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


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Contemporary battles over textbooks and memory continue in many southern localities, as my home state of Virginia made headlines in for adopting a textbook for fourth graders claiming that thousands of African Americans fought willingly for the Confederacy during the war. Incidents such as this make the need for a comprehensive archival textbook focused on eviscerating Lost Cause mythology all the more prescient.

For neo-Confederates and their supporters, the most damning and powerful feature of The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader is that the included documents allow Confederate heroes and politicians to speak for themselves about the war and secession without any contemporary filtering or editing. Though the authors introduce each entry with necessary context, the words and images found within the text speak for themselves.

For example, the first three chapters include multiple examples of southern politicians including Jefferson Davis, John C. Calhoun, and Alexander Stephens stating explicitly that secession was about one thing: sustaining the slave system and the racial codes of the American South. In one of the true revelations found in the collection, the editors uncovered a whole range of documents that suggest southern political leaders actually supported a stronger federal government prior to secession as a way of enforcing the legality of the slave system and limiting the perceived power of the abolitionist movement.

By contrast, the rest of the document reveals the intention of creating a strong centralized government modeled after the very federal government they seceded from. Additionally, the reader includes a whole range of documentary evidence of the blatant racism and pro-slavery perspectives of southern leaders since the mid-nineteenth century.

Edward H. Sebesta

But they seem too eager in some places [End Page ] to pile on documents to advance a particular point. There is no need, for example, to include excerpts from all eleven seceding states reiterating that slavery was the paramount motivation for secession.

A slimmer book would make the collection even more attractive for classroom use. The documents highlight the shifting and shifty arguments of white southerners and the occasional northern sympathizer. White supremacy was the connecting thread between antebellum and postbellum writers. White supremacy became slavery by another name.

It was an explanation that found great resonance in the North, much more than the abandoned institution of slavery would have enjoyed. Robert E.

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The collection debunks the increasingly popular neo-Confederate notion that African Americans willingly took up arms for Rebel armies. That this bizarre legend has grown is a testament not so much to the effectiveness of neo-Confederate propaganda as to the ignorance of many white Americans about the Civil War and, particularly, the history of their black neighbors. This unknowing has led white Americans to believe that blacks were content as slaves, were loyal to their masters during the war, and were badly misled by white interlopers after the war.

Many white Americans elide the race issue, preferring stories of reconciliation to tales of retribution. The main shortcoming of the collection is that it is incomplete. Our problem with race and historical interpretation is not solely a southern phenomenon: it is an American dilemma. It is not that northerners adopted the southern interpretation of the war and Reconstruction. David Reynolds. The Great Crash John Kenneth Galbraith. Hugh Brogan.

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

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