The Battle to Interpret Arlington Cemetery

Wednesday, November 11, 2020 - 12:30pm
Led by 
Michael B. Chornskey

Demonstrations and protests during 2020 have revealed that Civil War memorials are contested sites in the United States.  Sharp debate over the question of how to interpret and memorialize the war is ongoing.  But it is not new.  During the 1920s, arguments over how the legacy of the Union and the Confederate armies should be represented and preserved in Arlington Cemetery were fiercely partisan.  Yet somehow Arlington National Cemetery emerged as a hallowed ground for all, an historic site that “bears witness to America’s heritage and the military service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform throughout our history.”  Hear how this most revered of burial grounds evolved from a contested site to a place of reverence and respect.

 Michael B. Chornesky is is a Government Information Specialist for the United States Department of Education, former Ph.D. Student at Purdue University, and Masters graduate from Villanova University.  He worked for the National Park Service at Arlington House between 2010-2011 and briefly again in 2016.  He is the author of the Spring 2015 Washington History article “Confederate Island upon the Union’s ‘Most Hallowed Ground’ The Battle to Interpret Arlington House 1921-1937.”  He was born, raised, and currently resides in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C.










Host portrait: Mike Canning

Mike Canning

Mike Canning is the long-time film critic of the Hill Rag and author of Hollywood on the Potomac: How the Movies View Washington, D.C. It was the first publication to offer a comprehensive look at the intersection of the capital and the movies—how Washington, D.C. has been portrayed in American movies. His reviews can be found at Mike was a Foreign Service Officer for 28 years, working as a press and cultural officer in eight countries on four continents. He and his wife Judy have made their home on Capitol Hill for 53 years.