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Mon Aug 17, 2015, 05:19 PM

The Confederate myths too many Americans believe

By James W. Loewen
The Washington Post

History is the polemics of the victor, William F. Buckley allegedly said. Not so in the United States, at least not regarding the Civil War. As soon as Confederates laid down their arms, some picked up their pens and began to distort what they had done, and why. Their resulting mythology went national a generation later and persists – which is why a presidential candidate can suggest that slavery was somehow pro-family and the public believes that the war was fought mainly over states’ rights.

The Confederates won with the pen (and the noose) what they could not win on the battlefield: the cause of white supremacy and the dominant understanding of what the war was all about.

Take Kentucky. Kentucky’s legislature voted not to secede, and early in the war Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston ventured through the western part of the state and found “no enthusiasm as we imagined and hoped but hostility . . . in Kentucky.” Eventually, 90,000 Kentuckians would fight for the United States, while 35,000 fought for the Confederate States. Nevertheless, according to historian Thomas Clark, the state now has 72 Confederate monuments and only two Union ones.

Neo-Confederates also won western Maryland. In 1913, the United Daughters of the Confederacy put a soldier on a pedestal at the Rockville, Md., courthouse. Montgomery County never seceded, of course.

In addition to winning the battle for public monuments, neo-Confederates also managed to rename the war, calling it “the War Between the States.” Nevermind that while it was going on, no one called it that. Even Jeopardy! accepts it. Perhaps most perniciously, neo-Confederates now claim that the South seceded for states’ rights. When each state left the Union, its leaders made clear that they were seceding because they were for slavery and against states’ rights.

Texas also made clear what it was seceding for: white supremacy.

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.


Despite such statements, during and after the Nadir, neo-Confederates put up monuments that flatly lied about the Confederate cause. Indeed, they were desperately trying to keep the federal government from enforcing school desegregation and civil rights. The one constant was that the leaders of South Carolina in 1860 and 1965 were acting on behalf of white supremacy.

Publishers mystify secession because they don’t want to offend Southern school districts and thereby lose sales. Consider this passage from “The American Journey,” the largest textbook ever foisted on middle-school students and perhaps the best-selling U.S. history textbook:

The South Secedes

Teachers and students infer from that passage that slavery was not the reason for secession. Instead, the reason is completely vague: (white) Southerners feared for their “rights and liberties.” On the next page, however, “Journey” becomes more precise: (White) Southerners claimed that since “the national government” had been derelict “by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and by denying the Southern states equal rights in the territories – the states were justified in leaving the Union.”


“Journey” offers no evidence to support this claim. It cannot.

De-Confederatizing the United States won’t end white supremacy, but it will be a momentous step in that direction.

At: http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article27000196.html

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Reply The Confederate myths too many Americans believe (Original post)
forest444 Aug 2015 OP
daybranch Aug 2015 #1
forest444 Aug 2015 #4
raccoon Aug 2015 #8
marble falls Aug 2015 #2
forest444 Aug 2015 #3
marble falls Aug 2015 #5
forest444 Aug 2015 #6
Judi Lynn Aug 2015 #7
modrepub Aug 2015 #9

Response to forest444 (Original post)

Mon Aug 17, 2015, 07:15 PM

1. you leave out some very important facts, the continued class war

First Confederate soldiers were conscripted. They had little choice. Two years into the war Le was having trouble getting conscripts as poor whites were dying in a war they did not support for slave owners who were of course like the rich of today do not usually see their children sacrificed. People in the south black and white need to understand that the whites were dying and not for a cause they readily accepted. White men from Kentiucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina from the mountains fought for the union
as did my ancestors in Kentucky.
According to W.E.B. DuBois, a great Black sociology in his book "Black Reconstruction" the Northern Industrialists joined with the former slave owners to exploit both the resources and the poor people of the south, black and white. DuBois even stated both whirtes and black became slaves to the economic system established after the Civil War. As for the north with all its smug piety of freeing slaves, civil rights etc., the whites there were responsible to a great degree with creating the myths of white superiority, most notably at Columbia University. Today hatred of black people is critical to dividing poor and working people, black and white.
Yes it is institutionalized but rather than scream at just the injustice, we must understand where it comes from and eliminate it. I ask you if it is institutionalized, who makes the institutions? In other words who control our government and our economy. It is a simple answer and we of al races must say the name- the rich oligarchy.
This should not surprise you. They have been keeping the poor and the working in a state of hatred and division since before the revolution. If you read Howard Zinn's "The Peoples History of the United States" , you will learn how the racial hatred, the sexism, and nationalism are all used to manipulate and control the people starting even before the American Revolution. Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Patriots hell. They never wanted democracy and set up a system to prevent it from coming to fruition.
Today as Bernie knows, the oligarchy still rules but you can join us and make our country democratic

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Response to daybranch (Reply #1)

Mon Aug 17, 2015, 11:14 PM

4. Well said. One for the bookmarks.

What you detailed above also dovetailed with the well-documented (but much ignored) fact that most European royal families - as well as other seats of power like the Vatican - were active supporters of the Confederacy. And while creating a massive economic colony was certainly a motivation, the fact that the CSA would have been a crass, brutal plutocracy of the kind Europeans themselves were quickly leaving behind at the time, was probably just as appealing to Europe's 19th century despots.

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Response to daybranch (Reply #1)

Sat Aug 22, 2015, 06:00 AM

8. Great post. Should be an OP. nt

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Response to forest444 (Original post)

Mon Aug 17, 2015, 07:43 PM

2. Good stuff.

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Response to marble falls (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 17, 2015, 11:06 PM

3. Thank you, goodstuff.

I lived in Mississippi for a number of years, and the attachment most Southern right-wingers feel for the Confederacy - and the vindictive rancor they feel for "the Yankees" and for African-Americans (whom they inexplicably blame for bringing about the Confederacy's defeat) - just can't be overstated.

It seems cliché to say that this rancor explains much of their political extremism today - but amazingly, it's no exaggeration. This, despite the fact most Southern whites were literally worse off than slaves during the Antebellum/Confederate era (as daybranch details so well in the comment above). The power of some delusions, I guess.

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Response to forest444 (Reply #3)

Tue Aug 18, 2015, 12:11 AM

5. The fact that poor whites were fighting to continue slavery is reflected by the Tea Party voting ...

for the 1%.

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Response to marble falls (Reply #5)

Tue Aug 18, 2015, 12:20 AM

6. Good point.

History repeating itself.

What's scary is that not a few among them would like to repeat it literally.

Having said that, I'd be remiss if I didn't also point out that many (mostly well-educated) white Southerners despise these attitudes as backward and destructive to all Southerners. They are, however, still a minority, and even today are often intimidated by their more opinionated peers into silence - a fear reinforced from time to time by costing such "traitors" friendships, business opportunities, their local reputation, and even jobs.

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Response to forest444 (Original post)

Wed Aug 19, 2015, 09:12 AM

7. Exceptional article. Glad to see the News-Observer carried it! Thank you. n/t

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Response to forest444 (Original post)

Sat Aug 22, 2015, 12:39 PM

9. There was not much love in the north for blacks either

Lincoln tread very lightly when discussing the war. It was a war to "preserve the union". Slavery was considered by many in the north as an unspeakable evil in a sense that it introduced the black race into the US. Lincoln's election was just as much a revolt against the power that the institution of slavery had over this country as it was about people having moral problems for enslaving another race. Votes to extend the right to vote for blacks in northern states failed more often than not. One only has to take a short drive in any rural part of the states that made up the union to see Confederate flags being flown. I don't disagree with the basic statement that we've had a very difficult time truly discussing the Civil War. However, while it seems more prevalent in the old south, there's plenty of "deflection" to go around.

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