Story by Katharine Q. Seelye for The New York Times, November 29, 2010:
The 150th anniversary of the Civil War is prompting some states to change the way they confront their unsettling past.
During the centennial of the Civil War starting in 1960, Georgia celebrated the Confederacy and the view that the state had seceded in a valiant act of defending states’ rights against Northern aggressors.
This time around, state historians are taking a different approach, declaring that Georgia seceded to defend the institution of slavery.
On Jan. 19, the date in 1861 when the state seceded, the Georgia Historical Society and others plan to dedicate a historical marker at the old statehouse in Milledgeville. The marker, citing Georgia’s secession ordinance, will say that the state seceded in response to the election of Abraham Lincoln, who was “anti-slavery.”
This may be one of the first official recognitions in the state, at least in modern times, that slavery was the overarching reason for secession, said Todd Groce, president of the historical society. While some pro-Confederate groups may disagree with this conclusion, he said, mainstream historians do not.
“The marker is based on overwhelming evidence from the 1860s,” Mr. Groce said, “not based on what the apologists said in the 1890s, when former Confederates were backfilling about states’ rights.”
The historical marker is one of 15 that are being installed for the sesquicentennial under a partnership between the historical society and the state. Most tell of less heralded events, including the disaster at Ebenezer Creek, where hundreds of fugitive slaves drowned, but one will note the burning of Atlanta, which has not been marked until now.
The markers tell their stories in about 100 words.
“After that,” Mr. Groce said, “people lose interest.”