The Civil War — 150th Anniversary Edition by Ken Burns
This time, the South wins! I’m from Louisiana and my wife is from New Jersey. She says my interest in the War Between the States is due to my hope that one day I’ll find a documentary that shows the South winning. Ken Burns’s Emmy winning documentary, The Civil War, was released on DVD on March 29, five days in advance of its rebroadcast on PBS. The new release includes never-before-seen footage while the rebroadcast is the original version.
A product of the Mississippi Delta, our public schools were dominated by WASPs — well, the “white” schools were. Until my senior year in high school, the public schools in Northeast Louisiana were segregated. My home parish was one of the ones that voted for David Duke in his runoff election for governor against Edwin Edwards. What a choice! What a historical legacy to leave behind.
Our teachers would not have agreed with director Ken Burns. As is clear both in the first episode and the video included, Mr. Burns believes that the issue of slavery was not only an important one, but the primary one. I was taught as a child that slavery was indeed a significant aspect of the Civil War — but not as important as Burns advocates. Nevertheless, Burns has put together an engaging and thoughtful film.
Perhaps Mr. Burns would be interested in the points made in a recent book on slaves that claim they preferred life on the plantation to freedom. Note comment # 25 as a fellow writer with Southern roots confirms our common experiences in learning history.
The first episode could be said to lag a bit in pace however an appropriate response would be that the director wanted to give viewers time to absorb the still images being shown of events leading up to the outbreak of war. Succeeding episodes step up the pace a bit and call attention to the ironies of war. One noteworthy point made was that Lincoln (a Republican) would have rather lived in Russia than in a country that hypocritically claimed to support liberty. Another was that the president of L.S.U. left the institution to become a Union general.
And in the end, the Yanks won again and those loyalists who are still waiting for the “South to rise again” will have to wait even longer. In addition to the DVD, entire episodes of The Civil War are available for viewing at PBS.com.