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"Beginning of the New South" Program Feedback


After hosting a program on Tuesday evening with Bertram Hayes-Davis, great-great grandson of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and historian and scholar Dr. David Goldfield, we received the following comment from one of our guests:

"I am so disgusted and disappointed by this evening's remarks at Levine Museum of the New South. The great great grandson of Jefferson Davis spoke, and instead of honestly acknowledging Davis's horrible legacy of supporting slavery, he sidestepped and defended his views, lamely pointing to Davis's supposed "fair treatment" of his slaves. I can't believe an institution like this museum would allow that type of platform for slavery apologetics..."

This feedback prompted thoughtful discussion among our staff and also prompted us to ask Dr. Goldfield about the historical accuracy of how the Davis family treated enslaved African Americans. He writes:

"Concerning the Davis brothers' treatment of their slaves, they were unique masters in giving these slaves a considerable degree of autonomy, probably as much if not more than what they experienced after emancipation.  This in no way diminished the evil that slavery was-- the fact that every slave could be expected to be sold at least one time during his or her life, thereby increasing the likelihood for the break-up of families.  Bertram Hayes-Davis was definitely not defending the institution, but rather discussing the Davis brothers’ unique (for the time) treatment of the slaves."

This point surfaced in an earlier discussion Tuesday when Mr. Hayes-Davis and Dr. Goldfield were guests on Charlotte Talks show on WFAE. You can listen to the full program online - (Go to the listen tab).

Our Museum often takes on topics that are complex, reflective of multiple perspectives about difficult issues.  In our exhibits and programs, we strive to present a broad view of the southern experience through a range of viewpoints.  We believe varied perspectives provide historical context, raise important questions, and spark dialogue, though we acknowledge that no exhibit or program, or even combination, can present all views. 

As a “dialogic” museum, we truly welcome and encourage interaction and exchange, and want to provide an environment where all people feel comfortable expressing their opinions. 

With this in mind, we want to continue the conversation, exploring different views and questions related to Tuesday's program. On Wednesday, April 15 at 12 noon we'll host a Tweetchat on “New South, Old South, Somewhere In-between."  We invite all to join us @LevineMuseum #DestinationFreedom.