Monday, 15 March 2010
The Confederate Pageant
My British husband has been exposed to most things Southern but even he was shocked by the Confederate Pageant in Natchez, Mississippi. You don't expect to see boys and men dressed in Confederate uniforms running around an auditorium carrying Confederate flags but that's still the way it is in Natchez.
The pageant is composed of tableaux -- little scenes from life before the 'War Between the States' (as the narrator refers to it). My husband looked amused as he watched the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, get married in an antebellum home. He chuckled when boys and girls danced around the Maypole -- I whispered that I had been in that one as a child. I'd point out each scene and tell him when I had done that as a child -- carrying the flowers when I was 5 or 6, then the Maypole then my family was in the picnic scene.
He laughed out loud when the Hunt scene was on -- men were dressed in their best English hunting gear, singing merrily and drinking mint juleps. That is a crowd favorite -- the men appear with dogs barking and scampering all over the stage.
When it got to scenes where little boys were dressed as Confederate soldiers, I think he really began to smile in an 'oh, those Southerners' sort of way. Then later he commented that you would never know a black person even lived in Natchez as there are none in the pageant or in the audience or touring the antebellum homes. (He wasn't critical but observing.)
I was reading a Greg Iles' mystery on the plane home and he comments on just this subject:
"The Confederate Pageant has been the center of white social life in Natchez for the past seventy years. Replete with hoop skirts, sabers, and rebel uniforms, this celebration of pre-Civil War life in the Deep South is one of the most politically incorrect spectacles in the United States.
Yet it remains an institution that most of the affluent children in town participate in -- as velvet-clad toddlers dancing around a Maypole, clean-cut high schoolers waltzing around with flattered tourists or intoxicated college kids trekking home three times a week during March to don Confederate regalia and march to the strains of 'Dixie' as members of the 'Confederate Court.' Being asked to take part in the pageant is a mark of social distinction -- and confer star status on those offered them."
Turning Angel, Greg Iles