View Full Version : i need aq bit of assistance if yall dont mind

10-02-2006, 10:11 PM
howdy yall,

i am a college-aged reenactor, and got saddled with a paper, and just to be obtuse i picked racism in reenacting. if any of yall have experienced racism emmanating from the public of any sort, would you please respond either here or to my email account of JJ_Byerly@hotmail.com?


Jerry W. Byerly, Jr. (JJ)

10-02-2006, 10:46 PM
Not as of yet.

10-03-2006, 08:00 AM
While I have not had to seen racism in terms of reenactors or spectators, I occassionally have had to deal with neo-Confederacism and anti-Federalism in reenactors. When doing Living Histories I do discuss racism in the 1860's as it was manifest throughout the whole of the U.S. and not just in the South. While slavery was a Southern only issue, institutionalized racism was an issue throughout most of the U.S. in the early 1860's.

Ozark Iron John
10-03-2006, 09:07 AM
While slavery was a Southern only issue, institutionalized racism was an issue throughout most of the U.S. in the early 1860's.

How do you reckon "slavery was a Southern only issue" Tom? That just pretty much contridicts the truth don't it? There were more slaves in New York City than in Atlanta and more in Illinois than in Missouri for that matter. Slavery wasn't a "Southern Only Issue". It was the law of the land and it had been since the enception of the nation.


Regarding racism in re-enacting, I'd point you to a situation in a little town in northwest Arkansas earlier this summer. Apparently they were having a historical society event with Food Venders, Arts & Crafts, and Civil War re-enactors. Anyway, I guess the organizers of the event had coordinated for the re-enactors to march in the parade and to discharge their weapons and a cannon in a mock battle. The Chief of Police, a Hyphenated-American, threatened to arrest 'em. They were getting ready for the parade when the Chief pulls up with his lights flashing and yells at 'em over his PA that "they must not discharge their weapons within the city limits" else he was going to arrest 'em. When they tried to explain that this contridicted the direction they had received from the event organizers, he through a fit. He yelled at 'em, called 'em "crackers" and and made a real big scene. He made a big deal out of how he was in charge and if they didn't do exactly what he said, he'd throw 'em all in jail. Then he called for reinforcements and ordered patrol cars to drive in front of and behind 'em in the parade and pretty much thoroughly humiliated and embarassed 'em in front of the whole town. As I understand it, they've obtained a lawyer and our going to bring some type of lawsuit against him and the city for the outrage.

I have personaly been the victim of more'n a few verbal attacks by Hyphenated-Americans upset with my depiction of Southern soldiers. [deleted]

10-03-2006, 05:06 PM
How do you reckon "slavery was a Southern only issue" Tom? That just pretty much contridicts the truth don't it? There were more slaves in New York City than in Atlanta and more in Illinois than in Missouri for that matter. Slavery wasn't a "Southern Only Issue". It was the law of the land and it had been since the enception of the nation.

As of the 1860's census there were no slaves listed for either Ill or NY state. Granted some worker/management systems could be essentially slavery, especially in the coal mine towns of the Appalecia, because of the various debtor laws and company stores, but by law they were not slavery where the workers could be sold away from their families and their children were automatically sentenced to the same fate as their families solely because of their birth.

As far as racism at an event, I have not personally encountered it as a Confederate reenactor although I have to admit that I was initially a little nervous once at a reenactment at Asbury Park, NJ in a predominantly black neighborhood. However, this event was just after 9/11 so the community leaders were telling everyone to forget the past and focus on the fact that all Americans were now under attack regardless of our race.

10-04-2006, 09:55 AM
"We the Confederate States of America, with God on our side in the defense of slavery for now and forever, do hereby declare ourselves independent. . . ." The Confederate Constitution

Yep...definitely not a Southern issue.

Peter Julius,
Bryson City, NC

10-04-2006, 11:11 AM
"has/is rascism been an issue when dealing with the public?"

I voted 'yes', but consider this to be a more complex issue not conducive to being addressed by a yes/no answer. If by "racism" you mean slavery, then discussions of slavery at living histories is commonplace. What comes as a surprise to spectators is making folks aware of Northern black codes and the racism generally prevalent throughout the entire country in the 19th Century. The South serves as the nation's whipping boy on the issue of race relations, which isn't fair and isn't right.

And then there are other folks with different agendas which are strictly race-based, but I rarely see them at real living histories. They rarely even attend battle reenactments and seem to have their own schedule of events to attend. Unfortunately, they also misappropriate the Confederate battleflag for their purposes, which is yet another subject that gets my blood pressure up.

Big Dan

10-04-2006, 01:17 PM
Mr. Byerly,
Twenty years ago, when I first began my reenacting career, my boss at Harper's Ferry (who was himself a reenactor) once told me that I would have to put my values on hold in order to tolerate the level of racism prevelent in most of reenacting. He wasn't wrong. In fact, I ended up leaving the reenacting world after about five years of participation primarily for that very reason. I've been back in the ranks for about two years now and so far so good. In the past people regularly dropped the "N" bomb without a second thought and reenactments in some parts of the country were often little better than klan rallies (a certain mega-mainstream event in north Florida comes to mind). My sense is that this sort of behavior is no longer as readily tolerated and reenacting is no longer is the safe haven it once was for bigots. Thus, it has been forced to become more covert and subtle. You will now hear them complain about "reverse discrimination" and "political correctness" instead of making blanket racist remarks. As long as the racists remain underground then I'm content. They may still be there but you simply don't hear them as much. At least I don't.
Peter Julius,
Bryson City, NC

10-04-2006, 04:57 PM
I put "No" because I have never had an issue "When dealing with the public." When I discuss things that happened in the 1860's I hope I help the folks I'm talking to understand how folks from the 1860's felt about things and how "we" can't take our 21st century ways of thinking and ideals and apply them to the 19th century. 19th Century values were waaaay different then they are now. Did that make sense. Now political views of some reenacting orgainizations are a different story. Yes, some are very slanted and some would say the folks are still living in the 19th century.

10-04-2006, 05:17 PM
Has it ever been an issue with the public and an event? Nope

Do some reenactors bring their modern day prejudices and bigotry to events? Yes


10-05-2006, 08:13 AM
Done this for almost 20 years, seen pretty much everything. However, the general public that I have encountered within that period of time, is clueless about the war, slavery, racial relations of the time period or what have you. Sure, there are a small percentage that are somewhat "in-the-know" and others that seem genuinely interested, but for the most part: no, it's not an issue.

I do feel that there are people that try to make it an issue. I also think that the atmosphere where you were raised does shade your outlook, personality, social mores, etc. on this particular subject. BUT, just because I was born and raised and lived in the south for 33 years does not mean that I am a racist, bigot, or that my family owned anyone. I know this will sound like a movie quote, but I lived my life by this maxim way before the movie came out: I take every person one at a time, and do not judge that individual by the whole group, or vice versa. Each man, woman, child brings to the table different qualities that make up who they are.

Education is key here. The visiting public, for the most part, wants to be entertained. They're not coming to a reenactment to study history. However, they're not getting the whole picture in school either. I would say that approximately 92% of what I learned about the period 1842-1870 I did not learn in a classroom. And in that classroom, in training studies that I have been involved in, you are only going to retain about 30% of what you read or hear. And of course, you're only going to take away what you want to get from the class.

10-05-2006, 09:03 AM
As many other have said - Racism (and reverse racism) are quite a bit more underground now within the reenacting ranks.

I participate in both Federal and CS Impressions. I also admit, and unashamed to admit, that I am a 'Mainstreamer'. My wife and/or Kids come with me to reenactments. At one of my first events I sat around the fire talking with my pards it became obvious that one of the people was overtly racist. I have not raised my children with racism - although I do stress the fact that everybody in America needs to act "American" rather than German, Irish, Mexican, or African. I simply told the individual that I didn't raise my children with that and requested, when they're around, to not talk about it. He understood, respected my request and heeded.

Reenacting is a pretty good cross-section of America. With that said there's bound to be issues like this pop up on occasion.

Well - on the other hand there was this one instance with a local News crew some 4-1/2 years ago.

It was a very small living history event in Suffolk Virginia. There were 8 Confederate Reenactors and 2 Federals. We in the CS ranks that day had our tents laid out in a Company Street and were sitting around the fire talking to spectators. The two Federals (both Infantry Privates) were hanging out at the Train Station with no gear laid out.

The News crew (headed by an African American journalist) bypassed our street and walked right up to the two US reenactors there. I thought it odd that she passed up our wonderful camp laid out so well to talk to a bunch of US reenactors who were just standing there. I thought, "Well maybe she wants the Federal Perspective" or something. Later the Federals told me that she said (off camera) that she didn't want to talk to the Confederates on camera just to be "Politically Correct".

I haven't watched that news channel since.

10-15-2006, 12:50 AM
just the offhanded comment every once in a while between reenactors. Never an allout onslught between reenactors and public resembling something that could lead to a lawsuit.

Jurgitem Valetem

10-15-2006, 11:35 AM
I was marching with a Confederate unit back in the early 1970s in the South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade. This was during the Federal forced school busing era. When the spectators figured out that we weren't Pilgrims or Hillbillys, we were cheered like the Allies entering Paris. Somebody's sainted Irish mother asked us to come back in September to "chase the N*gg*rs out of Boston."

I was also in a couple events locally with one of the 54th Ma. companies. The Confeds (also local) felt obliged to be "period" racist.

Rob Weaver
10-16-2006, 03:57 PM
We need a little more precision in our definition of "racism." There was an institutional racism called "slavery" that was absolutely ended by the 13th Amendment. However, we all know that cultural ideas and biases are not changed by fiat. There was the "period racism" that we all might talk about here: racism that proscribed occupations, marriages, etc. Pick up almost any work of pulp fiction from the early 20th century and you will get a feel for what I mean. You couldn't even read "Tarzan" in school today. Race is a moving target in American culture and has been styled our "magnificent obsession." But I'm not convinced that really all cultures aren't at some point racist; it's part of the human condition. Perhaps "tribalism" would be a better term for it. If you are part of my tribe (regardless of where in the world we might be) and look/talk/act like part of my tribe, then you're safe. However, if you obviously are not, then you could be a potential enemy. America, uniquely, grounds its racism in skin color. Elsewhere in the world it's area of birth, religious heritage, etc. Without getting too deep, or wanting to sound too preachy, I think it's another example of how we humans "fall short of the glory of God" who, in Himself, knows perfect community and shows no shadow of favoritism. Sorry, didn't mean to preach.

10-16-2006, 04:13 PM
We need a little more precision in our definition of "racism."

IMHO, racism occurs where one segment of society is treated differently in a negative manner strictly because of their race - essentially racial discrimation except it is at a societal level rather than at an individual level. Institutional racism occurs when that difference in racial treatment is codified in laws and regulations such a poll taxes, land ownership restrictions, voting rights restrictions, etc. The death knell of institutional racism in the U.S. really did not occur until the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960's. The 13th Amendment as well as the first sections of the 14th and 15th Amendments were just the start of the process of purging institutional racism from our country.

Rob Weaver
10-17-2006, 06:54 AM
Yeah, agreed. I was trying to be so careful in the wording of that post that I mispoke - I merely meant to hold up the Amendment as the end of that facet of racism known as slavery itself. You just made the whole conversation bigger, though with the implication that racism can be systemic, societal, cultural and personal and that all or some of those levels can be present at the same time.

10-17-2006, 09:39 AM
America, uniquely, grounds its racism in skin color.

While partly agreeing with you in the modern sense, in the past we cut it much finer than race; just ask the Irish, among others.

Today, we still run the gauntlet of reasons for being racist, from nationalism (Mexicans and others south of the border, Orientals/Pacific area) to religion (anything non-Christian to anti-Catholic). While not institutuionalized, I'd still have to say it's institutional, in the sense that it's relatively widespread though somewhat underground. Skin color is just the most obvious source of our prejudices.

10-17-2006, 10:58 AM
I have only encountered overt displays of racism a couple of times in my reenacting career. The first was about 20 years ago in Gettysburg, when a friend and I were walking past the High Water Mark. We had changed into modern clothes, and so did not stand out from the many other tourists that day.

A car slowed down beside us, a man rolled the window down and said "Well, I sure as **** wouldn't fight for any damned ni**ers!", then drove away.

The more recent, and more disturbing, incident was at a mid-sized reenactment in Central Florida. There, amid the sutlers and funnel cake vendors, was a man who set up a booth celebrating what he considered "Southern Heritage". His display, having nothing particular to do with Florida, history or the Civil War, was entirely devoted to how much the slaves enjoyed their lives in the ante-bellum South. All he was missing was a hood and a noose.

I reenact both sides of the war (doubling my chances of being on the winning side of a given battle), but it was appalling. Worse still, it gives visitors the worst possible impression of our hobby.

John Legg
11-09-2006, 11:32 AM
This year at The Crossroads Village event in Flint, there was some racism.

a class of 1st graders came to the event as a feild trip on friday. The first group they cam up to was some Georgia unit(i forgot which) and a african american kid asked about reenacting or something(wasnt there) but one of the guys said you would of probaly been a slave. you just dont say that...

the unit got kicked out of the event, and thanks to them there is NO more Crossroads village reenactments! :mad:


11-09-2006, 09:02 PM
John, that's a very badly garbled version of what actually happened. Here's an earlier thread with the story (the Search tool is very useful for things like this): http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=889&highlight=Crossroads+Village+slave