The Most Inappropriate Responses to the Civil War Sesquicentennial

How not to observe the war's 150 year anniversary

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The American Civil War began 150 years ago this week. How should you mark the occasion? We'd suggest reading a book, touring a battlefield, or just spending a few moments in quiet contemplation. Not everyone shares our sense of propriety. Some of the more regrettable ways people have chosen to observe the war's sesquicentennial:

Mock slave auctions

When administrators at Sewells Point Elementary School in Norfolk, Va. found out earlier this month that a fourth grade teacher was dividing her class by race and holding mock slave auctions to teach them about the Civil War, they apologized--kind of. In a letter to parents, principal Mary Wrushen conceded that while the exercise was "inappropriate for the students" and "could have been thought through more carefully," (you think?) she still believed it was "well intended to meet the instructional objectives." Mock slave auctions must be part of the fourth grade curriculum at some antebellum-themed teacher's college--a Gahanna, Ohio elementary school apologized last month after one of their fourth grade social studies teachers organized a similar lesson.

Commemorating the burning of Atlanta with a plaque...on Martin Luther King Drive
Is it insensitive to erect a marker commemorating the burning of Atlanta on Martin Luther King Drive? The Georgia Historical Society doesn't think so. "[H]istorians said this is where the burning began," explained the organization's president. The NAACP has objected to the location of the marker, unveiled earlier this month, and is pushing for it to be relocated.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest vanity plates

Forrest (right) wasn't just a Confederate general: he also ordered the mass killing of black Union soldiers at the Battle of Fort Pillow and was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. That's the kind of legacy most states would be keen to forget. That didn't stop the Mississippi arm of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) from trying to emblazon Forrest's image on their new batch of specialty license plates. Governor Haley Barbour, to his credit, said back in February he'd veto any such proposal.

Restaging Jefferson Davis's inauguration

The SCV's Alabama chapter also caused trouble in February when they hosted a "precise recreation" of Jefferson Davis's inauguration ceremony. The event honoring the first and last president of the Confederate States of America was conducted on the grounds of the Alabama state capitol.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.