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Circling the Facts

The decision of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his City Council to remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee and rename Lee Circle is troubling on a number of levels. Erasing evidence of New Orleans’s Confederate sympathy in the Civil War is a betrayal of truth, tantamount to saying it never existed. That slavery is heinous and indefensible is irrefutable fact, but is removing proof of its presence a responsible way of addressing it? I certainly support relegating the rebel flag to museums, but this self-aggrandizing political bandwagon is as shameful as it is ill-conceived. The rewriting of history has proven to be dangerous and irresponsible time and again, especially when it sets precedents. Landrieu’s actions have already spawned criticism of the...

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The Lovely Bones

Arguably the most famous and iconic plantation ruin in the South, twenty-three pillars are all that remain of Windsor, a home so grandiose in its heyday that Mississippi steamboat captains used it as a landmark. It’s haunting under any circumstances, more so when glimpsed through a dense morning fog, emerging as a series of vertical phantoms which slowly morph into great columns supporting only thin air. The evocative stone skeleton holds a preponderant sense of time lost and forgotten and, with minimal surrender, conjures images of what was. Indeed, no one knew what Windsor actually looked like until an accidental discovery late in the last century. Located below Port Gibson, Mississippi, Windsor was begun in 1859 and finished two years later. On a...

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The Black Swan

In celebration of Black History Month, I salute Elizabeth Greenfield (1819-1876), a Mississippi slave whose golden voice was her ticket to freedom. Born on a Natchez, Mississippi, plantation, Elizabeth was taken as an infant to Philadelphia by her owner, Holliday Greenfield. After joining the Society of Friends (Quakers), Mrs. Greenfield freed and adopted her charge. As Elizabeth grew up and showed a natural flair for singing, she astonished Mrs. Greenfield with the power and range of her voice and her self-taught skills on the guitar. Recognizing a remarkable talent, Mrs. Greenfield sought formal training, but could find no Philadelphia voice coach willing to jeopardize his professional reputation with a student of color, even at three times the going rate of...

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