Civil War-themed ball stirs debate in Williamson County

On January 30, the Williamson Museum will host a Civil War-themed dance, which is now causing controversy

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — At the end of the month, a Civil War-themed ball will be held in Georgetown. However, some citizens are voicing concerns, saying it sends the wrong message about their community.

Organized by the Williamson Museum, planners say the event is an opportunity to get a glimpse of what life was like in the 1860’s, in Williamson County.

Attendees will dress in costume and the event will feature food, drink, music and dances from the era.

“There are a lot of controversial topics in our past, but they are still our past and history. And our mission at the museum is to preserve, protect and educate the heritage of Williamson County,” said Executive Director of the museum, Mickie Ross. “This is part of our programming that doesn’t promote any of those negative things, it just tells the story.”

Ross says the fundraiser is just one Civil War-themed event related to the Civil War exhibit at the museum, which will be there until April 2017.

Those opposed to the ball are voicing their concerns through an online petition.

“We should reconsider a grand Old South Ball. It sends the wrong message to the community and the world in times that are still troubled by racial strife and violence. Perhaps we could create an event that celebrates our unity and that respects our diversity, an event that would bring together all of Georgetown and Williamson County.”

Georgetown resident, Dr. Sherwin Kahn, helped start the petition. He believes the ball is exclusionary and culturally insensitive.

“I know I feel excluded from it, in the sense that I can’t support an event that supports what I see as an homage to a time that was a dark time in the country,” said Kahn. “It [the Civil War] was about slavery. When you have an Old South Ball, whether you mean to or not, you’re talking about a symbol of slavery, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Dr. Kahn believes an event partly funded by city money should make everyone feel welcome. The museum received a $1,500 grant for it.

“Most people who know history would say that an Old South Ball is exclusionary, because the South was exclusionary,” said Kahn. “The South was about owning people to do your work.”

However, Ross says the event is meant to help educate, and their intention is not to exclude.

“There is no white privilege about what we’re doing, nor is that represented in the exhibit here, which is the focus for all of our educational programming,” she said. “We were a part of the Old South, we were a part of the Confederacy. While we’re not promoting war itself, we’re telling story of what happened to the people here during the war.”

Over 70 people have signed the petition so far.

“And many have silently supported it,” Kahn believes. “A lot of people are almost afraid to address this issue, a lot of people are afraid to speak out. That bothers me as much as the event.”

This isn’t the only contentious issue for the county in recent months.

Back in September, over 250 people signed a petition to have a Confederate Monument relocated from the Williamson County Courthouse.

A counter-petition garnered support from over 1,600 people. Ultimately, county commissioners didn’t put the issue up for a vote.

The Old South Ball will take place on January 30, and tickets are still available. 

The cost is $25 per person, and $40 for couples. So far, about 45 tickets have been sold.

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