Front Porch: Memory

Charleston, the view through the porch of the Circular Church, 150 Meeting Street, 1865, courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress.

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Front Porch: Memory

by Harry L. Watson
Southern Cultures, Vol. 17, No. 3: Memory

"As the Soviets used to joke about their own politically driven histories, 'The present we know; the future is certain. Only the past is unpredictable.'"

I got a childhood lesson in southern memory when my father asked if I knew what had happened in Reconstruction. I didn’t, of course, but Dad left an indelible (though inaccurate) impression when he spat out the answer: “That’s when white men couldn’t vote!” It would be many years before my formal education caught up with and eventually overcame this piece of family lore, surely passed on from my father’s own father, born when South Carolina was still under federal occupation. And I surely belong to the last generation of southern children to be warned against tardiness by the awful consequences of Longstreet’s delay at Gettysburg.