Follow us: Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Google+ Follow us on Linkedin Follow us on Tumblr Subscribe to our RSS or Atom feed
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Southern Weather Radar


Our Writers

  • Adam Peck
  • Alan Gordon
  • Alex Kearns
  • Alex Seitz-Wald
  • Alice Murray
  • Allison Korn
  • Alyssa Cagle
  • Amanda Marcotte
  • Amanda Peterson Beadle
  • Andrea Grimes
  • Andrea Lee Meyer
  • Andrew Bowen
  • Andy Brack
  • Andy Kopsa
  • Andy Miller
  • Andy Schmookler
  • Ann Marie Pace
  • Ann Woolner & Leonard Ray Teel
  • Anna Dolianitis
  • Anna Forbes and Kate Ryan
  • Annelise Thim
  • Anoni Muss
  • April Adams
  • April Moore
  • Ariel Harris
  • Armando
  • Arthur Blaustein
  • Austen Risolvato
  • Austin McMurria
  • Barry Hollander
  • Bert Roughton III
  • Beth Ostlund
  • Betsey Dahlberg
  • Bill Caton
  • Bill Hamm
  • Bill Mankin
  • Bill Montgomery
  • Bill Moyers & Michael Winship
  • Bill Phillips
  • Bill Semple
  • Bill Tush
  • Billy Howard
  • Bob Bohanan
  • Bob Pritchard
  • Booth Malone
  • Bootsie Lucas
  • Boyd Lewis
  • Brad Clayton
  • Braden Goyette For ProPublica
  • Brandon Collins
  • Brett Martin
  • Brian Randall
  • Brianna Peterson
  • Bruce Dixon
  • Bruce E. Levine
  • Burton Cox
  • Candice Dyer
  • Carl Kline
  • Carol Carter
  • Carson M. Lamb
  • Casey Hayden
  • Cathleen Hulbert
  • Center for American Progress
  • Chantille Cook
  • Charles Finn
  • Charles O. Hendrix Jr.
  • Charles Seabrook
  • Charles Walston
  • Chelsea Toledo
  • Chelsey Willis
  • Chris Bowers
  • Chris Kromm
  • Chris Wohlwend
  • Christopher Burdette
  • Chrys B. Graham
  • Chuck Collins
  • Cliff Green
  • Cody Maxwell
  • Collin Kelley
  • Craig Miller
  • Crissinda Ponder
  • Dallas Lee
  • Dan Kennedy
  • Daniel Flynn
  • Daniel K. Williams
  • Daniel Palmer
  • Danny Fulks
  • Dante Atkins
  • Darby Britto
  • Dave Cooley
  • Dave Johnson
  • Dave Pruett
  • David Bradford
  • David Evans
  • David Harris-Gershon
  • David Jenks
  • David Kyler
  • David Parker
  • David Roberts
  • David Rotenstein
  • David Swanson
  • Dean Baker
  • Deb Barshafsky
  • Debbie Houston
  • Deborah Chasteen
  • Denise Oliver Velez
  • Dennis McCarthy
  • Desiree Evans
  • Dian Cai
  • Diana
  • Diane Rooks
  • Dina Rasor
  • Dindy Yokel
  • Doc
  • Don Lively
  • Don O'Briant
  • Donnie Register
  • Door Guy
  • Doug Couch
  • Doug Cumming
  • Dr. Brian Moench
  • Dr. Dorothy Ann Boyd-Bragg
  • Dr. Nick De Bonis
  • Dr. Ravi Batra
  • E. David Ferriman
  • Earl Fisher
  • Eden Landow
  • Eileen Dight
  • Eleanor Ringel Cater
  • Elizabeth Shugg
  • Ellen Brown
  • Elliott Brack
  • Erin Kotecki Vest
  • Fatima Najiy
  • FishOutofWater
  • Francisco Silva
  • Frank Povah
  • Fred Brown
  • Frederick Palmer
  • Gadi Dechter, Michael Ettlinger
  • Gail Kiracofe
  • Gaius
  • Georgia Logothetis
  • Gib Ennis
  • Gina Williams
  • Gita M. Smith
  • Glenn Carroll
  • Glenn Overman
  • Gordon Anderson
  • Gregory C. Dixon
  • Gryphon Corpus
  • Hamp Skelton
  • Harriet Barr
  • Heather Boushey
  • Henry Dreyer
  • Henry Foresman
  • Hollis B. Ball III
  • Hugh
  • Hyde Post
  • Ian Kim
  • Ian Millhiser
  • Isabel Owen
  • Ivy Brashear
  • J.A. Myerson
  • Jack deJarnette
  • Jack Wilkinson
  • Jacklyn C. Citero
  • Jake Olzen
  • James Hataway
  • James Marc Leas
  • James N. Maples
  • Janet Ward
  • Jasmine Burnett
  • Jason Palmer
  • Jason Parker
  • Jay Thompson
  • Jaz Brisack
  • Jeff Cochran
  • Jeff Davis
  • Jeff Rayno
  • Jeff Spross
  • Jeffry Scott
  • Jennifer Hill
  • Jesse Harwell
  • Jessica Luton
  • Jim Allen
  • Jim Bentley and Jeff Nesmith
  • Jim Clark
  • Jim Cobb
  • Jim Fitzgerald
  • Jim Newell
  • Jim Stovall
  • Jim Walls
  • Jim Warren
  • Jimmy Booth
  • Jing Luo
  • Jingle Davis
  • JL Strickland
  • Joan Donovan
  • Jodi Jacobson
  • Jody Wegmueller
  • Joe Earle
  • Joe Shifalo
  • Joel Groover
  • Joey Ledford
  • John A. Tures
  • John Dembowski
  • John Hickman
  • John Hickman with Sarah Bartlett
  • John Huie
  • John M. Williams
  • John Manasso
  • John Sugg
  • John Tabellione
  • John Yow
  • Jon Sinton
  • Jonathan Grant
  • Jonathan Odell
  • Joni Hunnicutt
  • Jonna Pattillo
  • Joseph B. Atkins
  • Joseph Gatins
  • Josh Dorner
  • Josh Sewell
  • Joy Moses
  • Judith Stough
  • Judy McCarthy
  • Juli Ward
  • Julian Bond
  • Julian Riggs Smith
  • Julianne Wyrick
  • Julie Ajinkya
  • Julie Puckett Fodera
  • Just Plain Will
  • Kaili Joy Gray
  • Kate Greer
  • Kate McNally
  • Katherine A. Edmonds
  • Kathleen Brewin Lewis
  • Kathleen Harbin
  • Kathleen R. Gegan
  • Kathryn Hoffman
  • KC Wildmoon
  • Keith Graham
  • Ken Edelstein
  • Ken Haldin
  • Ken Hawkins
  • Ken Peacock
  • Kevin Austin
  • Kevin Duffy
  • Kip Burke
  • Kirk McAlpin
  • Kirsten Barr
  • Kos Moulitsas
  • Kristie Macrakis
  • Lacey Avery
  • Lamont Cranston
  • Laura Clawson
  • Laura Smith
  • Laurence Lewis
  • Lawrence S. Wittner
  • Lee Leslie
  • Lee Robin
  • Leon Galis
  • Leonce Gaiter
  • Les Eatwell
  • LikeTheDew
  • Linda Hunt Beckman
  • Linda Jordan Tucker
  • Lisa Byerley Gary
  • Lisa Kerr
  • Lois Beckett, Propublica
  • Lorraine Berry
  • Louie Crew Clay
  • Louis Mayeux
  • Lovell Jones, Ph.D.
  • Lucy Emerson Sullivan
  • Lucy Guest
  • Maggie Lee
  • Maisha White
  • Mandy Richburg Rivers
  • Margi Ness
  • Marian Wang, ProPublica
  • Marie Diamond
  • Mark Dohle
  • Mark Johnson
  • Mark Sumner
  • Martha W. Fagan
  • Mary Civille
  • Mary Elizabeth King
  • Mary Kay Andrews
  • Mary Lee
  • Mary Willis Cantrell
  • Matt Blakely
  • Matt Johnson
  • Matt Musick
  • Matt Renner
  • Matthew Wright
  • Maurice Carter
  • Meg Livergood Gerrish
  • Meghan Miller
  • Melanie Rochat
  • Melinda Ennis
  • Michael Bailey
  • Michael Beckel
  • Michael Castengera
  • Michael Ettlinger
  • Michael J. Solender
  • Michael Linden
  • Michael Lux
  • Michael W. Twitty
  • Mike ”Hunter” Lazzaro
  • Mike Copeland
  • Mike Cox
  • Mike Handley
  • Mike Lofgren
  • Mike Ludwig
  • Mike Williams
  • Mimi Skelton
  • Moni Basu
  • Monica Smith
  • Murray Browne
  • Myra Blackmon
  • Nancy Melton
  • Nancy Puckett
  • Nancy Robinson
  • Nancy Rogers
  • Neill Herring
  • Nelly McDaid
  • Nikki Gardner
  • Niles Reddick
  • Noel Holston
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • Overman & Senn
  • Pamela Sumners
  • Pat Garofalo
  • Pat LaMarche
  • Pat Norman
  • Patrick Andendall
  • Patrick L. Ledford
  • Patsy Dickey
  • Patti Ghezzi
  • Paul Buchheit
  • Paul Krupin
  • Paul Rutledge
  • Paul Thim
  • Pete & Jack
  • Peter Crawford
  • Peter Turnbull
  • Phil Gast
  • Phil Noble
  • Philip Graitcer
  • Phyllis Alesia Perry
  • Phyllis Gilbert
  • Piney Woods Pete
  • Polly
  • R S
  • R.L. Miller
  • Rafael Alvarez
  • Randy Conway
  • Randy Schiltz
  • Ray Bearfield
  • Raymond L. Atkins
  • Reagan Walker
  • Rebecca Sive
  • Ric Latarski
  • Richard Eisel
  • Righton C. Willis
  • Rob Chambers
  • Rob Coppock
  • Rob Douthit
  • Robert Allen
  • Robert Dardenne
  • Robert E Hunt Jr
  • Robert Jensen
  • Robert Lamb
  • Robert M. Williams, Jr.
  • Robert Mashburn
  • Robert Weiner & Richard Mann
  • Robin Marty
  • Rodney Adams
  • Roger Gregory
  • Ron Feinberg
  • Ron Taylor
  • Rose Aguilar
  • Rose Weaver
  • Rosemary Griggs
  • Russ Wellen
  • Sam Morton
  • Sao Magnifico
  • Sara Amis
  • Sarah Ayres
  • Sarah Bufkin
  • Saralyn Chesnut
  • Scott Anna
  • Scott Borchert
  • Scott Keyes
  • Scott Wooledge
  • Sean Manion
  • Seth Cline
  • Shane Gilreath
  • Sharon M. Riley
  • Shay Dawkins
  • Sheffield Hale
  • Sheila Barnard Nungesser
  • Sigrid Sanders
  • SoniaTai
  • Sonya Collins
  • Soraya Chemaly
  • Spencer Lawton
  • Stephanie Taylor
  • Stephen Lacey
  • Stephen Wingeier
  • Steve King
  • Steve Krodman
  • Steve Valk
  • Stuart Liss
  • Sue Sturgis
  • Sujigu
  • Susan De Bonis
  • Susan Soper
  • Susan Wilson
  • Suz Korbel
  • Tammy Andrews
  • Tammy Ingram
  • Tanya Somanader
  • Ted Kooser
  • Terri Evans
  • The Barnacle Goose
  • Thomas A. Bledsoe
  • Tiger Liliuokalani
  • Tim Oliver
  • Timothy Freeman
  • Timothy Hurst
  • Tom Baxter
  • Tom Crawford
  • Tom Ferguson
  • Tom Millsop
  • Tom Poland
  • Tom Walker
  • Travis Waldron
  • Travis Waldron & Pat Garofalo
  • Trevor Stone Irvin
  • Tricia Collins
  • Troubadour
  • Valerie Evans
  • Viveca Novak
  • Waldron, Somanader & Garofalo
  • Walter Rhett
  • Wanda Argersinger
  • Wayne Countryman
  • Wayne Johnson
  • We The People
  • Will Cantrell
  • Will Nelson
  • William Cotter
  • William Hedgepeth
  • Yana Kunichoff
  • Yasmin Vafa
  • Zack Beauchamp
  • Zack Ford
  • Zaid Jilani
  • Zaina Budayr




  • Writer Login


    1865-2015

    Ken Burns talks stars, bars, civil wars

    by | 1 | Sep 4, 2015

    Ken Burns - The Civil War-PBS

    Almost 40 million people saw at least part of The Civil War when Ken Burns’ multipart documentary premiered in September 1990, making it the most-watched PBS broadcast ever. It’s still the record holder, and it’s coming back Monday, September 7, for a special anniversary encore on PBS.

    Two things will be different.

    First, what viewers will see over the course of five consecutive nights is a newly restored, high-definition version of the Peabody Award-winning series. “The Civil War has never been seen in such visual clarity,” said Daniel J. White, who oversaw frame-by-frame rescanning of 50,000 feet of the original 16mm film negative. “The colors are brighter and you will see more details in the images.”

    Second, the political climate in our country is dramatically more polarized. In 1990, The Civil War was embraced almost universally by viewers, regardless of region, its horrifying images, vintage letters read aloud and wistful theme music touching off a long-delayed period of mourning and reflection. Its grand encore is coming at a time when some Southern legislators have made secession threats and the belated removal of a Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house – this in reaction to a white supremacist’s shooting rampage at a black church – ignited a bitter debate about the meaning of that flag and even the causes of the war.

    With this climate in mind, my Peabody colleague Matt Shedd interviewed Burns about his most famous documentary and how times have changed since the original showing.

    Ken Burns

    Ken Burns

    Matt Shedd: You’ve talked about how this restored version is a “revelation visually.”

    Ken Burns: It’s a “revelation” meaning that you’re returning to something you already knew. Essentially this looks as good as what I looked through the viewfinder and saw. So what I looked through the viewfinder and saw – whether it was a cannon on a hillside or an interview or the thousands of archives and newspapers that we used to tell the story – they got exposed on a tiny 16 millimeter film. And that had a great deal of grain, a great deal of image instability. It lacked the color palette that I was seeing and now we’ve got it. It just feels like something from 25-plus years ago just dropped in my lap again. It’s very exciting.

    MS: Since you made it, have there been photos uncovered that you wanted to include or any other sort of documentation?

    KB: Well, it was estimated that over a million photographs were taken in the Civil War period, but that only 125,000 exist of different images. There are many copies of some of the images, of course. I probably looked at 100,000, so every once in a while I come across one. But it’s interesting, unlike most of the films I’ve made where after it’s done, you stumble across an archive and you go, “Jeez, I really wanted to have that one for the Statue of Liberty” or whatever it was. With this one I go, “Oh yeah, that’s it. It was taken the same day as what we had and I think we’re okay.” So, you know, stuff comes out, but there’s not that kind of envy that you wish you could go and open up the film again. Nor did we tinker with the film’s content in any way.

    MS: It doesn’t sound like you were sitting there kicking yourself when you were watching it on the big screen.

    KB: The film we made is the film we made, and because I’m so fortunate to work in public broadcasting, the film that I release is the director’s cut. Nobody said: make it longer, make it shorter, make it sexier, make it less sexy, make it more violent, make it less violent. I’ve been able to make the films I wanted to make and have been able to release it.

    It is an accurate representation, but not just of me, because this is such a gloriously collaborative medium, and I think the Peabody celebrates that. It’s also a really accurate representation of the collective team that put it together, whether it’s the writer Jeff Ward, my brother Rick, who is a co-producer, the editor, Paul Barnes who I’m still working with today

    MS: When it came out in 1990, were there complaints about the film having some sort of slant or emphasis?

    KB: We felt pretty good about the people who criticized it. I mean we had two enemies in the film. One was slavery. The other, I’m only half serious, is George McClellan, the timid Union General. And, you know, a timid general is music to the ears of any mother, so I’m not sure how much you can call him a villain.

    But we didn’t think slavery was a good thing, particularly for Americans to be involved in, and made it clear from the opening scene. But, you know, the war has been obscured. The causes of the war and the contents of the war. . . have been obscured and romanticized and sentimentalized and actually changed in our popular culture, particularly in films. Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind both suggest that the Ku Klux Klan, which is our original homegrown terrorist organization, was somehow a positive force in the Civil War and its aftermath in Reconstruction, and that’s crazy. And our film says so.

    A lot of people believe that there were causes other than slavery of the Civil War, and to some lesser, secondary extent, they’re right. But the principal cause — and you can go check South Carolina’s articles of secession, the first state to secede, the state that was the hotbed of that fire-eating secession-itis — it didn’t mention states’ rights. It didn’t mention nullification. It didn’t mention cultural or economic or political differences, which we talk about. It mentioned slavery, over and over again. And that’s why the war happened.

    And I think, you know, the criticism we got was on the extreme right, if you will, and on the extreme left, which means we’ve done a good job. The extreme left said that we followed too much Lincoln and not enough of the radical Republicans in Congress who were changing the nature of American society, transforming lives of African Americans.

    MS: Do you anticipate that it’s going to touch a nerve in light of recent events?

    KB: Yes, oh very much so. This is what I’ve said all along: the main American theme, if you will, is about freedom, the tensions between, say, individual freedom and collective freedom, states’ rights versus a strong federal government.

    But the next biggest theme in American life is race. We were founded on the idea, articulated in the second sentence of the Declaration [of Independence], “that all men are created equal.” The guy who wrote that sentence owned other human beings and he didn’t see the hypocrisy in the contradiction. And so we have an American narrative that’s constantly having to deal with or pretending that it doesn’t exist – this question of race.

    The most important event in our history, without a doubt, is the Civil War. Everything that came to foot kind of funneled inexorably towards the Civil War, and everything since, in ways sort of obvious and not so obvious, has been a consequence of it.

    So yeah, when we debate the Confederate flag or see the pernicious racism that still persists in this land, the Civil War has a lot to speak to us about. I think that we can have a much more intelligent conversation about these issues by including the past in it because human nature doesn’t change. It superimposes itself on the random chaos and so we begin to perceive patterns and cycles of history. No one is condemned to repeat what they don’t remember. It’s just that human nature remains the same. And so almost all of the films that I make focusing entirely on just telling a good story, not on scoring political points or advocating something, nothing. Just telling a story well always has a resonance in the present.

    And so, what is the Civil War about? It’s about an imperial presidency. It’s about unscrupulous military contractors. It’s about race. It’s about the symbols of America being interpreted and reinterpreted differently by other people. It’s about weapons, new weapons, that create mass casualties on a scale never before imagined, and then you think, “Jeez, isn’t that what we’re talking about now?”

    I like the possibility of having an intelligent national conversation because we don’t actually have conversations; we just have shouting matches between people who talk over and at rather than with other people. And so if you live in a society in which everything is always on the divide between rich and poor, between young and old, between North and South, between East and West, between gay and straight, between red states and blue states, you don’t get anywhere. But if you realize that Rachel Maddow and Bill O’Reilly both genuinely love Abraham Lincoln, then you’ve got a place to start.

    MS: You mentioned conversation versus shouting match. What would you call what’s going on about the Confederate flag?

    KB: We actually had a good thing. I mean, I’m very, very sorry. It’s a tragedy that it took the loss of nine human beings to force us into understanding that this was not, you know, people holding onto their heritage.

    That Confederate flag was one of the many flags of the Confederacy. It was used, and it appears in paintings and in photographs, but it was not the prominent flag of the Confederacy. The official flag was called the Stars and Bars. It flew over Fort Sumter, for example, when Fort Sumter surrendered at the very beginning of the war, not the Dixie flag.

    That (one) came into prominent use after 1954. And what happened in 1954? The Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal was unconstitutional. That school desegregation had to take place. And that Confederate flag has worked its way into the state flags of many of the states of the old Confederacy. And has worked its way back out again, I’m happy to say, with the exception of Mississippi. And of course, it’s been with us for years in the courthouses and in the state capitol grounds.

    And, as you know, the Alabama governor removed his and the state legislature in South Carolina finally, after the prompting of their governor, removed it in the wake of this tragedy, understanding that this was a symbol not of heritage, not of history, but of resistance to civil rights, which is saying, “Guess what? We don’t believe that all men are created equal. We think some people, based on the lighter pigmentation of their skin, are more equal than others.”

    We had a good conversation about it, and symbols are hugely important, but for us to go forward as a country, and the recent political noise that’s going on has taken a few steps back, we’re going to have engage tougher issues. I mean just yesterday I saw a news report that a statue of Jefferson Davis had been removed from a campus in Austin, Texas. They’re debating the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Lee’s Circle in New Orleans. He has absolutely nothing to do with New Orleans other than he represents the Confederacy.

    The cause for which the Confederacy fought was the perpetuation of chattel slavery in a country that had been founded four score and five years before on the idea that all men are created equal. It’s a hypocrisy the United States could not tolerate. And look, let’s be really honest, we ended up murdering 750,000 of our own people over this issue. That’s a big deal. All the other wars we’ve fought in from the Revolution forward through the most recent fight against ISIS — all of the dead don’t add up to the Civil War dead, by far. It’s a terrifying thing and in a very young country. We’ve now got 350, 375 million people or whatever it is. We were only 31 million when the Civil War happened and we lost 750,000. That’s like losing 6, 7, 8 million people in a battle today, you know?

    MS: So, with everything from Michael Brown to the massacre at the church in Charleston: Are these examples of the Civil War still being fought?

    KB: Well, let’s be really careful about it. At the very end of the film, the historian Barbara Fields says, “the Civil War is still going on and can be still lost.” She doesn’t mean that in the sense that these are coordinated armies but in the sense that the same struggle — that people are still, because of the color of their skin, denied the equal opportunities that other people have. In a way, all of the ingredients that went into the Civil War are also still present. And we’ve made enormous progress. We have an African American president, but we also see the price he had to pay for the color of his skin.

    When Donald Trump starts talking about the ‘birther’ thing, it’s just a polite way of saying the n-word. When Scott Walker says, “I don’t know if he’s a Christian,” that’s another way of saying the n-word. We’ve always employed codes when we’ve found out that civil society doesn’t tolerate boorish behavior, and we’ve found ways to continue to perpetuate that boorish behavior. And that’s the American mission. How do you escape the specific gravity of that inability to see beyond someone’s skin color?

    My whole work, I mean I don’t go looking for race, but I think out of the 27, 28 films – however many that I’ve made, all on American history — , I think there’s one on Frank Lloyd Wright, another on the first cross country automobile trip and maybe the Dust Bowl where race wasn’t a significant factor in the story.

    And so it’s everywhere. It’s everywhere. So we need to realize that. We have to come to terms with it. Wynton Marsalis in the Jazz film said, “It’s like the mythology. It’s the thing that the kingdom needs in order to be well again.” Which is a beautiful way of saying: when we solve this, we transcend it. And we do in moments.

    Like every other country on Earth, we have lots of work to do. And we’ve probably gone farther than any other country, you know? I invite you to go to Brooklyn or Queens and see how religions and races and peoples get along. Pretty well.

     

    ###
    • Images: The feature image is, of course, a promotional image for the movie, The Civil War, a film by Ken Burns presented on PBS; the photo of Ken Burns is from the movie's facebook page.
    Noel Holston

    Noel Holston

    Noel Holston, originally from Laurel, Miss., is a freelance journalist, songwriter, storyteller and actor who lives in Athens, Ga., with his wife, singer-songwriter Marty Winkler. In a previous life, he was the TV critic at Newsday in New York and, before that, a critic and feature writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Orlando Sentinel.

     

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email

     

    • Will Cantrell

      Noel:

      Ken Burns: What a great ‘get’, Noel. Really good piece. Ken Burns is perhaps my favorite storyteller of anything! Definitely Burns is my one of my favorite historians. He reports with a clarity and simplicity that is easily understood by the average ‘everyman.’ I’ve seen every series he’s ever done and I kind of figure that if Ken didn’t mention an event in one of his numerous series, maybe the damn thing didn’t really happen. Super piece. Will

  • Worthy of Comment






  • Bruce Springsteen Sings "Robert Mueller's Comin' to Town"



  • Come Back, Barack - SNL



  • Indivisible at One

    Green Day - Back In The USA



  • The Most Honest Three Minutes
    In Television History


  •  
     
     
  • %d bloggers like this: