William Barney, a history professor at UNC, hopes this project will enable children to understand the Civil War and Reconstruction from multiple angles to give them multiple perspectives of the story.
“Hopefully it will acquaint an upcoming generation with their history," Barney said. "Start to give them a sense as to how to separate what we would like to think our history should have been from what it, in fact, was.”
Malinda Maynor Lowery, director of the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC, said this part of history is important to discuss because it solidified core values of what it means to be a US citizen.
“The Civil War and Reconstruction was an absolute defining moment in American democracy," Lowery said. "The war fought over the enslavement of a tremendous number of Americans and the 14th, 15th and 16th amendments that were passed in the aftermath of the war were the kind of transformational definitions of what it means to be an American.”
Watson also believes the Civil War established new ideals for American citizens.
“It’s always important," Watson said. "The Civil War and Reconstruction are pivotal eras in American history, marking the difference between slavery and freedom and marking a moment in which American democracy tried to reinvent itself as a place with greater equality."
Barney recognizes parallels between the discussions happening now and the arguments that occurred more than 150 years ago.
“All the points raised in the Silent Sam controversy, pro and con, were aired and debated and fought over during the war and Reconstruction," Barney said. "So again, the past is hardly the past."
To create a full history if the South that can be absorbed by school-aged children, the history center is recording the 100 stories to share digitally.
“When people start to really grapple with those experiences, it changes the way you think about how government represents us," Lowery said. "And also what we share as members of the same state, and when that kind of information is taught, it really has the potential to shift North Carolinian’s attitudes towards civil engagement and why belonging to a democracy is important.”