What a week! When I wrote my book No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice (UNC Press, 2021) I could not have anticipated the opportunities that have come my way–from speaking engagements to being a talking head in documentaries to invitations to contribute essays in other books. Sometimes I think I’m lucky, but I also think of luck in the way that Oprah does. “I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”
A year or so ago, I was presented with opportunities–for which I’ve prepared most of my adult life–and they all bore fruit this past week.
The first was to contribute an essay to a book about myths in American history, edited by Princeton historians Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer. I wrote about Confederate monuments as an expression of the Lost Cause myth. This past week that book, Myth America: Historians Take on the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past, became an instant best seller on the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction books, coming in at #8.
The second was to be interviewed for a documentary on Stone Mountain that was being produced by the Atlanta History Center (AHC) and its VP of Digital Storytelling, Kristian Weatherspoon. This past week I got to attend the film’s premiere at the AHC. It was such a wonderful event and a real celebration of the work that public history institutions can do, plus I got to meet a personal heroine of mine, Sally Yates, the former United States Deputy Attorney General and Acting Attorney General who stood up to former President Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban.” She was dismissed for doing so, but I regarded it as an act of moral courage. We need more of that in today’s world.
Then last, but not least, I just received my copy of the re-released book White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction by Allen W. Trelease. It was a book I campaigned to have placed back in print, because it remains relative to historical discussions about Reconstruction but also to our contemporary understanding of domestic terrorism. It was an honor for me to write the foreword since Dr. Trelease was a professor and mentor while I was a student in the master’s program in history at UNC Greensboro.
I’ve worked hard for what I’ve accomplished, but sometimes it feels like an embarrassment of riches. This week was one of those weeks.