Neo-Confederate Activists Pressure Museum Officials to Distort History

Activists from radical 'pro-South' groups are pressuring history professionals to adopt distorted views of American history

This August, the executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission, which owns and oversees major historic sites in the state, was forced to resign his position after what were described as conflicts with commissioners and Gov. Bob Riley over the director's support for civil rights preservation projects.

The episode was only the latest of the last several years in which museum professionals and preservation officials from around the South have come under sometimes severe pressure from neo-Confederate activists and their sympathizers, occasionally including harassment and various kinds of threats.

In case after case, members of groups like the League of the South and the Sons of Confederate Veterans have agitated against these professionals in a bid to push versions of history that mainstream curators and historians agree are bunk.

In North Carolina, the League of the South hate group attacked the Charlotte Museum of History because it was displaying a copy of the Declaration of Independence owned by television producer Norman Lear, saying that Lear had turned the declaration into "an instrument for liberal activism."

In Richmond, Va., a member of the board of the Museum of the Confederacy personally cut down a U.S. flag in the museum shop. And in Alabama, Lee Warner, the former Alabama Historical Commission executive director, told a reporter that many of Riley's appointees to the commission had opposed his plans to create a museum at the old Greyhound bus station, where Freedom Riders were badly beaten in 1961, and to memorialize the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march.

What follows are similar accounts from four others who have faced neo-Confederate activism.

Molly Hutton
Director of Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College // GETTYSBURG, Pa.

John Haley
Former Vice Chairman, Cape Fear Museum Board of Trustees // WILMINGTON, N.C.

Jean Martin
Curator of Old Depot Museum and Member, City Council // SELMA, Ala.

George Ewert
Director of Museum of Mobile // MOBILE, Ala.