|Speaking to the visitors of the future|
|Our servant girl continued doing what |
she was paid to do, especially on Christmas Eve!
She popped back into reality and replied, "Yes, yes. I'm sorry." And proceeded to continue dusting.
One woman in the tour group was taken aback at what just occurred.
"You are making her work on Christmas Eve?" she asked. "And you're not even going to let her enjoy the celebration?"
"Ma'am," I said, "I have more family coming to-morrow for Christmas, and this house must be spotless!"
I then continued on with my presentation.
The rest of the tour group loved this.
Pretty authentic, wouldn't you say?
On a side note, after the last tour group left, we gathered all of our living historian participants together for a group photo. Miss Graber, standing in the front, was told by the lady of the house, "Servants in the back!"
Our domestic obliged.
Yes, we do take our fun seriously.
|Posing for a photograph - |
this is what the future sees
|Posing for a photograph - |
this is what WE saw
Miss Stephanie Ann, the publisher of World Turned Upside Down blog, asks numerous questions in her post, such as Is it our responsibility to go against our moral to portray something so horrific as slavery? Are period appropriate interactions, inappropriate today? Should the Irish Brigade have derogatory names thrown at them? and Should reenactors have to act in defiance of their modern day beliefs?
All are very good questions - questions that are rarely (if ever) brought up.
|A good domestic will help wherever she is needed|
I included the above written scenario of our domestic here, who is white, because that's a scene rarely played out. Let's be honest, it seems most in our hobby would rather wear the elegant dresses or the dandy suits rather than dress as the majority of the population did, much less dress and act as a domestic, who were, by the way, looked down upon.
But Miss Graber enjoys her portrayal very much. We have worked with her numerous other times as well and she said she loves the authenticity of it. She has a passion for the past and history in her heart, so she realizes what she is doing is bringing a part of the past to life in an authentic and accurate way. Much more realistic than dozens of women dressed gaily in their gowns doing needlepoint.
Of course, outside of our scenario, Miss Graber is an equal with everyone else - we do not carry on with her status or treat her any differently once the scenario is not in play.
And that's as it should be.
I don't know if you've noticed, however, that there are very few African Americans that participate in Civil War reenacting, especially as civilians. And I'm sure some of you are saying, "Well, why would they want to? To be period correct, most would be treated like dirt!"
According to what I have read, this seems to be a sad fact.
But it was the norm of the time in which we are portraying, was it not?
As Miss Stephanie Ann noted, "There are some people who somehow think that everyone in the south was racist and a supporter of slavery. They also think that everyone in the north was an abolitionist or somehow more enlightened than their southern counterparts. This type of thinking is juvenile at best and shows little understanding of the complex social and economic roots of the problems of the time period. Many people also don't notice the "actor" in reenactor and falsely accuse Confederate reenactors of racism. They don't understand that reenactors portray people of the past and our real views are very different from the views we may portray. Will "period discrimination" enforce these falsehoods?"
Very well stated.
So what does one do to address the issue of slavery and the black population of 1862 - North or South - during a reenactment? In my opinion, it all depends on how you do your presentation. For instance, if you are strictly a "teaching" presenter - no 1st person, only talking to the public in an informative style - this should be relatively easy. By continuing in that same manner you only have to speak to the public about the research you've done on the subject ("just the facts, ma'am"). A good starting point would be to do research on what Miss Stephanie Ann noted above to verify her information. (I have and my findings agree with her.)
It can be a little trickier for those of us who do 1st person. The subject of slavery and black life in general has been brought up to me at several reenactments while I was in first person. That's when I remove my hat, take a side-step, and let the visitors know that I am stepping out of my character to answer a question. At that point I do my best to give a truthful answer from my own research.
I then put on my hat, retract my step, and get back into my 1st person mode.
But what if there is an African American reenactor in the midst? What then?
Again - been there, done that.
Although I do my best to show life as it was to the best of my ability, I am also a man of the 20th/21st century, and have a few modern principals (only a few!) that were quite different than our ancestors, one of which is how to treat in kindness all human beings no matter what race or sex. I simply cannot treat an African American (or any other kind person) like dirt. Well, I suppose if said A. A. and I both agreed to a scenario I probably could, but to just do it off the cuff is not in my nature.
I guess I would have to consider myself a northern abolitionist-type of Victorian citizen.
By the way, I have another blogger friend who does living history. She is an African American woman with a strong passion for the past and shows another side of 19th century A.A. living in her blog.
I'm not sure if I helped with Miss Stephanie Ann's original post or if I opened up another door, but I do find this a subject of interest.
(4 out of the 5 photos here were taken by Ian Kushnir. The 5th one -Miss Graber cleaning the hall tree- was one I took)