Posted on January 31, 2014

Dalton School Apologizes for Screening Slavery Satire

Javier C. Hernandez, New York Times, January 31, 2014

The Dalton School, one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools, has apologized after screening a satirical movie about a world in which the South won the Civil War.

The film, titled “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America,” was shown to sophomores at a presentation of history projects on Monday. Its edgy and comical treatment of slavery quickly led to complaints, and on Wednesday, the school met with students and parents to apologize.

“C.S.A.,” released in 2006 and directed by Kevin Willmott, an associate professor at the University of Kansas, is presented in the style of a documentary, nearly 150 years after Ulysses S. Grant surrenders to Robert E. Lee, following the film’s conceit.

The movie is a hodgepodge of commentary by fake historians and altered footage, including an image of a Confederate flag on the moon. {snip}

Some of the most provocative moments come during its spoof advertisements. One ad promotes Confederate Family insurance. “For over 100 years, protecting people and their property,” a narrator says as a slave smiles at the camera. {snip}


In a statement on Wednesday, Dalton’s leader, Ellen C. Stein, pledged to redouble efforts to speak with students and staff members about race.

“We believe in the highest levels of respect and sensitivity for the diverse nature of our student body and community,” she said in a statement. “Monday’s screening should not have taken place and we sincerely regret that the film was shown.”

Earlier this month the school wrestled with another racially sensitive work, overhauling a production of the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” over concerns about the show’s use of Asian stereotypes and references to a slavery ring in China.

Professor Willmott said the school had misinterpreted his film, noting that several of its most controversial ideas are borrowed from history. The movie ends with footnotes.

“This, in essence, is the American problem in race,” he said. “The minute that things become real, the minute that you get close to the edge, everything shuts down.”