Question of the Week: 6/19-6/25/17


In a recent guest post, historian Winifred Maloney recounted the appearance of reenactors from the 54th Massachusetts Infantry—the black unit depicted in the movie Glory—presenting the colors at a Boston Red Sox game. Her thoughtful commentary sparked a comment by a reader that I have been mulling over since: “U.S.C.T. reennactors are praised but white reenactors are usually regarded by the academy with scorn as old, fat, hobbyists.”

I have struggled with this: Is this a contradiction or, even worse, a hypocrisy? Or perhaps it actually has nothing to do with race at all but is, instead, a value judgement on the types of living history events various reenacting groups participate in?

What do you think? Is there a contradiction here or not? Please explain your answer.

10 Responses to Question of the Week: 6/19-6/25/17

  1. It is unfortunate that this comment focused on race rather than the opportunity to educate those attending the Red Sox game that may not be familiar with important events of the Civil War especially young people.

  2. Hasn’t anybody noticed that we actually are old fat hobbyists? The running joke among our comrades is that we should all just put on G.A.R. uniforms & call it a deal. Creaky knees & too much good living is as universal as it gets, race has nothing to do with it.

    1. BEST RESPONSE EVER!! I quit reenacting when I realized I had been in the war longer than the war had lasted! My husband is a Son of Union Veterans member, and his artillery uniform doesn’t fit anymore. Many of the members wear uniforms, but there is a serious movement afoot to find someone to recreate GAR uniforms for the parades & the opportunities to give scholarships, etc. It would be so much more comfortable, and since most of them are headed toward the Winfield Scott Hancock image, much more flattering.

      And don’t worry . . . those thin young black men will be there soon enough! Huzzah!

  3. Well if you remember, when the film “Glory,” was released a number of academics and reenactors expected African-Americans to fill their ranks in great numbers. The response was somewhat disappointing, In common with other Americans, the African-American community is lethargic in the pursuit and appreciation of history. What is amusing and not racist is the acceptance and double -standard of those whom eschew and mock the mass of reenactors yet praise and revere the U.S. C. T. reenactors. Just an observation; not an attack. “With malice towards none.”

    1. I would be interested to know what evidence you can produce for your claims in this or your prior comment. Are you certain those who “praise and revere” black reenactors are the same people who “eschew and mock” white reenactors?

      1. We actually don’t mind being eschewed & mocked by others; eschewing & mocking each other is our natural condition. Others are welcome to join in, just don’t expect us to take much notice.

  4. I do cringe when I visit an historical site and there are re-enactors present, eager to be asked questions depending on whether they are wearing their hat or not. I guess I am in “the Academy.”

  5. Interesting questions. First off, I want to validate any scorn or condescension regarding reenacting the reader has experienced personally or observed directed at others. It’s out there. However, in my experience here in the ultra-liberal Five College region of Red Sox Nation’s home state, Massachusetts, those within the academy who would look down on white reenactors would do with black reenactors. I can’t generalize about every critic of reenactment’s motivation to do so, but I’d venture that many in my neck of the woods would tend to view reenacting of the Civil War or any armed conflict as a glorification of war and its weaponry. Those who exhibit the “scorn” the ECW reader’s comment suggests, I think, would tend to be equal-opportunity scorners with both blacks and whites. In my opinion, one is just as likely to encounter indifference to reenacting the Civil War (and to Civil War events and projects such as ECW) as to experience scorn. And both scorn and indifference to reenacting extends outside the academy’s ivory towers. I’ve interacted with non-academic Civil War military and social history enthusiasts as scornful of reenacting as anyone I’ve worked with or met within the academy.

    Finally, to reiterate on my comment posted on Winifred’s article about the USCT 54th at Fenway: Go Red Sox!

  6. The black soldiers in the movie Glory were almost all extras W/O any reenactors experience. The scene with the wrist watch tells you all you need to know. In Dancing With Wolves, the lead character wears his pistol belt upside down through out. A little suspension of disbelief is in order. The Civil War was fought by roughly 24 year old men leaned out to gristle & bone. No group of reenactors or living historians (like me, 24 years & counting) look like they did. It is rediculous to expect we would. The USCT unit in our
    area are all men of substantial girth. The church ladies who feed them at every event leave all us barely able to waddle back to the car. My point is this, what the heck do you expect? Our National Park living history Cannon crew has is over 100 years of experience. Our comrades have included an award winning historian, symphony orchestra bassist, plasma physicist, roofer, commercial artist & metallurgical engineer… also my wife & grandaughters. Apparently, there are those among us who have never bothered to chat with the hard working volunteers who amuse you with all that bang & smoke. You should try it, you might learn something.

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