Organizers of a Civil War re-enactment in Fresno say they aren’t planning on doing anything differently this weekend in the wake of a national outcry against Confederate symbols, including the flag and statues of Confederate leaders.
Ruth Lang, executive director of the Fresno Historical Society, which is organizing the event in partnership with the American Civil War Association, stressed that the historical society is not a political organization.
“We don’t comment on what’s currently going on,” Lang said. “We have been doing this (staging Civil War re-enactments) for 28 years without incident. Our goal is education.”
Our goal is education.
Ruth Lang of Civil War Revisited
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Civil War Revisited, to be held Saturday and Sunday in Fresno’s Kearney Park, is described as a “living history” event meant to help people understand life in the 1860s. It includes people dressed up as historic figures – including President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Harriet Tubman – and crafts people from that period, like blacksmiths and weavers.
Lang said around 10,000 people typically attend, along with approximately 4,000 students who see a re-enactment as an educational event. The program for students, which includes a 20-page study guide, was to be held Thursday and Friday.
“If you erase history, you won’t learn from it … It was a turning point in our history,” Lang said of the Civil War.
For others, Civil War re-enactments seem less like education and more like celebratory entertainment.
It’s a bit of a slap in the face.
The Rev. Booker T. Lewis of Civil War reenactments
“I think some people’s interpretation of the Civil War is different from mine,” said the Rev. Booker T. Lewis of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church. “A celebration of the Confederacy is an offense to any African American and especially those that are descendants of those held in slavery … I’ve heard it (Civil War re-enactments) described as a great opportunity for engaging history and remembering a significant time in our country’s history, but for me – and for many people like me – that’s not a celebratory memory. That’s a horrid part of our past.”
Lewis said the event hasn’t caused a stir in the community because it’s held in rural Fresno County. “There are so many other things that are just blatantly in our face,” including Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld’s comments during a recent City Council meeting in which he blasted NFL players participating in the “take-a-knee” protest, Lewis said.
Civil War Revisited
What: 28th annual reenactment
When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Kearney Park, 7160 W. Kearney Blvd., west of Fresno
Battle reenactments: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Full schedule at valleyhistory.org
Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for children age 6 to 12. Free admission age 5 and younger. Free parking. Cash only at entrance. With Saturday dinner: $23 for adults, $12 for children 12 and younger. Proceeds benefit the Fresno Historical Society.