Getting Medieval Post-Charlottesville
The media framed the Alt-Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 as a violent race conflict erupting in the wake of public cries for the removal of a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park. This essay highlights some of the underpinnings of medievalism in American white nationalism—from early philological preoccupations with Anglo-Saxonism to Enlightenment theories of race—before turning to a local Confederate monument in Sherman, Texas. This monument, constructed in 1896, stood watch through a conflagration in the town square that ended with the lynching of George Hughes, an African American man falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. Redirecting focus to medieval-inspired language engraved on the epitaph of the surviving monument, this chapter highlights the monument’s connections to a mythical shared Anglo-Saxon heritage which has been systematically used in the South to justify the subjugation of African Americans, whether as antebellum slave owners justifying the ownership of bodies of colour or as Alt-Right redditors rallying behind the symbol of a mounted crusader Trump.