The Buzz Over ‘Watchman’

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

“Go Set A Watchman,” author Harper Lee’s new novel that takes place two decades after her Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece “To Kill A Mockingbird,” is a publisher’s dream come true.

Cover image of "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee

Cover image of “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee

The conversation about the discovery of “Watchman” has been going on for months. Following the book’s release this week, much attention has focused on revelations about Atticus Finch (the iconic father figure in “Mockingbird”), which are exciting and shocking at the same time.

Some people who have vowed not to read “Watchman” are disappointed that Atticus is portrayed as a segregationist with connections to the Ku Klux Klan. Others say that returning to Lee’s writing style and lyricism is a joy that is long overdue.

My copy is on my desk and I can’t wait to crack open the book.

Silas House, one of Kentucky’s best known living novelists, (who’s also a professor and radio host) was one of those who picked up his copy of “Go Set A Watchman” at midnight Monday evening. Although he had not finished the novel when I spoke to him, House said he was thrilled with what he had read and looked forward to completing Lee’s book.

PBS has updated its original profile of the author and furthers the literary discussion at Harper Lee: American Masters, where you’ll find interviews, videos, and this quiz on Harper Lee.

You can also watch a segment that explains how “Watchman” came to be published and see Lee being presented with a copy of the book.

 

The Flag is Down but the Controversy Continues

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Thousands cheered this morning as the Confederate flag was lowered from the flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse in Columbia. The flag had flown there for 54 years.

The turnabout that lead to the removal of the emblem began on June 17 when nine members of an AME Church in Charleston were shot and killed while participating in a bible study. Dylann Roof, a white man who had been photographed displaying the Confederate flag, has been charged in the shootings.

In Kentucky, the debate about Confederate statues and monuments will continue.

The state Historic Properties Advisory Commission is taking public comments about what should be done with the Jefferson Davis statue in our Capitol Rotunda. Some want the piece moved to the nearby Kentucky History Center, while others have suggested the statue go to the western Kentucky park that marks the Confederate president’s birthplace.

In a thoughtfully written piece in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Scott Jennings, a former adviser to Pres. George W. Bush and Sen. Mitch McConnell, gave his opinion on how he’d like to see the Davis monument in Fairview be changed.

Others are weighing on the matter as well.

Lexington Herald-Leader reporter, editor, and columnist Tom Eblen stopped by KET this week to share his thoughts about the Davis controversy and other matters that have grown out of the broader discussion Americans are having now about our history.

The Fate of Confederate Flags and Statues

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

In South Carolina the debate is over the flag.

In Kentucky the discussion will be over a statue.

The South Carolina state senate voted Monday to remove the Confederate flag from their capitol grounds.

After the tragedy that saw a young white man allegedly kill nine members of an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, many in Kentucky began to call for the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue from the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort. Davis, the only president of the Confederate states during the Civil War, was born at Fairview, Ky. As a child Davis briefly went to a Catholic school in Washington County, and he later attended Transylvania University.

Unlike the process to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds, the fate of the Davis statue in Kentucky’s capitol won’t be determined by the legislature.

The decision here falls to the 14-member Historic Properties Advisory Commission. The group will take public comments until July 29 through their website, historicproperties.ky.gov, and then meet on August 5 to review all the statues in the Capitol Rotunda.

The commission will consider a number of questions regarding the statues: Why was the work of art placed in the rotunda? Who put it there? What significance is it to Kentucky’s social, cultural, and political history?

Should the statue of of Confederate President Jefferson Davis (left) that's in the Kentucky Capitol Rotunda be replaced with a statue honoring civil rights activist Lyman Johnson?

Should the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis (left) that’s in the Kentucky Capitol Rotunda be replaced with a statue honoring civil rights activist Lyman Johnson?

A number of people have suggested the statue of Jefferson Davis be taken from the capitol and placed in the Kentucky History Museum in Frankfort. Among those who have recommended a replacement or addition to the statues in the rotunda is our friend Al Smith, the founding host of KET’s Comment on Kentucky.

I got a fascinating mini-history lesson from Al this week, along with his idea to put a statue of Louisville civil rights leader Lyman T. Johnson in our Capitol Rotunda.


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