Recently an effort has been underway in some southern states to move statues of Confederate Civil War heroes from the center of political activity to other locations such as museums or public parks. These statues by their original locations were proving to be offensive to African Americans most of whom had ancestors who were slaves. By doing this are today’s governments attempting to paint history in a different light? Or have educators in southern states been rewriting history since 1865?
The Confederate defeat was unfathomable to southerners:
The defeat of the Confederacy at the hands of the Union in 1865 was unfathomable to many who lived in the Confederate States. It was as if God had forsaken them in their quest for freedom. In an effort to remedy this disbelief southern educators and religious leaders sought to turn back the clock for the general population to better times. It made sense to many who could not stand the current status quo of 1865 (reconstruction) and were afraid of the future. But by turning society’s thinking back to anti bellum days as better times it also meant justification for slavery and for modern day racism. It became a whitewash of the establishment’s role in the uprising.
Rich plantation owners have driven the revisionism for decades:
Was the U.S. Civil War fought over slavery or states’ rights? The debate over states’ rights began with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, and was mitigated as much as could be determined at the time by the first 10 amendments which formed the Bill of Rights for states and individuals. Is this debate the type of motivation that would commit this country in 1860 to nearly rip itself apart in the worst war of our history? It’s far more likely that the politicians that promoted and voted for secession in their respective state legislatures were doing so at the behest of rich plantation owners who were scared that the northern states would force them to give up their huge investment in slaves.
This revisionism plays to the detriment of poor working whites:
That slave owners dominated southern society in 1860 is a given. The plantation system formed the backbone of an agrarian economy and provided a great life for those who owned lots of land and used slaves. But let’s look at some of the drawbacks slavery as an institution had for poor working whites. If one third of the work force (African slaves) worked for free, what did that do to wages for free white and black laborers? It depressed them, of course. If a rich plantation owner decided he wanted more land, all he needed to do was to dump his product onto the market at the same time the small farmers nearby did and drive the price down. This would have a tendency to push the smaller farmers into bankruptcy enabling the rich man to acquire the extra land cheaply. Of the over 600,000 young southerners who died and the many more who were wounded in the war the overwhelming majority came from families that did not own slaves.
Textbooks in Southern schools have obfuscated the truth:
Growing up in North Carolina I never read an official textbook or heard in class anything other than the cause of the Civil War was disagreement over states’ rights. Slavery was not mentioned as having even existed in this country only that slaves were imported to Caribbean locations as a part of a “triangle of trade” that included shipping weapons to Africa, slaves to the Caribbean, and rum to Europe. Monuments have similar states’ rights clauses in their bases. The following myths were officially perpetrated:
1. Slaves were “better off” on plantations than in Africa.
2. Slave owners opposed freeing slaves out of concern for their well-being.
3. Slave owners would have abolished slavery but the North stopped them.
4. Slave owners simply wanted to be left alone and be allowed to self-govern.
5. After the Civil War, many slaves didn’t understand what freedom meant.
This nonsense still makes its way into the minds of young people growing up studying history in many former Confederate states and communities.
Moving statues will not change history for those who have bothered to study it. The U.S. Civil War produced heroes to both sides and there are monuments for both. However, it is wrong to use some of those monuments to help suppress the rights of minorities whose ancestors suffered under the tutelage of rich slave owners who engineered the massive military uprising to selfishly protect their way of life. This suppression of the rights of minorities continues in part to this day. Those monuments that support this suppression by standing in the doorway to a courthouse (for example) would be offensive not because of history necessarily but because of modern day racism. Those monuments should be relocated to museums, parks, or cemeteries that are more suitable for their display.
False history marginalizes African Americans and makes us all dumber. by James W. Loewen, Washington Post. http://wapo.st/1IO10dN
5 things Virginia schools taught about slavery and the Civil War during the Confederate monuments boom. by Matt McKinley, The Virginia Pilot, September 21, 2017. http://bit.ly/2hiGvVE
America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation. by David Goldfield,
The Confederacy Was a Con Job on Whites. And Still Is. by Frank Hyman, McClatchy DC Bureau, March 6, 2017. http://bit.ly/2ms1Ev1