Opening Reception: Postponed until further notice
Daily Hours: By Appointment Only (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On February 17, 1865, the city of Columbia, South Carolina burned. What—or, more to the point, who—was to blame for the fire remains a point of contention.
Over a century and a half later, Neo-Confederates and “Lost Cause” sympathizers assert that Union General William Tecumseh Sherman (“Cump” to his troops and family members) bears sole responsibility for the destruction of the Confederacy’s de facto birthplace, an allegation that Sherman steadfastly denied and that numerous historians continue to cast doubt upon.
Decades of myth and misinformation have calcified into history in the minds of Columbians, a sizable number of whom embrace without reservation Confederate-aligned narratives about Sherman, the burning, and their city’s role in the American Civil War.
I wanted to touch on a number of different things in this project: the political usefulness of monsters, generational deceit, and white southerners’ aversion to moral reckonings with the past, to name just a few.
What role did local newspapers of the era play in shaping this narrative and others of its ilk? What role do we, as city residents, continue to play in passing it along? What shape will the lies of the past take in this still relatively young century, when truth and facts are infinitely malleable, and the scorched inheritance that is our sordid history has yet to be passed down?