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The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader

The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The "Great Truth" about the "Lost Cause"

James W. Loewen
Edward H. Sebesta
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader
    Book Description:

    Most Americans hold basic misconceptions about the Confederacy, the Civil War, and the actions of subsequent neo-Confederates. For example, two thirds of Americans--including most history teachers--think the Confederate States seceded for "states' rights." This error persists because most have never read the key documents about the Confederacy.

    These documents have always been there. When South Carolina seceded, it published "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union." The document actually opposes states' rights. Its authors argue that Northern states were ignoring the rights of slave owners as identified by Congress and in the Constitution. Similarly, Mississippi's "Declaration of the Immediate Causes …" says, "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery--the greatest material interest of the world."

    Later documents in this collection show how neo-Confederates obfuscated this truth, starting around 1890. The evidence also points to the centrality of race in neo-Confederate thought even today and to the continuing importance of neo-Confederate ideas in American political life. The 150th anniversary of secession and civil war provides a moment for all Americans to read these documents, properly set in context by award-winning sociologist and historian James W. Loewen and co-editor, Edward H. Sebesta, to put in perspective the mythology of the Old South.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-788-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-XII)
  3. Acknowledgments and Photo Credits
    (pp. XIII-2)
    (pp. 3-21)
    James W. Loewen

    Anyone who knows the history of the Civil War and its aftermath and who talks with members of the public quickly grows frustrated. Most recent high school graduates, many history and social studies teachers, and even some professional historians whose training is in other areas hold basic misconceptions about the era. Questions about why the South seceded, what the Confederacy was about, and the nature and later use of its symbols and ideology often give rise to flatly untrue “answers.” In turn, these errors persist because most Americans do not know and have never read key documents in American history...

    (pp. 22-91)

    Before 1776, every American colony allowed slavery. In 1720, 1,600 of New York City’s population of 7,000 were African Americans, mostly enslaved; several hundred Native Americans were also in chains. In 1755, more than 10% of Rhode Island’s people were in bondage. The utopian justification for the American Revolution, emphasizing the “rights of man,” coexisted uneasily with the institution of slavery. So did the rhetorical tactics the colonists employed: Americans were fighting a war seeking “freedom” from “British tyranny,” yet were keeping others in a bondage far more oppressive than any Britain had imposed.

    As a result, a movement favoring...

  6. CHAPTER 2 SECESSION (1859–1861)
    (pp. 92-166)

    As the 1850s wore on, Southern politicians made ever more extreme demands on behalf of slavery. In 1820–21, Congress had passed the Missouri Compromise, which admitted Missouri as a slave state but otherwise forbade slavery north of the latitude of Missouri’s border with Arkansas. Almost every Southerner in Congress had voted yes. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed slavery north of Arkansas, indeed, north of Missouri, so long as the citizens in a territory wanted it. Southern politicians cheered. By 1860–61, any compromise on guaranteeing slavery’s expansion into the territories had become untenable to most politicians in the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 CIVIL WAR (1861–1865)
    (pp. 167-229)

    As the Confederacy got under way, like other representatives from seceded states, Jefferson Davis had to choose whether to stay in or resign from Congress. As he makes clear in his valedictory, his decision was easy, since he had advised his home state of Mississippi to secede. He then uses his farewell speech to woo those slave states—Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina, and above all Virginia—that had not yet joined. His “Message to the Confederate Congress about Ratification of the Constitution,” two weeks after the Confederacy took Fort Sumter, similarly incorporates a prosecession summary of constitutional...

    (pp. 230-276)

    To Confederates and neo-Confederates, Reconstruction and Fusion¹ were a continuation of the struggle to maintain white supremacy by means other than war.² Reconstruction refers to the political reconstitution of the former Confederate states. Historians divide the period into two phases, Presidential or Confederate Reconstruction, lasting through 1867 as Congress struggled to influence President Andrew Johnson’s policies, and Congressional Reconstruction, beginning in 1868. Reconstruction then ended in different years in different states (1869–77), as white supremacist Democratic politicians overthrew interracial Republican administrations. Nationally, Reconstruction formally ended in 1877, when the incoming Hayes administration ordered troops in Southern states to return...

    (pp. 277-329)

    In 1890, Mississippi moved beyond Fusion politics. The state passed a new constitution with a key provision: “every elector shall . . . be able to read any section of the constitution of this State; or he shall be able to understand the same when read to him, or give a reasonable interpretation thereof.” Local registrars—hangers-on of the white power structure—determined if would-be voters’ interpretations were “reasonable.” Many refused to register a single African American in their county, even those with degrees in political science. In practice, this law flagrantly violated the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. Nevertheless, the...

    (pp. 330-391)

    Around 1940, the Nadir of race relations began to ease. As with its onset, three underlying processes were at work. First, the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North produced black voters. Moreover, the prohibitions that barred African Americans from sundown towns and neighborhoods across the North concentrated them into a few places in a few larger cities. Soon these concentrations produced black aldermen, state legislators, even a congressman from Chicago. Now to use racial slurs was impolitic. Second, imperialism declined in intellectual and social power. American leaders saw that they would have to deal with...

    (pp. 392-393)

    Even today, visitors to the South will sometimes note upon their return, “they’re still fighting the Civil War down there!” Although spoken with amused exaggeration, the statement carries considerable truth: the war still holds an unusual immediacy in the South, especially to neo-Confederates. Once we grasp that Confederates seceded to preserve slavery and maintain white supremacy—which this book proves—then we can understand why neo-Confederates still fight what might be called “the long Civil War.” Neo-Confederates fight to maintain their ancestors’ honor, which they do by obfuscating why their ancestors fought. They also fight to save “our belief system...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 394-416)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 417-424)