Introducing Ann Banks' New HNN Blog "Confederates In My Closet"HNN
This week HNN introduces a new blog, authored by Ann Banks, titled "Confederates In My Closet." Beginning with a personal examination of her family history with the Confederacy, Banks explores the intersections of race, memory, and heritage. Read her first post here, and check here for future updates.
For decades I harbored in the back of my office closet an archive I inherited from my father’s Alabama kin. Wills bequeathing family oil portraits; yellowed newspaper clippings about antebellum homes-turned-museums; hand-drawn genealogical charts, held together with rusty paper clips, tracing my connection to high-profile Confederates from Gen. George Pickett to L.P. Walker, the first Secretary of War of the Confederacy. I nicknamed this trove “The Pile” and for years I kept it in quarantine. If these bits and pieces told a story, I wasn’t ready to hear it.
The idea that facing history is a path to justice has been advanced by Black thinkers from James Baldwin to Ta-Nehisi Coates to Bryan Stevenson. For a long while I resisted it, at least when it came to my own family. For a long while I believed that the Civil War was over. I knew it had a huge fan base – from the hobbyists who reenact favorite battles to history buffs who debate the fine points of military strategy. When I encountered members of these fervent and possessed subcultures on the Internet, I always felt like I was walking along the edge of a tar pit. I didn’t want to get too close.
Then, after the 2016 election, the Civil War came for me, and there was nothing quaint about it. As a reinvigorated white supremacy began sweeping the country, I knew it was time to take the Confederates out of the closet.
Ann Banks is author of the website "Confederates in My Closet," where she writes about race, history and her family. Her work has been published in the Smithsonian, the New York Times Magazine and Book Review, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Nation. First Person America, her anthology of oral histories from the Federal Writers Project was published by Knopf and Norton and she co-produced a National Public Radio series on the subject. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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