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Brian Palmer: The Costs of the Confederacy

  • Chop Suey Books 2913 W. Cary Street Richmond United States (map)

Our friend and stellar journalist Brian Palmer will talk about his recent Smithsonian Magazine article, The Costs of the Confederacy, co-written with Seth Freed Wessler. Over the course of a year and thousands of miles, Brian and Seth visited dozens of Confederate site to analyze the "history" they were teaching, while simultaneously scouring state and federal tax records to see how these memorials are funded. Their findings were staggering: over the past ten years alone, we as tax payers have spent over $40 million on Confederate sites that teach lost cause rhetoric while largely ignoring the horrors of slavery and, at times, suggesting that slavery was beneficial to slaves.

Brian will discuss his findings, pairing the amount of public money and reverence that is poured into the Confederate memorials to the total lack of regard to preserving African American graveyards and other significant sites to the struggles and triumphs in African American history. Contrasting these important sites, such as East End Cemetery, that have been systematically destroyed and devalued by Jim Crow, to the monuments erected by and in honor of Mr. Crow, Brian will examine the common thread: a system of racial discrimination that is thriving through public funding today.

Check out Brian and Seth's article here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/costs-confederacy-special-report-180970731/

Reveal also dedicated an episode to there work: https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/monumental-lies/

And you can hear a more personal interview with Brian on Fresh Air: https://www.npr.org/2019/01/21/686547376/the-very-particular-history-being-presented-at-confederate-sites


Brian Palmer is a Richmond-based visual journalist. Before going freelance in 2002, he served in a number of staff positions—photographer and Beijing bureau chief (US News & World Report); writer (Fortune); and on-air correspondent (CNN). His photos and articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Nation, Smithsonian Magazine, and on websites such as Buzzfeed, ColorLines.com, and Narrative.ly. In 2008, Palmer was awarded a Ford Foundation grant for Full Disclosure, a video documentary about his three media embeds in Iraq with 1st Battalion/2d Marine Regiment.

With Erin Hollaway Palmer, he is producing Make the Ground Talk, a documentary about historic black Virginia communities displaced in the 20th century by the U.S. government. They are the authors of The Afterlife of Jim Crow: East End & Evergreen Cemeteries in Photographs; creators, with Jolene Smith, of eastendcemeteryrva.com; and core members of the Friends of East End Cemetery. His photographs for Growing Up in Civil Rights Richmond: A Community Remembers, portraits and oral histories of Richmonders who played a role as youth in the desegregation of schools, are now on exhibit at the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum, University of Richmond.