Public History

Barbara J. Dismukes

Who decides what is important in history? Is it politicians or the general laborer? Is it the teacher or the housewife? Is it the University President or the lawn care person? It should be all of us but in most cases it is those who want to make a change in some way that influence who and what is the most important.

Everyone has their own option and sees things in their own way. No two people agree on everything, so it goes to reason that there will always be someone for something being important and vise versa. What is important to me might be menial to you.

Having public opinion about history has its good and not so good, but both opinions are important in the final outlook.

Public history is changing in todays society. Instead of looking at history for what it was and learning from those things, people are playing the blame game and accusing people who have never owned a slave and who’s families haven’t either of being racist and thinking they deserve restitution. They don’t deserve anything except to live in this great country and to have the opportunities to make a good life for themselves instead of waiting for the next handout! They should be looking for a hand UP instead!

Destroying monuments and renaming buildings will not change anything. The way that people treat each other and how they react to others is what is important.

Virtual Museum Visit

I visited the Montgomery, Alabama: New lynching memorial, Legacy Museum and civil rights history.  I visited this museum in person a few years ago and just looking at pictures online does not have the same effect that it has on you in person.

This Museum is just stunningly beautiful and sad at the same time.  It has a hanging metal banner for many of the counties in the each state in the United States with the name of each person that was lynched and the year that it took place!  Looking at each banner, as they go on and on for over a hundred yards.  

Outside of the covered building there are many more rows upon rows of metal slabs that continue to show the counties and names and dates of those lynched.  It is just mind blowing that so many people were killed unnecessarily!  I find it even more astounding that there are records of them!  I’m sure that most of this information was in newspapers at the time but it took hours upon hours of investigation to find all of the names of the people who were killed.

There are also several statues outside on the grounds.  They show slaves in chains, men, women, and children.  It is very powerful.

Just thinking about looking for that type of information makes me believe that this was carried out by multiple people, due to the substantial amount of work and the many hours of  looking for and finding relevant information for this museum.  People had to go to all of the southeastern states to find this information, which must have been really daunting!

I think this museum was created to bring to light the injustices that have been perpetuated upon people of color, so that the deeds of our fathers won’t be forgotten and repeated!  It is for anyone interested in History.  It is for everyone!  Everyone should go to this place and see the results of  racism and hate.  They might learn a thing or two.

I think this is a lovely tribute to those who were murdered, in many cases, for a very minor infraction.  It tells a story of the people, remembering them forever in a beautiful, permanent display for anyone to come see, or to see online, if they wish.

I think that seeing this in person is more powerful than it is just seeing the pictures of the museum.  You can hear the wind blowing when you’re there and feel the breeze.  It makes you wonder if those thoughts went through the persons mind as they were being strung up….will I ever hear the wind again or feel it blowing over my skin?  Just thinking about what someone was thinking at the end of their life, so unnaturally, makes me sad.

I often wonder if the people who did the lynching of someone ever felt remorse.  Did they do it because they felt they had to just to show they weren’t “soft” for blacks?  Did they wonder if they had done the right thing?  Did they, perhaps, know the person, even just in passing?  Do they see that person’s family when they go to town?

When I went there in person it was packed!  People were everywhere.  Buses just kept coming, bringing more and more people to see this place where history is being preserved!  If you haven’t been here yet, please make it a top priority!  You won’t regret it.

Auburn University, The Loveliest Village on the Plains

I was introduced to Auburn University in 1991, when my then boyfriend brought me to Auburn for his 10th high school Class Reunion. He proposed to me at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center. I said Yes!

We have live in 2 Countries, 4 states, and traveled to many countries and cities. In almost every place that we have been, the call of “WAR EAGLE” meets us, as we wear our Auburn Gear proudly wherever we go.

Our last Military move brought us close to his home so we bought a home in Beauregard and he has since retired. He proudly went to Auburn and graduated with his Masters degree. He has since gotten his Doctorate.

The only thing my husband has really wanted for me to do was for me to get my degree from Auburn. This will be accomplished in December, 2020. Although I am a Georgia Girl, I proudly yell War Eagle!

I went to my first Auburn football game and was amazed at the way that the fans were so kind and inviting to people from their rivals’ camp, offering food and drink to anyone that wanted to stop for a few minutes and chat.  Southern hospitality at it’s finest.

I have seen many changes at the university, the main highlight for myself being the instillation of the statue of Cam Newton.  Watching this young man bring Auburn to such a great level of sportsmanship was a highlight to Auburn and the surrounding towns.

Changes made to the university include new housing for the football players, dorms, and parking areas. Updating the university is a constant and ongoing occurrence.  There is always some type of progress being made to enhance the University.

I have had to privilege to meet some of Auburn’s greats, Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley, Ben Leard, Cam Newton, and my husband’s cousin, Reese Dismukes, and they all show their love and pride in having had the honor and privilege to attend Auburn University.

Auburn University isn’t just the buildings , dorms, arenas, or the statues that are located around the campus. Auburn University is the faculty, the staff, and the students who represent Auburn, it’s qualities, honor, pride, and love of the Loveliest Village on the Plains.

War Eagle!

Object Biography

The object that I have chosen to describe and tell you it’s meaning to me is my wedding ring.  I have been married for 29 years, just last week, September 20.  I actually have two pictures of my ring.  The first one is my original wedding set.  After twenty five years, the band on me wedding ring broke so my husband said that he wouldn’t mind if I made a new design for my wedding set.  

The second picture is my wedding band that I had designed and made.  It’s a one of a kind ring.  It is made of 14 kt. Gold and diamonds.  The center stone is 1 carat, with the surrounding stones consisting of  two ½ carat diamonds, four 1/4 carat diamonds, and six 1/8 carat diamonds.  I had this ring made in 2016 so it is four years old. 

This ring was made by Ware Jewelers for me. It’s made by melting the gold and putting in into a mold for the ring shape.  The diamonds are added after the gold has cooled.  They are placed specifically, and gold is added around the top edges to keep the diamonds from becoming loose.

Wedding rings are made all over the world and are a symbol of being married.  They show other people that you are in a committed relationship.  Wedding bands are circular, meaning that the love is never-ending, although that isn’t always the case.

Wedding bands have a cultural, religious, and social significance.  People in most parts of the world wear them. In American society, people wear their rings on their left hand, but in Japan and other parts of the world, the wedding band is worn on the right hand.

The only time that I have not worn my wedding ring was when I had surgery and when I had it remade.  I felt naked and uncomfortable not wearing it.  I was always anxious to have it back on my finger.

Wedding rings come in a multitude of metals and stones.  Each person can pick what they would like to have their ring made of and what color and shape the stone will be.  The carat size is also a major factor, as the larger the carat, the higher the price.  Diamonds and sapphires are the most expensive stones.

I wear my wedding band with pride.  I have a great husband who is loving and kind.  He has never criticized anyone and is compassionate and giving.  I have hit the Jackpot!  After twenty nine years together, he is still my best friend.  We do a lot of things together but also are comfortable doing things with our friends on our own.  I trust him completely and I know he feels the same way. 

I believe a historian in a hundred years would think that people held marriage in high regard and cherished the wedding ring as a symbol of love and fidelity.

This is a story that David wrote for a newspaper that he was the publisher for….I hope you like it!  This is a true story.

Want to wish my wife Barbara Jane Fowler-Dismukes Happy Anniversary today! A few years ago I wrote this and thought I would share…

Ball & Chain

I shoulda’ known, if anybody should have known, it should have been me. I mean all of the signs were there. No, not just the sign on the building, but ‘THE’ signs, the bars (not the drinking at kind)… steel bars, prisoners in jump suits stamped ‘Property of Liberty County Jail’, guards and a even a judge. Anyone would have thought, I was about to be jailed, thrown in the slammer, sent up the river… ball and chained. But, the one thing I didn’t see in that rustic, small brick building in Hinesville, Georgia in 1991, was the ball and chains.

Thing was, I wasn’t there to be locked up, roughed up, beat up or chained up… I was there to get hitched up. Yep, I was there to jump the broom. I t does always bring out the curiosity in everyone when the question comes up, “Where did you guys get married?” When either my wife or I respond, “We got married in jail,” there’s no getting away or out of the conversation without an explanation. 

The explanation, is not as intriguing as one may think. Returning from Desert Storm, I had found the true love of my life and the Army had given me orders to Germany. We knew we wanted to get married, but Uncle Sam decided to get things going faster and moved the time up. So, that September morning we decided it was time to go see the judge. The judge, wasn’t at the courthouse, she was at the jailhouse. Neither of us being the patient type and waiting for her to return, we kindly told the clerk, we’d meet her there… at the jailhouse.

On the way, we passed the First Baptist, First Methodist and the First Presbyterian Church of the greater city of Hinesville. But, we were about to overcome and triumph our imagination over intelligence. Since I’d grown up Baptist and she Methodist, we figured neutral ground would best be in the county jail.

Today, looking back over the years, those locks and bars signifies something more than their cold, black steel. They represent the solid relationship that forged our marriage. The security we have with one another. Not the security like Otis Campbell in Mayberry when after his regular nightly drinking binges, he would lock himself in the town jail until he sobered up. (Whether he did this because his wife would not let him come home drunk, or because the penalty for public intoxication. Who will ever know but Otis.)

One thing for sure, a long secure and loving relationship is the ball and chains I discovered years ago and is what keeps me in the chains I never want to be released from.

Original Wedding Set

Custom Wedding Ring

Covid Oral History

I interviewed my son-in-law, Nicholas Bland, a thirty-two year old male, about his experiences during the COVID pandemic.

What is daily life like for you? I work every day from 6 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., come home to my wife and dog and have dinner together and relax. We talk about our day and enjoy each others company.

How is it affected by current restrictions? Going out to concerts and other public forms of entertainment have been stopped. It’s frustrating and irritating to not be able to move around and go places when you want to.

What adjustments have you had to make to your usual routines? None really. I do have to wear a mask and I hate that.

How has technology played a role in your life during the pandemic – either in classes, as a way to get and share information, or for entertainment? Yes, I tend to spend more time playing computer games than I did before the outbreak. Since people are pretty much stuck at home for the most part, you are limited in what kind of entertainment you have access to.

Are you involved in student organizations, sports, or clubs? No, I do ride a motorcycle and even that is limited because you can only be in groups of under ten people.

Do/did you have a job on or off campus? I work on Ft. Benning, Ga. as a painter.

What are your impressions of the media coverage of the pandemic, both currently and before it arrived in the United States? I think that we have been given incorrect information. No one seems to really know the facts about anything. We have been given contrasting information for months. It’s ridiculous.

What seemed normal a few weeks ago that seems strange to you now? Being able to go out to eat in restaurants. and public places at any time.

What are you doing now that will likely seem strange to you in a month or two? Nothing that I can think of.

What were you planning to do this spring and summer that is now uncertain? We had plans to go to Disney World but had to change that since they shut down.

Is there anything else you would like people to know? Don’t believe the media. Do your own research about this supposed pandemic.

Learning History about a Historian

I interviewed Keith S. Hébert, Ph.D.Associate Professor of History, Public History Program Officer, Auburn University

What got you interested in History and the field that you study?

​I grew up in a county filled with historic buildings and sites associated with the American Civil War. Raised by a single mother, we did not have a great deal of money for travel, but we spent a lot of time on the weekends and holidays visiting regional state and national parks. I visited Chickamauga National Military Park many times as well as New Echota State Park and the Etowah Indian Mounds. When I was 8, my mother purchased a set of encyclopedias. I read those books daily. Although I am a historian, I am interested in a wide array of topics and encyclopedias exposed me to a broad base of knowledge. In the seventh grade, my teacher Ms. Hale showed us a film Nicholas and Alexandria–a drama that examined the rise and fall of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. From that moment on, I was hooked on Russian history. When I enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of West Georgia, I started out as a pre-medicine major but quickly changed to history because the university offered a broad range of Russian history courses. My senior year, I broke my leg trying to impress my French girlfriend. Due to my surgeries I had to drop a class and finish up my degree the following semester. The sole course available that summer was a Public History Internship which I completed at the Atlanta History Center. From that moment on, I knew that wanted to be a public historian because I enjoy sharing what I know with audiences both in and outside of the classroom.

Were you ever discouraged about your work?

​Studying history was not something that my family understood. I come from a working class family. Just going to college was seen as a necessary step toward a career, but history was not the career path those closest to me envisioned. Overcoming their doubts and constant reminders that I could always become a nurse or lawyer rather than a historian was and remains hard. Most folks do not run into too many historians who make a good living and love what they do. I could not imagine doing anything else.

Have you traveled for your history work?

​I have traveled across the United States for my work. Writing my first book on Bartow County, Georgia, I traveled to California for several weeks to research some archival papers related to my subject held in San Francisco. As someone who grew up in the rural South, being a temporary resident of San Francisco was one of the most enjoyable times in my life. Growing up without a lot of money and little opportunity for travel, my career as a historian has taken me to many places that I would have never had access to. For example, several years ago I got to interview President Jimmy Carter in his apartment in Atlanta. Years ago, I was part of an exhibit committee at the Atlanta History Center that included actor Sean Connery. A few years back, I was working on a project to preserve a historic monastery. The monks allowed me to live among them for a few days and to visit and photograph their most private places within their sanctuary. They had taken a vow of silence. The fact that I was able to stay silent for three days was quite a miracle. A few years ago, I got to hand out with historian Eric Foner, my favorite historian. I picked him up from the airport and hung out with him for three days!

Do you think that there is more to learn in your field?

​Despite what other historians might think, there is still much to be discovered about the history of the American Civil War and Public History. Anyone who thinks the Civil War has been exhausted does not know what they are talking about. Anyone who think neither the Civil War nor Public History scholarship is not as rigorous and exceptional as work in their field is also delusion and deeply prejudiced. The Civil War offers scholars a chance to investigate in depth the intersections of race and class and regionalism in American history.

How do you think that history in today’s world is seen and do you agree with how it’s being treated?

​I think most people are quite ignorant about the study of history. What passes for history on television and movies is abysmal and has fed our increasing ignorant society. We need history more than ever but unfortunately like everything else history, based on sound research and methods, has fallen victim to our nation’s poisonous political climate. When we live in a society that cannot come to an agreement that slavery was foundational to our nation’s past and as such continues to play some role in our contemporary race relations and society, I mourn for the small place that academic historians hold in American public discourse. None of this is surprising when we live in a society devoid of facts and distrustful of experts in all fields whether it be public health or climate change. History is no different.

What do you think should happen to monuments and statues that are taken down?

​My thoughts on this topic have evolved quite a bit because of my interactions with Neo-Confederates over the years. In the past, I pleaded with Neo-Confederates to do a better job of contextualizing their monuments to tell a more complete version of history than the one they tended to present–the Confederacy had little to do with slavery and that it was a superior society defeated at the hands of an inferior society because of the latter’s greater resources and numbers–ie The Lost Cause. Neo-Confederates had generations to clean up their pitiful act but failed to do so. Now, there is great momentum to bring down monuments. I now find myself in support of those who wish to topple these relics of the past that offer nothing noteworthy about the Civil War but only reflect the lies told by generations of white southerners as part of the Lost Cause mythology–the lies that I was taught as a student growing up but later discovered were falsehoods. I would not mind seeing those monuments dumped into the Alabama River or Mobile Bay at this point. Their supporters had generations of time to clean up their act and to improve their interpretation of what scholars have been telling them for years. If they go into museums they need to include an accurate story of why they were erected in the first place and why their removal was seen as necessary by many in society.

Presence of the Past Blog

I feel that these questions were on point. They were well thought out and pertinent to the survey that was being done. I did think that more could be asked about their family life, children, grandchildren, etc.

Also, interestingly, there were few questions about DNA and testing. The results of these could be detrimental to someone learning that their whole life was not what it seemed. Learning that your parent (father) wasn’t your birth father could be very emotionally damaging to someone. I have lived this scenario and it wasn’t pretty. My mother and father were both deceased when I learned this fact, so I couldn’t ask the questions that I needed answers to. I did have my siblings, but they weren’t talking and were not comfortable telling me that they had known for years but didn’t want to hurt my feelings by telling me the truth.

Asking questions that have hard answers, not only about public history, but about someone’s personal history should be done to record people’s feelings and thoughts about a certain time and place. Having these records brings a more real feeling to the reader and could possibly change the outlook of the person doing the reading or history.

Barbara Dismukes Monuments post

“What should we do with historical monuments if they’re removed?”

            I think that historical monuments should be left where they were placed.  Taking them down does nothing to change history.  These memorials are reminders of things that happened in the past and should be looked at in this capacity.  Not all of the memorials that are in cities are considered to be “racist”, but in today’s world that is exactly what is happening.  These memorials should be telling their own stories of history, what happened and how we can avoid it happening again.

            If memorials and statues are taken down, I think they should be placed in museums for people to learn from.  Destroying them is stupid and wasteful.  History is what it was, it can’t be changed, removed, or erased.  Showing our children and grandchildren how our country has changed and bettered itself is part of history and should be taught, not hidden.

            Hopefully, we as a Nation, have learned from the mistakes of our forefathers and will continue to grow together as a nation who is loving and caring and can see people for what they are and not the color of their skin.  Looking at someone’s color shows that people are ignorant in their thinking.  What truly matters is what is in someone’s heart, not their skin color.

            I don’t believe we need to “interpret” monuments.  They all clearly state who the person was and what made him stand out.  Not that anyone has to agree with what they were honored for, but at the time they were celebrated, people were proud of that and thought they did something good to deserve that honor.

            Hopefully we can all learn from history, the good and the bad, but looking at the young people today, they are making bad choices in how they act, treat people, and other people’s property, much like the things that they are complaining about that happened to their ancestors!

            Removing or destroying monuments and statues is like shutting the barndoor after the horses are out!