South Carolina: Where the Confederacy Lives On

Still Fighting the Civil War in South Carolina

posted on Saturday, 18 December 2010 in the LA Progressive
Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts

 Still Fighting the Civil War in South Carolina Confederate enthusiasts threw a grand ball in Charleston, S.C. to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the state’s secession from the Union. Hundreds of people, many decked out in hoop skirts and militia uniforms, drank mint juleps and danced the night away.  Jeff Antley, who has organized the Secession Gala, states that the event “has nothing to do with slavery.”  He proposes that it is a commemoration of South Carolinians who “stood up for their self-government and their rights under law.”

But local members of the NAACP disagree, and they’ve got professional historians on their side:  It is an undeniable fact that South Carolinians seceded to protect their right to own slaves.  ”This is nothing more than a celebration of slavery,” observes Lonnie Randolph, president of the state NAACP chapter.  He led a downtown march and a candlelight vigil outside the municipal auditorium where the ball was to be held.

Candlelight vigils and costumed waltzes get headlines, but Monday night was just one more showdown in another civil war, one that has raged in Charleston since 1865.

When the city fell to the Union army that year, local freedpeople staged public demonstrations to mark slavery’s end.  Huge crowds of former slaves paraded through city streets, even conducting a mock slave auction and displaying a hearse that proclaimed, “Slavery Is Dead.”  African Americans in Charleston also built a cemetery for Union soldiers who had died as prisoners of war, and they came by the thousands to its dedication.

Meanwhile, white Charlestonians worked to memorialize slavery’s most vocal champion, John C. Calhoun, who had died in 1850.  In 1887, after a 30-year campaign, they installed a monument to Calhoun in Marion Square, the park at the very heart of the city.

Rendered powerless by Jim Crow laws in the 1880s and ’90s, the city’s black residents could do nothing to prevent the memorialization of the man who had worked hard to keep them in chains.  So for decades they subjected the monument to an informal campaign of ridicule and defacement.  Even after the original statue was replaced by a second, which stood atop an enormous column, it continued to be vandalized.

More recently, controversy has swirled around an effort to erect a monument to Denmark Vesey, a free black executed for plotting a slave rebellion in the city in 1822.  Local black activists first proposed the tribute in the 1990s so that the city would acknowledge the centrality of slavery to its past.  They also hoped the Vesey Monument would force Charlestonians to confront the reality that slaves were unhappy, so much so that they might violently rebel.

Resistance to the monument has been formidable.  Local whites have offered the standard litany of excuses about the marginal role, and benign nature, of slavery.  Ground on the memorial was finally broken in February 2010, but only after opponents had prevented the statue’s placement in Marion Square.  The Denmark Vesey Memorial will stand in Hampton Park, far from the Calhoun Monument, far from the city’s historic district, far from the eyes of millions of tourists.

Calhoun’s likeness, standing just a block away from where revelers will celebrate secession Monday night, embodies white Charleston’s preferred method of dealing with its slave past: denial.  Dedicated to a man who called southern slavery “a positive good,” the monument honors Calhoun’s commitment to truth, justice, and the Constitution.  It says nothing about slavery.

Despite the efforts of black Charlestonians and their white allies, slavery has been confined to the margins of the city’s public memory.  The  NAACP protest against the Secession Gala is a bid to bring it front-and-center.

The shelling of Fort Sumter opened a long and painful civil war.  Let’s hope that this latest exchange of salvos—another confrontation with repercussions far beyond Charleston—will instigate a different sort of civil process.  The nation must attend to the pain of its history and the pain that the denial of that history continues to inflict.  For after the band stops playing and the gala ball comes to a close, one fact will remain: Charleston’s protracted civil war is our own.

Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts

Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts teach in the Department of History at California State University, Fresno.  They are writing a book about slavery and public memory in Charleston, South Carolina. E-mail: &


Mexican Labor News & Analysis

We received this from the United Electrical Workers International department.  Click Here to read the entire newsletter.


December, 2010,

Vol. 15, No.11

About Mexican Labor News & Analysis

Mexican Labor News and Analysis (MLNA) is produced in collaboration with the Authentic Labor Front, Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) of Mexico and the United Electrical Workers (UE) of the United States. For many of our stories, we rely on La Jornada’s excellent labor and social movement coverage. We also, of course, look at other Mexican and U.S. media, but most important is the coverage of La Jornada, to which we constantly refer and which we frequently summarize in our articles.

In recognizing our sources, articles by David Bacon and John Ross periodically enliven our pages and less frequently, though no less appreciated, are pieces by Fred Rosen. We also appreciate IRC’s willingness to allow us to include articles by Laura Carlsen, director of the IRC Americas Program in Mexico City and occasionally by other IRC contributors. Most important, our collaborators in the Authentic Labor Front (FAT) keep us updated about the FAT’s organizing campaigns and other activities. The Solidarity Center in Mexico kindly sends us regular mailings dealing with labor unions and other issues. We also receive mailings on important issues from CITTAC in Tijuana, from Enlace, and others. Occasionally some of our readers travel to Mexico and send us reports regarding other developments.

For more Information

For information about submission of articles and all queries contact editor Dan La Botz at the following e-mail address: <> or call (513) 861-8722 The mailing address is: Dan La Botz, Mexican Labor News and Analysis, 3503 Middleton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220.

Sign up to receive Mexican Labor News and Analysis on a monthly basis and occasional action alerts at: <_blank>

Can you reprint these articles?

Most MLNA articles may be reprinted by other electronic or print media. If the article includes a byline, republication requires the author’s approval. For permission, please contact the author directly. If there is no byline, republication is authorized if the reproduction includes the following paragraph:

“This article was published by Mexican Labor News and Analysis, a monthly collaboration of the Mexico City-based Authentic Labor Front (FAT) and the Pittsburgh-based United Electrical Workers (UE).”

Staff: Editor, Dan La Botz. Managing Editor, Robin Alexander.


* Honda Workers in Mexico Face Repression, Firings – by Huberto Juárez Núñez

* Protest Letter from UAW President Bob King

* MEXICO: Days of Action, 14-19 February 2011

*‘Climate Capitalism’ Won At Cancun – Everyone Else Loses — by <>Patrick Bond

*Wikileaks Reveals Drug War Failing in Mexico

*Mexican Electrical Workers Union Leadership Installed

* Letter from SME General Secretary to all Union, Social and Popular Organizations

* Shoe Workers Fight for their Jobs, as Transnational BATA Secretly Moves Machinery

*Charge of Money Laundering against Miners’ Leader Dismissed

*USW and Mexican Miners Advance Unity Talks

*UNTyPP Demands Resignation of Director of PEMEX

*Doctors in Juárez Strike over Safety, Want Protection from Narcos

*35,000 Health Workers Strike in Veracruz over Wages, Bonuses

*Mexicana Unions Sign Concessionary Contracts

*A Pan-American Nightmare: Rising Violence against Migrants

*The Migrant Hotel – Where Deportees Find Shelter in Mexicali — by David Bacon

*Labor Shorts: Labor Law reform and Minimum Wage

Read more by clicking here.

Poetry Anthology Commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

50th Anniversary Commemoration of the fire

C. C. Marimbo announces the premiere publication of 2011: Walking Through the River of Fire: 100 Years of Triangle Factory Fire

posted by Julia Stein,  Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 12:55pm

C. C. Marimbo announces the premiere publication of 2011:

Walking Through the River of Fire:  100 Years of Triangle Factory Fire Poems

Edited by Julia Stein with an introduction by Jack Hirschman

On March 25, 1911, a fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The bosses had locked the doors; the fire escapes broke. Within the hour 146 immigrant workers—mostly women–were dead. The Triangle fire galvanized a national social justice movement to protect workers’ health and to build unions.

The anthology of poems is organized to tell the story of the fire chronologically:   the first group of poems deals with the fire itself and those who died, those who survived, and those who witnessed. The next group of poems describes identifying the bodies and the funeral. The third section describes the trial and organizing for new laws to make it safe to work. The last group of poems looks back at the fire years later. These poems tell a dramatic, gripping story in a way that actors or poets can producer readers’ theater or poets’ theater to engage the audience in the Fire.

This book of poetry commemorates the 100th anniversary of this fire that rocked New York. The poetry here remembers this tragedy that it may not be forgotten, that the conditions that caused this conflagration are not recreated, that the event is stamped upon history, that the necessity of unions is remembered, and  that each life lost in the fire is valued.

A few days after the Triangle fire in 1911 Yiddish poet Morris Rosenfeld published in Yiddish his “Memorial to Triangle Fire Victims” on the front page of the Jewish Daily Forward. After a few years American poets forgot about the fire, forgetting for 55 years. When editor Julia Stein was a young poet in 1980 writing poetry about her grandmother’s generation of immigrant garment workers, she first wrote about the Triangle Factory fire inspired by Morris Rosenfeld’s poem.  Then through the work of literary critics Janet Zandy and Karen Kovacik, Stein discovered a new post-1980s generation of poets writing about the Triangle fire. These new Triangle poets are Chris Lllewellyn (1981); Mary Fell (1984); Hilton Obenzinger (1989); Carol Tarlen (1996),  Ruth Daigon (2001);  and Alice Rogoff (2010).

Some of these poets’ Triangle poetry won major poetry prizes: Llewellyn’s book won the Whitman Award for Poetry while Mary Fell’s won the National Poetry Series. These poets attack the sweatshop, recapture the lives of immigrant women and of women workers, and inscribe workers’ lives and tragedies into literature. These poets have reacted to the post-1980 growing inequality in the United States with their Triangle fire poetry. The poems here are only a small selection of 100 years of literature about Triangle fire: a growing body of poetry, novels, dramas, and performance pieces. This small group of American poets is  producing a new American poetry:  public, historical, and engaged with society.

Walking Through the River of Fire:  100 Years of Triangle Fire poetry

36 pages, hand-sewn limited edition,


For further information:  Randy Fingland, CC. Marimbo

What Can We Learn From Finland About Education? — The Hechinger Report

December 9, 2010

What can we learn from Finland?: A Q&A with Dr. Pasi Sahlberg

By Hechinger Report

Pasi Sahlberg 

Justin Snider of The Hechinger Report sat down today with Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture. An edited version of their conversation follows.

Sahlberg, who has trained teachers, coached schools and advised policymakers in more than 40 countries, is also a former Washington-based World Bank education specialist. Earlier this week, Finland was once again among the top-scoring nations on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an exam given to 15-year-olds around the world. U.S. students were in the middle of the pack for science and literacy but below average in mathematics.

The Hechinger Report: Two Million Minutes, a recent documentary by Bob Compton, reveals that American students spend significantly less time learning than their counterparts in India and China. But in your work, you’ve indicated that increasing instructional time isn’t necessarily a good idea. Why?

Sahlberg: There’s no evidence globally that doing more of the same [instructionally] will improve results. An equally relevant argument would be, let’s try to do less. Increasing time comes from the old industrial mindset. The important thing is ensuring school is a place where students can discover who they are and what they can do. It’s not about the amount of teaching and learning.

The Hechinger Report: Given your reservations about things like standardized testing, choice and competition, I’m wondering how you’re received in the U.S. Are you loved by teachers but loathed by some reformers?

Sahlberg: The reception has been very positive everywhere. The thing is that everyone has exactly the same goal – good schools for all – but there are disagreements on how to get there. What I want to do is challenge people to see that things can be done differently. In Finland, we’ve gone from having a very poor system in the 1970s to what the recent McKinsey report called the only excellent system in the world.

The Hechinger Report: How did Finland do it?

Sahlberg: Most educational ideas that we are employing are initially from the U.S. They’re American innovations done in a Finnish way. You know, in the United States, there are more than enough ideas, there’s superior knowledge about educational change and you speak a language that has global reach. If you want to learn something from Finland, it’s the implementation of ideas. It’s looking at education as nation-building. We have very carefully kept the business of education in the hands of educators. It’s practically impossible to become a superintendent without also being a former teacher. … If you have people [in leadership positions] with no background in teaching, they’ll never have the type of communication they need.

The Hechinger Report: So what do you make of the recent trend in the U.S. of hiring non-educators to run large urban school systems?

Sahlberg: This is a very alien idea to Finns. … You know, a former head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks was Finnish, and when he returned to Finland, he was appointed director of one of the largest theaters – a completely different field. He left after one year. There was no buy-in.

The Hechinger Report: What are your thoughts on the use of value-added data to measure teacher performance, which is quite popular in the U.S. at the moment?

Sahlberg: It’s very difficult to use this data to say anything about the effectiveness of teachers. If you tried to do this in my country, Finnish teachers would probably go on strike and wouldn’t return until this crazy idea went away. Finns don’t believe you can reliably measure the essence of learning. You know, one big difference in thinking about education and the whole discourse is that in the U.S. it’s based on a belief in competition. In my country, we are in education because we believe in cooperation and sharing. Cooperation is a core starting point for growth.

The Hechinger Report: Waiting for “Superman” put pressure on teachers’ unions in the U.S. And they’ve also come under criticism from some experts, reformers and the Obama administration. But others, like Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford, have pointed out that top-performing countries such as Finland have strong teachers’ unions. So what do you make of teachers’ unions in the U.S.?

Sahlberg: In Finland, unions aren’t an obstacle. Ninety-eight percent of teachers are unionized. And this is very important to the success of our system. I wouldn’t buy the argument that unions are a problem.