Friday, March 27, 2015

case in the U.S. Supreme Court argued earlier this week raises the issue of whether Sons of Confederate Veterans have a right to buy logo rights on Texas state license plates just like other interest groups, and here we are again with the "It's heritage, not hate" and "The war was not about slavery" arguments.

Rather than vent, I will at this point hand over the mic to  Abraham Lincoln, who in his second inaugural address noted that at the beginning of the Civil War,

"One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves occupied a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war." (italics mine)

(Thank you, Mr. President.)

The persistence of the Lost Cause fable marks it as the most successful and perversely brilliant propaganda campaign in history.That, not the Confederate flag, is what the Sons of Confederate Veterans seek to commemorate.


  1. Tracy, your recent book "The new mind of the South" was excellent! I also read your Salon article, "The South still lies about the Civil War" and brings to mind a question that's related. My southern friends keep arguing that southern heritage, states rights were primary. I was wondering if you knew of any 'southern' historians who have written about the true cause of slavery like Charles B. Dew with his revealing small tome, "Apostles of Disunion", using contemporary southerners of the day give an unvarnished and shockingly frank support for their empire of slavery. If you could let me know of a few others, perhaps that might help enlighten my southern friends. Thanks in advance!

  2. James C. Cobb, a historian at the University of Georgia and a Georgia boy himself, has a great chapter in his 2005 book, "Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity" about early efforts by Southern historians to speak the obvious truth--i.e. that economic interests founded on slavery were the root cause of the war--and being run out of town for doing so. C. Van Woodward, the preeminent historian of the South (and of course a Southerner) always assumed in his work that slavery was the cause of the war, but he never made a big tub-thumping point of saying so, probably because it would have tangled him up in pointless arguments and impeded his work, which was really focused on the history of the post-war South. But he says over and over in his work that the New South was just a continuation of the myths of the Old South. Then there's Ed Ayers, at the University of Richmond, an east Tennessee boy, as anybody who has ever listened to him on the radio program "Back Story" can easily tell--also a distinguished historian who takes as a given the "slavery as root cause" argument. (So exhausting that you even have to go around this barn....) So if born-and-bred Southern bona fides are what your debate opponents need, there you go.

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