In Episode 15, President Iuliano is joined by two members of the Gettysburg College community: Chris Gwinn ’06, a supervisory park ranger for interpretation and education at Gettysburg National Military Park and Professor of Africana studies and history Scott Hancock. Together, they unpack the Confederate monument controversy, particularly in the context of the Gettysburg battlefield.
In Episode 15 of Conversations Beneath the Cupola, podcast host, Gettysburg College President Robert Iuliano, is joined by two members of the Gettysburg College community: Chris Gwinn ’06, a supervisory park ranger for interpretation and education at Gettysburg National Military Park, and Professor of Africana studies and history Scott Hancock, who is actively engaged in the recent Confederate monument debate. Together, they unpack the Confederate monument controversy, particularly in the context of the Gettysburg battlefield.
The episode begins with Gwinn walking listeners through the history of Union and Confederate monuments on the battlefield and why they were initially constructed. Gwinn iterates that the original monument of the Battle of Gettysburg is not made of bronze or granite, but rather, the original monument is the battlefield itself, and the battlefield has been constantly evolving since 1863. The conversation continues as Gwinn and Hancock discuss the differences between state monuments and regimental monuments, with the latter making up the vast majority of monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield. Due to the historical context surrounding the state monuments’ initial construction, Hancock says if he had complete autonomy back in 1917, they would have never been put up in the first place.
Later in the episode, both Hancock and Gwinn agree that they want monuments to tell a fuller, more accurate story of the Civil War. Gwinn provides an overview of the National Parks Service’s efforts to achieve this full and accurate picture, including re-imagining all the signage in the parks to help visitors make better sense of battle, and to highlight stories that previously haven’t been told or haven’t been told enough. To this point, Hancock shares his appreciation for Gwinn, and more broadly, the National Park Service, as they serve a fundamental role in educating the public on the Civil War.
The episode concludes with an anecdotal “Slice of Life” told from the president’s perspective. Iuliano reflects briefly on the recent de-densification of a fully residential campus due to the continuing effects and efficiency of COVID-19. While it was a difficult transition that no one wanted, Iuliano emphasises the resilience of the College community. Quoting Socrates, he speaks of his confidence in faculty to continue fostering a learning environment in which students are challenged to think and grow.
Chris Gwinn: The monuments and the battlefield have always been controversial. It ebbs and flows, of course, but this debate we're having now as a country about, how do we remember the Confederacy? This is not a new debate and it's not a particularly novel debate.
President Bob Iuliano: Hi, and welcome to Conversations Beneath the Cupola, a Gettysburg College podcast. I'm Bob Iuliano, president of the college and your host. In our last episode, I talked with alumnus and former president and CEO of the NAACP, Bruce Gordon, about the work that remains before us in building a racially just society. In this episode, I am joined by two members of the Gettysburg College community: Professor of Africana studies and history, Scott Hancock, and Christopher Gwinn, a 2006 graduate of the College. Together, we will try to unpack the Confederate monument controversy, particularly in the context of the Gettysburg battlefield.
President Bob Iuliano: Scott's scholarly interest focus on the African-American experience from the mid-17th century, leading up to the Civil War. Recently, he's been interviewed by various national news platforms, including CNN, Fox News, and on NPR member WITF's Smart Talk on the recent Confederate monument debate. Chris is supervisory park ranger for interpretation and education at Gettysburg National Military Park, where he upholds the Park's mission to protect, preserve and interpret the battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address for park visitors.
President Bob Iuliano: Scott and Chris, thank you both for joining me today to engage in this timely and important discussion.
President Bob Iuliano: So Chris and Scott, again, welcome. Over the last several months, there really has been an increasing amount of attention and urgency on important questions of racial justice. And one of the themes that has been raised is the question of the role of monuments in marking our history, and particularly, as it relates to the Civil War. Obviously, these issues have special resonance to us here at Gettysburg, given the battlefield.
President Bob Iuliano: So Chris, let's start with you if we can. And just briefly, can you walk us through the history of monuments on the battlefield, why they were put up in the first place, and particularly, whether there is a history behind the Confederate monuments that people should be aware of?
Chris Gwinn: Yeah, sure. And again, thanks for having me here. I think it's a wonderful thing to be talking about. The first thing I would say is that the original monument is nothing made out of bronze or granite. The original monument's the battlefield, and that's an important note. So literally, days, weeks, months after the battle, the residents of Gettysburg recognized that something significant had happened in their community and they begin to preserve the battlefield. They create an organization called the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association.
Chris Gwinn: And these individuals have as their primary goal the creation of a monument to the Union victory and to the Union slain at Gettysburg, but their idea is that the battlefield is the monument, the ridges, the woods, the hills where the battle was fought. That's what's important. So they go out and they start to buy up land. And then, this becomes really one of the country's first real preserved battlefield spaces.
Chris Gwinn: And what happens in the years following the Civil War is veterans, especially Union veterans, come back to the battlefield. They Mark the battlefield, they create this kind of tourist culture that takes root in Gettysburg. And eventually, particularly in the 1880s and 1890s, Union regimental associations and union veterans come back and they dedicate monuments to where they fought on July 1st, second, and third, 1863. They create monuments to honor their slain comrades.
Chris Gwinn: And I think a point that's missed by a lot of people is that the battlefield is originally envisioned to be a Union memorial park. So this is not going to be a place, necessarily, where the idea of reconciliation takes the forefront. This is going to be a place where the Union cause and the Union victory are really celebrated.
Chris Gwinn: And what we see happening over time is a movement away from that as the federal government becomes involved in the management of the battlefield and as union veterans' organizations, like the Grand Army of the Republic, as they start to lose power and sway over the battlefield.
Chris Gwinn: But the battlefield has been constantly evolving since 1863. It's never been a static place. And so, it goes from this Union memorial park to a place where, again, we're going to honor the courage and valor of both sides. But when we started to do that as a country, those bigger issues, race, slavery, the meaning of the war, they got pushed to the margins. And that was the case for a long, long time, really up until the 1990s and early two thousands at Gettysburg. So it's been an interesting evolution.
President Bob Iuliano: That's a really helpful history, Chris. Scott, I know you've spent a lot of time thinking about the significance of the monuments and, particularly, the Confederate monuments on the battlefield. And you've been speaking with CNN and other media outlets about this recently. Would you reflect on that for us and how you view the evolution that Christ just described of the battlefield?
Scott Hancock: I think the Confederate state monuments speak in a very different way than many of the brigade and regimental markers. And a really prime example of that is where the North Carolina State Monument is, because right across the road as the 11th Mississippi. And it's a statue of a standard bearer waving the men forward over the hill, over the ridge. And it's a dramatic statue, and all statutes are going to dramatize the war and sanitize the war. And that is problematic in itself, but that's certainly not something that's unique to the Confederacy, the Union or United States for that matter, when it comes to monuments and memorials.
Scott Hancock: But that monument, on the base, on the plinth it has information about the officers, casualties, like a lot of the monuments do. So it's very educational. It's probably not entirely inaccurate. The statute, the depiction is realistic. You could think of a standard bearer, perhaps, maybe did that during the battle. I'm sure there's some imagination there as well. But the state monument right across the road has a big tablet that talks about fighting for valor and the cause. It's a very dramatic statute. It's eye catching. It was done by Gutzon Borglum, who did Mount Rushmore.
Scott Hancock: And so, for me, the state monuments, and other historians, not just me, they speak in a different way because the context of when they were put up, whether you're talking about Virginia in 1917, North Carolina in 1929, Alabama, 1933, or the rest of the Confederate state monuments, which are all put up in the Civil Rights era and afterwards. The context of white supremacy, the context of putting up a monument to a history when that history has fairly successfully rewritten history of the Civil War to write African-Americans, for the most part, out of the story, at least push them to the margins, and to tell a story that this war really wasn't about slavery, it's revisionist history. And all history is revisionist, but some revisions are bad and some are good, because they're based on good research and evidence. And I would argue, much of the history surrounding those monuments is based on bad history.
President Bob Iuliano: So Scott, you're drawing a distinction, if I'm hearing you right, between the regimental monuments and the state monuments. And so, if you had complete autonomy over the battlefield, what would you do with the state monuments then?
Scott Hancock: Well, if I had complete autonomy back in 1917 on, they would have never been put up in the first place. But since they're there and that's the reality we have to deal with, and since it's a difficult process to remove them ... So what I've said before, if the only two options were for them to stay or be removed, I would be supporting removing the state monuments, but I don't think those are the only two options.
Scott Hancock: And the reality is, removing them is probably unlikely. It's probably going to, it takes literally an act of Congress. And I think, politically, that just seems like it's unlikely to happen anytime soon. And even if it was, I'm not convinced it would be the best option, because we could actually use those. And I think the national parks, their mission is to educate the public the best they can. I think that using the state monuments to educate the public about when they went up and why they went up, and how they removed African-Americans and slavery from the heart of the story could actually tell visitors, the million or so visitors who come every year, something really important about how we've had this long history in America of trying to protect a narrative that ultimately protects whiteness and white supremacy.
President Bob Iuliano: So Chris, how do you see the monuments? And do you share Scott's sense of the distinction, historically at least, between the regimental and the state monuments? And how, as the person who helps the public interpret the monuments, do you see the state monuments?
Chris Gwinn: So there is a difference between the state monuments that Scott is talking about and the regimental monuments that make up the vast majority of monuments in the Gettysburg battlefield. The first thing I'd say is that there aren't many Confederate state memorials. There's actually only one that's placed by the veterans themselves. So it's just simply, there's not a lot of them at Gettysburg.
Chris Gwinn: The other thing you have a lot of in the Park are what we call war department tablets. And these are primarily informational markers that are placed by the United States government. And they tell the story of each unit in the battle in very matter of fact language. So they'll talk about what a specific brigade did when they arrived, where they attacked, how many casualties they suffered. And these are written primarily by veterans of the battle, including Confederate veterans that the United States war department brought in to help them manage the park in the 1890s and early 1900s. So most of the state monuments are created by state commissions, and the vast majority are placed long after veterans have ceased to play any role in the development of the park.
Chris Gwinn: In terms of how we use them in the park interpretively, and here, I'm speaking about the state memorials. I find them to be really useful jumping off points for larger conversations, kind of like the one we're having right now. So I would take groups of school kids out to the Virginia Memorial and we talk about memory and history and the tension between the two. We talk about the development of the park and how that has evolved over time.
Chris Gwinn: And a big thing that I drive home with visitors, and I use these Confederate monuments as examples of this, is this idea that the monuments and the battlefield have always been controversial. It ebbs and flows, of course, but this debate we're having now as a country about, how do we remember the Confederacy? This is not a new debate, and it's not a particularly novel debate.
Chris Gwinn: If you go back to the early 1900s, Union veterans, the war department, which again, is managing the park at that time, and Confederate veterans, they're engaged in almost this exact same debate. So we can go to the Virginia Memorial and we can literally see, enshrined in the granite and bronze, some of these controversies. The flag on the Virginia Memorial, for example, is the Virginia state flag, not the Confederate battle flag, because in 1917, that was considered too inflammatory a symbol. And so, they swapped out this anachronistic flag to go on the monument. We can talk about inscriptions and how they were battled over. So they're great tools to talk about, again, this tension between history and memory on the battlefield.
President Bob Iuliano: So Chris, how do you, if you're not having a tour with the benefit of someone like your perspective, how does the typical visitor understand that this isn't a new debate, that these are enduring issues that speak a little to what Scott said a moment ago, which is the ever present effort to write and rewrite history?
Chris Gwinn: Yeah. So that's the great challenge. That's the great challenge. And unless you have someone facilitating this conversation for you, or unless you have some means to engage with that layer of history, it's a very ephemeral thing. And all you see is the messages that that memorial by itself is conveying. We really hope that when visitors come to the battlefield, they start off in a museum and they see the exhibitry that talk about the legacy of the war, the causation of the war, reconstruction to development of the park. We hope that, but we know that for most visitors, they don't get that experience.
Chris Gwinn: And so, that's one of the great challenges that we as a national park service, and especially those of us that help manage battlefield parks, is how do we introduce that context on the battlefield in a site-specific way? How do we get visitors to think critically about those things out on the battlefield? How do we bring that museum experience to the battlefield park?
President Bob Iuliano: So Scott, we have seen the question of monuments elsewhere generate a lot of heat and attention, whether it was Silent Sam that stood over the campus of the University of North Carolina for many years, or last week, I think, the Confederate soldier known as At Ready being taken down in Charlottesville, not far from the site of the events there of a couple of years ago. How do you think about those monuments in juxtaposition to what's at the battlefield?
Scott Hancock: Yeah, and that's probably a short answer. I'm all for those ones being removed. They're just a perfect example of monuments to an age of white supremacy that we're still dealing with and they obscure a lot of history. So the easiest difference is they're not on federal land, right? So the process is really different about how you're going to deal with them.
Scott Hancock: But the benefit of the ones being here on federal land is, I think, when you have people like Chris and Steve Sims and other people in National Park Service, who understand history. And I'm sure there are probably some things that we would disagree on, but I think, in general, there's pretty broad agreement that slavery was a central cause of the Civil War, that everything, some one way or another, directly or indirectly tracks back to slavery. And that's an important story to tell about why there was a battle at any battlefield site, along with the military engagement and all the other important information.
Scott Hancock: So on federal land, the NPS, they can shape that story and do the kinds of things that Chris is talking about, or wrestle with how to do that. Whereas, in a town square or something like that, people aren't going to those monuments usually for educational purposes.
President Bob Iuliano: So that leads to a question, just on July 4th weekend here, Chris, your park was the site of active protest and counter protest, with people coming to defend the monuments, at least by their description. How does the park service make sense of an event like that? What are you seeking to do when a situation of protest, counter protest, in this case, some people were armed? Help us understand how the park service engages on those events.
Chris Gwinn: Well, the first thing I would tell you is that we're obligated to follow the law. And in the state of Pennsylvania, it's an open carry state. So, if you're a citizen of Pennsylvania and you want to go to the battlefield and bring your weapon with you, as much as you might not like it, as much as I might not like it, that's something they're legally allowed to do. It's a challenge, obviously, for our law enforcement staff. It's a challenge, I think, for our visitors who want to come here and explore the park to be confronted with that, but we follow the law.
Chris Gwinn: The second thing that the park service is obligated to do is make sure that parks are places where people can express their First Amendment rights. And throughout the history of the park service, the parks have always been used for that. The March on Washington for jobs and freedom in 1963, where Martin Luther King stands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gives the "I Have a Dream" speech, that is an example of a First Amendment activity happening in the national park. So again, at Gettysburg, we're obligated to allow that and, to the degree that we facilitate it with our permitting process, make sure that people have an opportunity to do that and to do it safely.
Chris Gwinn: The other thing we're obligated to do is to protect the safety and wellbeing of our visitors and staff. And sometimes, there are tensions between those three missions and that's something the National Park Service has to navigate very carefully. But on the other hand, I think Gettysburg has always been a place, since 1863, where Americans have come to try to figure out, okay, what does it mean to be an American? Who gets to be a citizen? How are we going to deal with issues of race in this country?
Chris Gwinn: And so, again, I see what we had this year on July 4th as part of that history and part of that evolution, as challenging as it might be for the National Park Service to be able to manage that and as varied as the opinions of folks might be on what that looks like and whether or not that's appropriate.
President Bob Iuliano: Scott, going back to the conversation we had a moment ago about Silent Sam and At Ready, I have heard an argument that removing the monuments is a form of erasing history, not celebrating it. And in fact, what one ought to do is to contextualize, rather than to remove. What do you say to that argument?
Scott Hancock: I don't want to be disrespectful of people who make that argument, but it's just wrong. It's a baseless argument, because, one, what I keep telling people, I want more history. I don't want less history. I want more history. The problem with those monuments, and let's say we're talking about a place, a public square, like the ones in Charlottesville or Silent Sam or whatever. And I don't know historians are saying, yeah, let's just make the history disappear.
Scott Hancock: Because the problem is those statutes have actually been part of making history disappear, because they hide the story of the Civil War, what the war was about, who is at the center of that story. They isolate it to one group. And it's an important group, the white Confederate soldiers and leaders. It's not that they should be out of the story, but it just obscures so much. And part of what it obscures is how that bad revision of history was done for specific reasons and particular purposes.
Scott Hancock: One example is, so the Confederate battle flag, it's not that it never disappeared, but when the Confederate battle flag really comes back into public culture in a big way is right after World War Two. And it does that because it's white southerners who, not all white stoners aren't monolithic, but those who did not like integration, who did not like the fact that the federal government was trying to dismantle legal Jim Crow, legalize white supremacy, they used that as a symbol to protest, to push back against the federal government. It was all about race. It wasn't about state's rights. It wasn't my individual rights. It was all about race.
Scott Hancock: So the Confederate battle flag, when it was just finally taken off the state of Mississippi's flag, people want to say, Oh, well, taking that off of the flag hides history. I say, no, it actually gives us a great opportunity to tell a much fuller story. So, it's not about erasing history for me, it's about a better, more complete, fuller history.
President Bob Iuliano: There's legislation pending in both the Pennsylvania state house, and I think it's passed the House of Representatives federally. And Chris, I recognize that you have constraints on your ability to comment on that. But if legislation were passed that required the taking down of all Confederate monuments, and by all, I'm not distinguishing between the state monuments and the regimental monuments, but how would that affect your ability to help the public understand the history of the battle and the history of our country?
Chris Gwinn: Yeah. I'm glad you brought that up, Bob. And I have a couple of thoughts on that. The first is that, as you stated, the National Park Service doesn't comment on pending legislation, which what you mentioned is. But I think a lot of Americans are under the impression or the idea that somehow, Gettysburg National Military Park has some sway over what stays and what goes, and that's not what we do. What the National Park Service does is we take care of the stuff that the American people tell us to take care of, and we interpret and educate the preserved spaces in the United States. And that's what our job is. So we're not in the monument making business and we're not in the monument taking down business.
Chris Gwinn: We let the American people, through their elected representatives, do that, which I think is one of the wonderful things about the park service, because it means you have a very varied national park system where we protect and preserve everything from Grand Teton to Japanese internment camps that were set up in World War Two. My job stays the same. I'm here to educate people on the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, its causes and its consequences. I'm here to do that irregardless of how the battlefield evolves, and it will always evolve and it's going to continue to evolve. But my core function doesn't change.
President Bob Iuliano: Thanks, Chris. Scott, one of the points you've made is that the, and you've made it in different respects in this conversation as well, that even as the battlefield evolves and even with the monumentation that exists, we have a myopic or at least a narrow view of the war and its causes and its purposes. Can you say more about that and whether you see opportunities to do more than we're doing to provide that broader context that would help illuminate more fully our understanding of the past?
Scott Hancock: Yeah. This is why I say, I want more history. The best example of what you're asking about is South Carolina monument. There are many examples, so maybe it's not the best, but it's a really good one. But it says on it, the inscriptions, that they were fighting for the sacredness of state's rights. And so, one of the things, when different groups asked me to take them on these informal tours of the battlefield, like the Confederate monuments or the Black history of the battlefield, I always like to go to that, because behind it are the mountains to the West, right, South mountain range. And we know that some escaping slaves used that mountain range to sometimes come into Gettysburg temporarily, or go further North toward Carlisle, Harrisburg, other places.
Scott Hancock: And South Carolina, if you read their declaration of secession, they're the first state to succeed, and politically economically, along with Virginia. And so, South Carolina, when they secede, their declaration of secession, after a long preamble, it identifies as the first reason, and really the primary reason they spend most of it talking about, is that the federal government isn't really doing anything on the problem of escaping slaves, that northern states had either ignored fugitive slave acts, or the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793. Like Pennsylvania telling law enforcement officials in the 1830s not to help. They weren't allowed to help slave catchers.
Scott Hancock: And so, Southern States are really unhappy that the federal government isn't using its power to force northern states to comply with federal law. So what I argue to people, and it might oversimplify it a little bit, is essentially, you have southern states wanting the federal government to suppress the northern states' rights. So this whole thing about southern states seceded just for state's rights, which we always say, well, what's the primary state right they were looking to protect was the right to own slaves. They liked the power of the federal government when it was protecting their interest and they did not like it when they lost control of their government.
Scott Hancock: And I think that's why I would say, let's not remove the South Carolina monument. Let's use it to tell these kind of stories about how it twisted history around for particular purposes in the mid-20th century.
President Bob Iuliano: So, Chris, this naturally leads me to you. I understand that you are, the park service is working on interpretive panels to help broaden the understanding of the monuments and their history. Can you say a word or two more about what you hope for that, but also, history is contested ground. How do you decide what you're going to reflect on those interpretive panels?
Chris Gwinn: Yeah. And you know, one of the things I'll say is that, I mean, I'm in complete agreement with Scott that we want more history, not less. We want to complicate the narrative, we want to add different layers of history, and there's not one way you do that. You pursue it in many different ways, because people consume history in different ways. People find different jumping off points and people engage with the park differently.
Chris Gwinn: So the signage that you mentioned, that is something that we're working on, and it's part of a much larger, comprehensive plan, where we're redoing all the signage in the parks. So all those interpretive panels that you might see, or Gettysburg College students might see as they run by the Peace Light, we're redoing all of them. And we're doing it to help visitors make sense of the battle, to follow the ebb and flow.
Chris Gwinn: But we're also doing it to highlight stories that previously haven't been told or haven't been told enough. And that includes the story of individuals like Abraham Brian, who's a free African-American citizen who lives in Gettysburg. We're talking about the role of immigrants in the Army of the Potomac. We're talking about the role of monumentation and memory, reunion. So we're really trying to have a very broad and inclusive approach to telling the story of the battle.
Chris Gwinn: And as part of that program, as part of that signage plan, are the ones we're going to put at some of these very significant pieces of statuary and monumentation in the park. So at the Virginia Memorial, at North Carolina, at South Carolina, as Scott just mentioned. And we're very fortunate that we have a lot of wonderful community members that are partners with us. We're fortunate to have the support of the Gettysburg Foundation and their Historians Council. And so, this is not just a me effort or a Gettysburg effort, but we're depending on the same experts that help us craft the museum experience, back in 2008, to help us tell this story in a way that's engaging and in a way that's accessible.
Chris Gwinn: But it's not just the signage. We're talking about digitizing some of our primary sources and putting them online, so that students and Civil War researchers across the world can delve into some of the primary source material behind the placement of these, so they can read the debates and controversies themselves as these memorials are taking shape. We're developing a very robust living history program that's not just going to be focused on military maneuvers, but that's going to be focused on the civilian story and the African-American story on the battlefield, which I'm really excited about.
Chris Gwinn: And so, it's not just one thing, it's many things. I'd even mention the rehabilitation of the James Warfield house, which is one of Gettysburg's Black citizens. It's smack dab in the middle of the battlefield. And in two or three years, what we'd really like is for that site to be part of the official tour, when you take a battlefield tour, but also to be a jumping off point to talk about all of these big issues, the experience of African-Americans during the Gettysburg campaign, the role of slavery in bringing on the war, the very complicated story of what happens after Appomattox during reconstruction and all the way into the 20th century. So there's a lot of different ways we try to convey those stories to visitors, not just one.
President Bob Iuliano: That's very helpful. Scott, let's wrap this up question to you that draws on what Chris just said. The battlefield, as currently configured, has very little in the way of African-American voices or history told. What would you want it to do that reflects that aspect of the history that is, I think, largely untold?
Scott Hancock: I think the museum is fantastic. The battlefield black voices presence is absent, with the exception of Abraham Brian and the work that Chris and others have done more recently on the James Warfield House. So going back to your earlier question, my ideal world, if it was completely up to me, you'd have many statues or ... A former high school student I coached in soccer, I think he's an architect now, his suggestion was Black obelisks erupting from the ground of different sizes all along Confederate Avenue to signify the six to 10,000 in slave laborers that the Confederate Army brought with them. And that's a really complicated story about those slave laborers.
Scott Hancock: Or some kind of memorial or monument about the Black man, that pretty good evidence on Culp's Hill, a black man who either spied on or shot at Confederate soldiers. Don't know who he was, good chance he was a local member of the Gettysburg Black community. And there's a variety of ways, like I said, people more creative than myself could address that.
Scott Hancock: And just in case anybody's listening to this, thinking, Oh, are you trying to cover up the military story? Say, absolutely not. I get that the reason people come to Gettysburg is because they want to know about the three days of the battle, for the most part. That that draws, I suspect, the majority of visitors. And so, it's not about covering up those three days or the really tragic story of the 50-plus thousand men who were injured or killed here. That story has to be told, should be told, but there's a context around that. Why were they here in the first place?
Scott Hancock: And if I could read a brief quote from this guy, so his name is Michel-Rolph Trouillot. He's a Haitian historian who wrote a book called Silencing the Past. He wrote this a year ago and he said, "Long before average citizens read the historians who set the standard of the day for college and students, they access history through celebrations, site and museum visits, movies, national holidays, primary school books." I always keep that in mind, that the work that people like Chris do, ultimately, is going to reach far more people than any book that I'm probably ever going to write or article I'm going to write.
Scott Hancock: And I'm not saying that to butter him up. Most academic historians, if we write a history book, maybe a few thousand people read it. We're talking about a million people a year who come through the Gettysburg battlefield. And that's why I say, man, we want to come alongside and assist in however we can to reaching people, because like Trouillot said, they're going to encounter history through that long before they read any books that us academics write.
President Bob Iuliano: Well, that is a wonderful note to end this on. Thank you, Chris, thank you, Scott, for this really engaging and important conversation that speaks not just about the monuments, but the broader themes of how we understand ourselves and, ultimately, where we go as a country and as a people. So thank you for this conversation, very much appreciated.
President Bob Iuliano: Let me conclude with a slice of life from Gettysburg College. As we record this, the College is in the second day of a return to classes, after the continuing effects and efficiency of the virus required us to move away from a fully residential campus. It's been a difficult transition and one no one wanted. I've heard it said that on any campus, the faculty is akin to a still but very deep pond, a source of continuity and strength that lies at the core of any vibrant academic community. That's certainly true here at Gettysburg, and it has once again been on display as the faculty responds to the seeming inevitability of change with a singular focus on our students. Socrates is said to have observed that quote, "I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think." With the changes the pandemic has imposed, of this I am confident, our faculty will continue to make our students think.
President Bob Iuliano: Thanks for listening. If you've enjoyed this conversation and want to be notified of future episodes, please subscribe to Conversations Beneath the Cupola by visiting, gettysburg.edu or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have a topic or suggestion for a future podcast, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, and until next time.
Guests featured in this episode
- Christopher Gwinn ’06, a supervisory park ranger for interpretation and education at Gettysburg National Military Park, where he upholds the Park’s mission to protect, preserve and interpret the battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address for park visitors.
- Scott Hancock, Professor of Africana studies and history. Scott’s scholarly interests focus on the African-American experience from the mid-17th century, leading up to the Civil War. Recently, he’s been interviewed by various national news platforms, including CNN, Fox News, and on NPR member WITF’s Smart Talk on the timely Confederate monument debate.