This weekend marked the end of the New York Times Civil War blog, Disunion. For the past four years historians, writers, and other scholars have submitted literally hundreds of blog posts about the Civil War covering a wide range of topics related to politics, culture, memory, military operations, Indian wars, global responses to the war, and so much more. I was a regular reader of the blog and know a few college professors who assigned posts from the site for classroom readings. I didn’t agree with every post that was published, but the discussions I observed on and offline with friends and colleagues demonstrate to me the success of the blog in challenging readers to check their prior assumptions about the war. Based on the amount of online comments each article garnered it seems like the blog was very popular, and it reinforces to me that blogging (and social media more broadly) is an effective tool for communicating the stuff of history to public audiences. I am going to miss Disunion.
I’m sure the blog is ending in order to coincide with the end of the Civil War sesquicentennial this month, but I actually think now is as important a time as ever to have a space with a large readership like the New York Times for discussing the challenges and consequences of the war’s aftermath during the Reconstruction era. While the blog’s conclusion makes sense from a chronological viewpoint, I can’t help but feel like some juicy learning opportunities will be sacrificed because of it. Al Mackey of Student of the Civil War suggests that a new blog called Reunion could succeed Disunion and focus on the effort to reconcile a fractured nation after the war. I think that’s a wonderful idea, although I doubt anyone at the Times is thinking about such an effort.
Thanks to the writers and editors for the great content and let’s keep focused on ways to talk about Reconstruction as we hit the sesquicentennial of this important and largely misunderstood period in U.S. history.