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18 - Brown v. Board, the Civil War Centennial, and the Literature of Civil Rights

from Part II - Worlds Made and Remade

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2022

Kathleen Diffley
Affiliation:
University of Iowa
Coleman Hutchison
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
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Summary

The category of Civil War literature is not bounded by historical designation or lived experience; instead, this genre encompasses a broad range of reflections and reconstructions concerning the legacy imparted by the war. Beginning with the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, contemporary evaluations of the civil rights movement mobilize competing logics of Civil War memory. These versions of Civil War memory take shape in both personal and political registers, the subjective nature of which simultaneously confounds and perpetually renews understandings of the past. Three developments occurred in the 1950s and 1960s that brought such contradictory remembrance to light: the desegregation of public schools via Brown v. Board of Education, the commemoration of the Civil War’s centennial anniversary, and the deaths of the last remaining Civil War veterans. This final event characterizes the relevant work produced in both the civil rights movement and our contemporary moment, as writers continuously work to preserve, alter, or resist their ancestors’ history in ways informed by the interests and conflicts of the present.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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