Assistant.