Catching up with William Blair

If you could solve a single mystery in your field, what would it be?

Why the public has such a difficult time understanding slavery as a cause of the Civil War.

When you're not on campus working, where can you most often be found?

On the tennis courts

Where is the most interesting place you've traveled?

Paris

Selected Publications by William Blair

man with mustache stands in front of posters

Exploring the history of Civil War commemorations from both sides of the color line, William Blair places the development of memorial holidays, Emancipation Day celebrations, and other remembrances in the context of Reconstruction politics and race relations in the South. His grassroots examination of these civic rituals demonstrates that the politics of commemoration remained far more contentious than has been previously acknowledged.

Commemorations by ex-Confederates were intended at first to maintain a separate identity from the U.S. government, Blair argues, not as a vehicle for promoting sectional healing. The burial grounds of fallen heroes, known as Cities of the Dead, often became contested ground, especially for Confederate women who were opposed to Reconstruction. And until the turn of the century, African Americans used freedom celebrations to lobby for greater political power and tried to create a national holiday to recognize emancipation.

Blair's analysis shows that some festive occasions that we celebrate even today have a divisive and sometimes violent past as various groups with conflicting political agendas attempted to define the meaning of the Civil War.

book cover “virginia’s private war”

Virginia's Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 1861-1865

This book tells the story of how Confederate civilians in the Old Dominion struggled to feed not only their stomachs but also their souls. Although demonstrating the ways in which the war created many problems within southern communities,Virginia's Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 1861-1865 does not support scholars who claim that internal dissent caused the Confederacy's downfall. Instead, it offers a study of the Virginia home front that depicts how the Union army's continued pressure created destruction, hardship, and shortages that left the Confederate public spent and demoralized with the surrender of the army under Robert E. Lee.

SIDEBAR

man with mustache stands in front of posters

Last Updated May 12, 2009