Neo-Confederate hooey

imrsHere is some fascinating food for thought on how the Confederacy is remembered today, and why pernicious myths about it spun by Lost Causers greatly impact the way we remember it today. I think that the analysis set forth in this article is right on the money. It appeared in the July 1, 2015 edition of The Washington Post.

Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong. False history marginalizes African Americans and makes us all dumber.
By James W. Loewen, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont, is the author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader.”

History is the polemics of the victor, William F. Buckley once said. Not so in the United States, at least not regarding the Civil War. As soon as the Confederates laid down their arms, some picked up their pens and began to distort what they had done and why. The resulting mythology took hold of the nation a generation later and persists — which is why a presidential candidate can suggest, as Michele Bachmann did in 2011, that slavery was somehow pro-family and why the public, per the Pew Research Center, 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. We are still digging ourselves out from under the misinformation they spread, which has manifested in our public monuments and our history books.

Take Kentucky, where the legislature voted not to secede. 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.” 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 parts of Maryland. In 1913, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) put a soldier on a pedestal at the Rockville courthouse. Maryland, which did not secede, sent 24,000 men to the Confederate armed forces, but it also sent 63,000 to the U.S. Army and Navy. Still, the UDC’s monument tells visitors to take the other side: “To our heroes of Montgomery Co. Maryland: That we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line.”

In fact, the thin gray line came through Montgomery and adjoining Frederick counties at least three times, en route to Antietam, Gettysburg and Washington. Robert E. Lee’s army expected to find recruits and help with food, clothing and information. It didn’t. Instead, Maryland residents greeted Union soldiers as liberators when they came through on the way to Antietam. Recognizing the residents of Frederick as hostile, Confederate cavalry leader Jubal Early ransomed $200,000 from them lest he burn their town, a sum equal to about $3 million today. But Frederick now boasts a Confederate memorial, and the manager of the town’s cemetery — filled with Union and Confederate dead — told me, “Very little is done on the Union side” around Memorial Day. “It’s mostly Confederate.”

Neo-Confederates didn’t just win the battle of public monuments. They managed to rename the war, calling it the War Between the States, a locution born after the conflict that was among the primary ways to refer to the war in the middle of the 20th century, after which it began to fade. Even “Jeopardy!” has used this language.

Perhaps most perniciously, neo-Confederates now claim that the South seceded over states’ rights. Yet when each state left the Union, its leaders made clear that they were seceding because they were for slavery and against states’ rights. In its “Declaration of the Causes Which Impel the State of Texas to Secede From the Federal Union,” for example, the secession convention of Texas listed the states that had offended the delegates: “Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.” Governments there had exercised states’ rights by passing laws that interfered with the federal government’s attempts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Some no longer let slave owners “transit” across their territory with slaves. “States’ rights” were what Texas was seceding against. 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, neo-Confederates erected monuments that flatly lied about the Confederate cause. For example, South Carolina’s monument at Gettysburg, dedicated in 1963, claims to explain why the state seceded: “Abiding faith in the sacredness of states rights provided their creed here.” This tells us nothing about 1863, when abiding opposition to states’ rights provided the Palmetto State’s creed. In 1963, however, its leaders did support states’ rights; politicians tried desperately that decade to keep the federal government from enforcing school desegregation and civil rights.

So thoroughly did this mythology take hold that our textbooks still stand history on its head and say secession was for, rather than against, states’ rights. Publishers mystify secession because they don’t want to offend Southern school districts and thereby lose sales. Consider this passage from “The American Journey,” probably the largest textbook ever foisted on middle school students and perhaps the best-selling U.S. history textbook:

The South Secedes

Lincoln and the Republicans had promised not to disturb slavery where it already existed. Nevertheless, many people in the South mistrusted the party, fearing that the Republican government would not protect Southern rights and liberties. On December 20, 1860, the South’s long-standing threat to leave the Union became a reality when South Carolina held a special convention and voted to secede.

The section reads as if slavery was not the reason for secession. Instead, the rationale is completely vague: White Southerners feared for their “rights and liberties.” On the next page, the authors are 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. No Southern state made any such charge against the federal government in any secession document I have ever seen. Abraham Lincoln’s predecessors, James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce, were part of the pro-Southern wing of the Democratic Party. For 10 years, the federal government had vigorously enforced the Fugitive Slave Act. Buchanan supported pro-slavery forces in Kansas even after his own minion, territorial governor and former Mississippi slave owner Robert Walker, ruled that they had won an election only by fraud. The seven states that seceded before Lincoln took office had no quarrel with “the national government.”

Teaching or implying that the Confederate states seceded for states’ rights is not accurate history. It is white, Confederate-apologist history. “Journey,” like other U.S. textbooks, needs to be de-Confederatized. So does the history test we give to immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens. Item No. 74 asks them to “name one problem that led to the Civil War.” It then gives three acceptable answers: slavery, economic reasons and states’ rights. (No other question on this 100-item test has more than one right answer.) If by “economic reasons” it means issues with tariffs and taxes, which most people infer, then two of its three “correct answers” are wrong.

The legacy of this thinking pervades Washington, too. The dean of the Washington National Cathedral has noted that some of its stained-glass windows memorialize Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. There’s a statue of Albert Pike, Confederate general and reputed leader of the Arkansas Ku Klux Klan, in Judiciary Square.

The Army runs Fort A.P. Hill, named for a Confederate general whose men killed African American soldiers after they surrendered; Fort Bragg, named for a general who was not only Confederate but also incompetent; and Fort Benning, named for a general who, after he helped get his home state of Georgia to secede, made the following argument to the Virginia legislature:

What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction .?.?. that a separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery. .?.?. If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished. .?.?. By the time the North shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. .?.?. The consequence will be that our men will be all exterminated or expelled to wander as vagabonds over a hostile Earth, and as for our women, their fate will be too horrible to contemplate even in fancy.

With our monuments lying about secession, our textbooks obfuscating what the Confederacy was about and our Army honoring Southern generals, no wonder so many Americans supported the Confederacy until recently. We can see the impact of Confederate symbols and thinking on Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine in a Charleston, S.C., church, but other examples abound. In his mugshot, Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, wore a neo-Confederate T-shirt showing Abraham Lincoln and the words “Sic semper tyrannis.” When white students in Appleton, Wis. — a recovering “sundown town” that for decades had been all white on purpose — had issues with Mexican American students in 1999, they responded by wearing and waving Confederate flags, which they already had at home, at the ready.

Across the country, removing slavery from its central role in prompting the Civil War marginalizes African Americans and makes us all stupid. De-Confederatizing the United States won’t end white supremacy, but it will be a momentous step in that direction.

While they may have lost the war, it seems rather clear that the Lost Causers won its aftermath decisively. The resurrection of talk about secession, nullification, and the continued existence of neo-Confederate organizations such as the League of the South amply demonstrate the scary truth of this statement. We need to address these issues, and we need to pursue the object of removing this repulsive spinning of neo-Confederate and Lost Cause ideology from the national dialogue.

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Attention all neo-Confederates and Lost Causers:

Read it. Learn it. Live it. Love it.

From yesterday’s edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

y James Varney, | The Times-Picayune
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 22, 2014 at 12:18 PM, updated December 22, 2014 at 12:36 PM

It’s amazing how many Americans still don’t know what the Civil War was all about. Here’s a hint: it starts with an ‘s’ and it has the same syllables but fewer letters than “secession.”

This ignorance has cluttered my e-mail box since last week. While noting a legal battle over the image of the Confederate flag on Texas license plates, I had the temerity to state the only place I want to see the Stars & Bars is in a Civil War museum.

KevinLaserWriter, for example, wrote that his descendants fought as Confederates and that he is not a racist. I’ll grant him both points.

When he says the Confederate battle flag is “not a symbol of hate,” however, and when he refers to it as “my flag” I’m puzzled. Should I speak of the topic again, he admonishes, “please be educated first on what it represents.”

He’s right. People should know what it represents. Here is how Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederate States of America, compared his nation with the United States:

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas,” he said in 1861. “Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

Another e-mailer, a Starbuck apparently not connected with the Nantucket whaling Starbucks, said my writing “shows serious laps in your education.” Her ancestors, she wrote, “fought to keep his states right to succeed from the union of states.”

Fortunately, her ancestors were unsuccessful, but it is true they fought as enemies of the United States.

“That flag serves to educate yourself and others of the hidden truths, the ones that the northern parts wanted to hide,” Starbuck added. I should not address a topic I “know nothing about” until “you get an education.”

It’s true my Civil War teachers underplay the role, say, federal authority over intercoastal waterways played in causing Bleeding Kansas, or how John Brown’s Harpers Ferry raid was prompted by a tax dispute.

Still, the idea those irked by the Confederate flag and its symbolism need an education cropped up repeatedly. It’s amazing how wrong I learned it.

One man, for instance, urged me to “try reading history and no the PC bull*&t they indoctrinate people with in liberal colleges.” If I did, he said, I’d realize the Confederate “soldiers who fought included blacks, Indians and Hispanics” because “the south was a more diverse place than the north.”

Others bolstered that point. “The battle flag represented the soldiers whom the majority were of middle or lower class and came from all walks of life,” rwwiv wrote. “They were Mexicans, native americans, blacks, Irish, French and Jews. Yes, the majority were Caucasian Americans but the confederate army was actually foreward thinking in civil rights and equality.”

This is all very different from what I was taught in the North. It may not be atypical, however. For a story in The Times-Picayune I once interviewed the historian James McPherson and he told me the notion slavery was not at the core of the Civil War is one he sometimes encountered in Princeton students from the South. Some of them saw slavery as an ancillary cause, McPherson said, and thus failed to see how Lincoln’s election and his perceived opposition to the Peculiar Institution triggered secession.

From Metairie, a woman wrote that she sees the Confederate flag as a “symbol of valor and bravery and Southern heritage.” It may be those things, but it will remain something I pointedly disparage when talking about “Southern Heritage” with my kids, two of whom were born in New Orleans.

“I see a symbol that represents people who were willing to fight for what they believed in – states’ rights and a very limited federal government,” she added. “Jefferson Davis said shortly after the war that ‘the Cause for which we fought is bound to reassert itself in the future, in some form or another.’ And, of course, it has…because the ’cause’ for which they fought wasn’t slavery and everyone at the time knew it.”

That’s incorrect. ‘The Cause’ on which the Confederacy and the war rested, chiefly, was slavery. Consequently, many contemporaries saw it as a racist abomination. Speaking of the surrender at Appomattox, Ulysses S. Grant wrote:

“I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

I don’t think all the people e-mailing me are racists or bad people. I don’t know them. But the historical record is clear – it does not support the ideas peddled by Confederate apologists. The Confederate flag, therefore, isn’t something anyone should fly with pride.

Slavery was NOT some benign institution. Slaves did not eagerly fight for the Confederacy. And the Confederate battle flag REALLY is offensive to a large portion of American citizens. It’s not some attack on your “heritage”. It’s about understanding why others would be offended by it and trying to have some empathy for them. Stop trying to put a happy face on the abomination of slavery. You might actually have some credibility if you did.

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092413_conf_600This article appeared in today’s edition of The Philadelphia Daily News. It raises lots of interesting questions about why the Confederate battle flag seems to be more prominently displayed all of a sudden:

Rebels’ proliferate up north, but what’s their cause?

WILLIAM BENDER, Daily News Staff Writer, 215-854-5255
Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 12:16 AM

IT’S BEEN SPOTTED on license plates in Atlantic City and Collingdale, draped across a truck in a Kohl’s parking lot and flying on poles outside homes in Montgomery and Chester counties.

You can see it on the side of a building off Aramingo Avenue in Port Richmond, hanging inside an apartment near Capitolo Playground in South Philly and painted on the “Dukes of Hazzard” replica Dodge Charger cruising around Delaware County.

In Camden, it’s practically the official emblem for country-rock tailgate parties outside the Susquehanna Bank Center, where a concertgoer was charged this summer with bias intimidation for allegedly waving it at city residents and spewing racial slurs.

Even a Philly cop was photographed last year wearing it under his bike helmet while on duty.

Nearly 150 years after the Civil War ended, the Confederate battle flag – a complicated and incendiary symbol of rebellion, slavery, Southern pride and white supremacy – is seemingly becoming a more frequent sight north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

“I remember taking a second look and going, ‘Really?’ It was shocking,” said Bryl Villanueva, 35, of Lafayette Hill, who recently saw a rebel flag flying in Conshohocken while on the way to a friend’s house. “Maybe they’re from Alabama.”

What’s behind the popularity of the flag in the North? Is it the dark underbelly of the rapidly growing country-music scene? Disapproval of the president? An innocent revival of the rebel spirit among Yankees who don’t know – or care – what it means to the rest of society? Or something more sinister?

“Me, I fly the stars and stripes,” said Dereck Banks, a self-described history buff from Clifton Heights, Delaware County.

But Banks, 55, who is black, can’t miss the Dixie flag plastered across the back window of his neighbor’s pickup truck parked at the curb. It’s also on the front license plate, with the word “Daddy.”

“It offends a lot of people. White folks, too,” Banks said. “Slavery is over. This is the new millennium. The South lost. The states are united.”

Public schools have long been desegregated, too, but some Philadelphia-area residents are flying the same flag that the Ku Klux Klan and others adopted during the civil-rights movement to oppose desegregation.

In June, when country-rock star Toby Keith played the Susquehanna Bank Center, police said Darren Walp, 33, of Ridley Park, climbed a fence into a housing complex, waving the flag and shouting racial slurs. The flags were out again the next weekend at a concert headlined by Brad Paisley, and tailgaters were outraged because security was forcing them to be taken down.

Last month, Walp was arrested a second time in Camden while on his way to a Blake Shelton concert. Cops say he hopped out of his pickup truck to get a beer from the back, ranting at a black driver and challenging him to a fight.

“We never want to see this individual in the city of Camden again,” Camden County Police Chief J. Scott Thomson said at the time, in a news release.

Some defenders of the Confederate flag say it is not inherently racist and should be flown to honor Confederate soldiers. Others, like Doug Copeland, a medical tech who said he was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., use it to show their fondness for the South.

“I’m not prejudiced at all. My granddaughter is half-black,” said Copeland, who flies a flag from his home on busy Route 724 near Phoenixville. “I just love the South. If I could live there, I would.”

But Copeland also knows that some people find it offensive. He thinks they are the ones who removed his prior flags.

“That’s why I think they stole it. They came to the bus stop and stole the flag. It’s my third one,” he said. “It’s bolted in now, but the one time they snapped it right out of the bolt.”

Copeland, however, doesn’t seem overly concerned with political correctness, as evidenced by the sign on his door that reads, in part: “Unless you are blind or cannot read this sign, you can bet your ass I am going to stomp the s— out of you if you bother me!”

Some groups, including the Virginia Flaggers – which has leased land along Interstate 95 south of Richmond and plans to erect a 12-by-15-foot Confederate flag on a 50-foot pole Saturday – have denounced the KKK and others that have used the flag for their own purposes.

“If somebody broke into your house and robbed you, and they were wearing New York Giants attire, you wouldn’t assume that there was something evil in the Giants association,” said Gene Hogan, chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “You would say, ‘No, that was an evil person that co-opted those garments.’ Same way with the battle flag.”

Hogan said the SCV, an organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers, encourages people to display the flag in remembrance of those who fought in the Civil War – or the Second American Revolution, as the group refers to the war on its website.

“It stands for brave men who defended their homeland against an unconstitutional invasion and represents all the good things in America,” Hogan said.

That’s not how Drexel University sociologist Mary Ebeling sees it. The Falls Church, Va., native questioned whether it’s possible to express regional pride, oppose the expansion of the federal government or just yearn for simpler times, while ignoring the flag’s role as a hate symbol in America’s history.

“The re-emergence of it is concerning,” Ebeling said. “It’s a brand, a symbol of oppression, violence, and, I would argue, white supremacy.”

Even though she is white, Ebeling said, she “took it as a threat” when someone taped a small flag to a lamppost in her predominantly black neighborhood in West Philly a couple of years ago.

“Once these kinds of meanings are attached to those symbols, the meanings endure,” she said.

Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., agreed. People may have conflicting interpretations of what the flag means now, he said, but that doesn’t change how it was used in the past, including during the civil-rights movement.

“The flags were raised in a patently racist show of standing by white supremacy and full-out resistance to desegregation,” Potok said.

Fifty years later, Potok said, “I think it’s a little like the O.J. Simpson trial. People have very different reactions to it based on their life experience.”

A flag shop in Broomall

Charlie Hauber, owner of the Flag & Sign Place in Broomall, Delaware County, said he keeps Confederate flags in stock because of their historical relevance. Other flag stores refuse to sell them.

“I’ve had truckers come to me and say, ‘I can’t buy these things anywhere,’ ” Hauber said. “Places just stopped selling them.”

Hauber said that he doesn’t support slavery, but that the Civil War was also about states’ rights.

“I’m inclined to agree with the states. They have certain rights that should be separate from the federal government,” he said. “But I’m not going to fly a Confederate flag.”

People might feel intimidated or threatened by the flag – whether that’s the intention or not – but flying it is protected by the First Amendment.

“In some circumstances, it clearly is insensitive and offensive, but not all the time,” said Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s offensive. It doesn’t matter whether it is racial. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a white-power statement. You could not outlaw flying the Confederate flag.”

Last year, the ACLU of Delaware assisted a state Department of Transportation worker who was disciplined for displaying a Confederate-flag license plate on his car parked at work. The department later agreed with the ACLU that he was entitled to display the plate.

Banks, the Clifton Heights man whose neighbor has Confederate flags on his truck, said the neighbor is a friend, so he doesn’t take offense in that instance.

“I think it’s stupid, but being in America, you’re free to do whatever you like,” he said. “People are people. If you turned us inside out, you couldn’t tell what color we are.”

The owner of the truck wouldn’t talk with the Daily News, but his next-door neighbor, Michael Blythe, said the flags are not intended as a hate symbol.

“It’s not racist at all,” said Blythe, 35, a carpenter. “Everybody loves each other on this block.”

Jim Matusko, 66, an accountant who flies an American flag year-round at his home around the corner, said self-styled rebels need to grow up and find a new symbol.

“They got their asses whooped 148 years ago,” he said. “Let it go, already, for God’s sake.”

Matusko said the apparent popularity of the flag today could be a symptom of a highly polarized country under a black, liberal president. But he doesn’t think its connection to slavery can be severed, either.

“With the issue of slavery, waving a flag in someone’s face is almost like trying to pick a fight. I don’t think this country needs that kind of s—,” he said. “I don’t like the guy in the White House, either, but the South isn’t going to rise again.”

– Staff writers Jason Nark and Stephanie Farr contributed to this report.

There are clearly times when displaying it are entirely appropriate, such as on Confederate memorials, or the graves of Confederate veterans. There are many other times, though, when it is completely tone deaf, completely inappropriate, and downright offensive, and when it’s involuntarily rammed into people’s faces such as what the so-called Virginia Flaggers want to do along I-95 near Richmond, it’s akin to flipping the rest of the world that infamous obscene gesture that involves raising one’s middle finger. For many blacks, the Confederate battle flag is every bit as offensive a symbol as a swastika flag would be to a Jewish person. Brooks Simpson has done a superb job of documenting this particular travesty on his blog, Crossroads, and if the whole travesty of the Virginia Flaggers interests you, I commend Brooks’ blog to you. He deconstructs each and every argument of theirs and demonstrates the hypocrisy of their positions.

I completely understand wanting to honor one’s forebears. What I don’t understand is why it has to be done with such a controversial symbol. Why not use the Confederate first national flag–the Stars and Bars–which does not have the same very negative connotation? You will honor your ancestors, but you do so without offending everyone else. It seems a reasonable compromise. Too bad it’s not, since only a real in-your-face “*^%# you!” seems to be acceptable to them. Like I said, too bad.

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The following article appeared on MSNBC today:

Plan to honor teen Confederate spy splits Ark. town
David O. Dodd was barely 17 when he was hanged in January 1864


updated 10/14/2012 2:55:32 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The story of David O. Dodd is relatively unknown outside of Arkansas, but the teenage spy who chose to hang rather than betray the Confederate cause is a folk hero to many in his home state.

Street signs and an elementary school in the state capital have long borne Dodd’s name, and admirers gather at his grave each year to pay tribute to Dodd’s life and death.

“Everyone wants to remember everything else about the Civil War that was bad,” said one of them, W. Danny Honnoll. “We want to remember a man that stood for what he believed in and would not tell on his friends.”

A state commission’s decision, though, to grant approval for yet another tribute to Dodd has revived an age-old question: Should states still look for ways to commemorate historical figures who fought to defend unjust institutions?

“(Dodd) already has a school. I don’t know why anything else would have to be done to honor him,” James Lucas Sr., a school bus driver, said near the state Capitol in downtown Little Rock.

Arkansas’ complicated history of race relations plays out on the Capitol grounds. A stone and metal monument that’s stood for over a century pays tribute to the Arkansas men and boys who fought for the Confederacy and the right to own slaves. Not far away, nine bronze statues honor the black children who, in 1957, needed an Army escort to enter what had been an all-white school.

“He was barely 17 years old when the Yankees hung him” on Jan. 8, 1864, Honnoll said. “Yeah, he was spying, but there (were) other people that spied that they didn’t hang.”

Dodd is certainly not the only teenager to die in the war or even the lone young martyr, said Carl Moneyhon, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock history professor.

“If you start talking about the 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds who were killed in battle, the number is infinite,” Moneyhon said. “There are tens of thousands of them. They become unremarkable.”

So it seems all the more curious that some have come to portray Dodd as Arkansas’ boy martyr.

“It’s part of the romanticizing of the Civil War that began in the 1880s and the 1890s, that looks for … what could be called heroic behavior to celebrate in a war filled with real horrors,” Moneyhon said.

And it’s caught on, though many question why.

“It’s a very sad story, but at the end of the day, Dodd was spying for the Confederacy, which was fighting a war to defend the institution of slavery,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Sharon Donovan — who lives on West David O. Dodd Road (there’s an East David O. Dodd Road, too) — said she wouldn’t mind another Dodd namesake in her neighborhood.

“The fact that we live in the South, I could understand why he would want to do it because he was actually working for us in a way. … For that era, I think it was probably a noble thing to do,” Donovan said.

About a half-mile away, a banner outside an elementary school proclaims, “David O. Dodd Committed to Excellence.” A doormat bearing Dodd’s name shows a black boy smiling next to a few white ones. About half of the school’s 298 students last year were black and only 27 were white.

Jerry Hooker, who graduated from Central High School years after the desegregation standoff over the Little Rock Nine, lives at the site where he says Dodd was detained almost a century and a half ago. The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission approved his application and agreed to chip in $1,000 for the marker noting the spot’s historical significance.

Hooker, 59, said the move to commemorate Dodd is not about honoring slavery, but about remembering the past.

“I don’t think it has a thing to do with race whatsoever,” Hooker said. “He was a 17-year-old kid with a coded message in his boot that had enough of whatever it is in him that he didn’t squeal on his sources.”

Still, in a city that stripped “Confederate Blvd.” from its interstate highway signs shortly before dignitaries arrived in town for the opening of Bill Clinton’s presidential library, the question remains: Should Dodd’s name be etched into another piece of stone or metal for posterity’s sake?

“There are currently more monuments to David O. Dodd than any other war hero in Arkansas,” Potok said. “You would think that at some point it would be enough.”

This debate is a microcosm of the ongoing debate of just how prominent should Confederate history be. Kevin Levin, Brooks Simpson, and Corey Meyer have done a superb job of documenting some of the outrageous and really silly things that a lot of the advocates for so-called “Southern Heritage” (whatever that might be) claim (for what Brooks Simpson describes as “the gift that keeps on giving”, look here).

What role should these Confederate heroes continue to play in modern society? This is a real hot button question due to the racial implications that arise for those large elements of society that equate the Confederacy with the abomination of slavery, and who, rightly or wrongly, consider anyone who supported the Confederacy a racist. What role should the Confederate flag play in modern society, given its implications as a symbol of the perpetuation of the institution of slavery? Is it appropriate to honor someone who died in the service of a rebellion against the United States government?

I have many friends with Confederate ancestors, and I understand their desire to honor the sacrifices made by their ancestors. At the same time, I have no time for, or sympathy for, anyone who says that heritage is more important than accurate history, as our friends at the gift that keeps on giving like to say. They lash out at anyone whom they think has somehow denigrated their “heritage” (again, whatever that means) in particularly violent and unpleasant rhetoric (which I expect them to do as a result of this post, not that I care a whit). Many of them are neo-Confederates and/or Lost Causers, and they use these red herring arguments to push their own twisted political agendas. They denigrate what they call “political correctness”, but the reality is that one man’s symbol of “heritage” is another man’s symbol of slavery. How do we strike that balance?

I don’t have a good answer to the big question. I don’t think anyone does. However, I view this specific question as one of local politics, and if a majority of the people in the town believe that paying further tribute to David O. Dodd is appropriate, then that’s their business.

Sooner or later, though, we as Americans will need to reconcile these issues, because they will not go away any time soon. It’s a dialogue that we as Americans need to have, but how to do so without it denigrating into personal attacks is the mystery that needs to be resolved before it can happen. Let’s hope that we can figure out the answer to that problem sooner than later.

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I took this photo in Gettysburg yesterday. Click the photo to see a larger image of it.

There are way too many sites and people out there who claim that they are defending Confederate heritage when they show the Confederate battle flag. I have no doubt that some of them are sincere. But it’s awfully hard to take those claims seriously with stuff like this out there. Can someone please tell me how garbage like this promotes Confederate heritage?

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I’ve watched the whole “Virginia flaggers” thing play out for some time with great amusement. For those unaware of this idiotic phenomenon, I refer you to Kevin Levin’s coverage of this stupid practice. The idea is that “defenders” of “Southern heritage” protest decisions not to exhibit the Confederate battle flag by “flagging” in public places. I’ve watched this whole moronic scenario play out for a number of months now, but haven’t said anything about it in public before today. The reason is that I find the whole thing to be so galactically stupid that I haven’t wanted to dignify it by giving it coverage here.

This all fits into the idea expounded by some of the leaders of the so-called “Southern heritage” movement that Confederate heritage has nothing to do with historical accuracy, which, of course fits squarely into the context neo-Confederate doctrine. In other words, the truth is irrelevant so long as you romanticize it and make it your own. You will find an excellent example of this neo-Confederate nonsense here. Corey Meyer, Brooks Simpson, and Kevin Levin have done such a superb job of covering this ridiculousness that there’s been no reason for me to get involved.

However, today’s events at the dedication of the new Appomattox branch of Museum of the Confederacy have finally made me say that it’s time to address this stupidity. The SCV and the “flaggers” are all up in arms over the fact that the MOC, believing the Confederate battle flag to be a divisive symbol, has decided not to fly the battle flag outside the new museum. As a result, and as Kevin Levin reports, the response of the “flaggers” and the SCV has been to call visitors and executives of the MOC such mature names as “scalawags” and, even better, “stink faces.” How are we supposed to take seriously any adult who actually calls someone a “stink face”? The only words that I can some up with to describe these people and their idiotic “flagging” are “galactically stupid.”

The terribly classy approach of these knuckle-draggers is amply demonstrated by the photo posted above, which was taken today at the Appomattox museum. Click on the photo to see a larger version of the image in which you can read the warm and loving message behind the airplane. Very classy and elegant, isn’t it?

I’ve had extensive dealings with the management of the Museum of the Confederacy over the years, and I know them to be serious professionals dedicated to preserving the real history of the Confederacy (as opposed to making things up, as these neo-Confederates are so fond of doing). They most assuredly do not deserve the abuse heaped upon them by the SCV and the “flaggers”, and I commend them for sticking to their guns on this moronic issue.

And congratulations on your excellent new facility. I hope it thrives in spite of the efforts of these morons, whom I hereby declare the winners of the coveted title of worst proponents of neo-Confederate hooey of the year for 2012.

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The following neo-Confederate hooey was posted on Facebook today:

The legacy of Captain Henry Wirz should be rewritten. This man was a hero for doing the best he could. And, on his final night before his execution, Stanton sent govt agents to Wirz`s cell offering a bribe to for liberty if he implicated President Davis for Andersonvilles problems. Wirz stood strong to his values with integrity and chose death before excepting a bribe against Davis, even though he was completely innocent himself…..This is just another example how evil and devious Stanton really was to try and bribe Capt Wirz into lying against President Davis….God bless Captain Wirz, you were a hero for that act alone!

This is, of course, a mainstay of neo-Confederate doctrine. As it goes, Wirz was a hero and martyr, and only the wardens of Elmira and the other Union POW camps were war criminals. The heroic Wirz, by contrast, maintained his heroic character by refusing to implicate Jefferson Davis. So, therefore, his war crimes weren’t so bad. Ummmm…no.

As I said, this is a mainstay of neo-Confederate doctrine. Try this one on for size, which appears on a prominent neo-Confederate website, that of the Georgia Heritage Council:

A Confederate History Minute (9) – by Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.

Captain Henry Wirz, Confederate Hero and Martyr

Captain Henry Wirz was born, Hartman Heinrich Wirz in November 1823, in Zurich, Switzerland where his father, Abraham Wirz was highly respected.

At the outbreak of the War Between the States, Wirz enlisted in the Fourth Louisiana infantry on June 16, 1861. He was promoted to sergeant a year later and was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines. He never recovered from the injury to his left wrist and it caused him great pain for the rest of his life.

Wirz was promoted to Captain on June 12, 1862 and was first detailed to General John Winder where he was given command of a Confederate military prison in Richmond, Virginia.

After serving a year as special emissary to President Jefferson Davis in Paris and Berlin, on March 27, 1864, he was installed as commandant of Andersonville Prison at Fort Sumter in Georgia. Wirz did the best he was able to do with many Union prisoners and the little food and medicine. It is written that the guards got the same food and medicine as the prisoners.

The Confederacy sent a distress message to Union President Abraham Lincoln and Union General Ulysses S. Grant. The South pleaded for an exchange of Confederate and Union prisoners. Lincoln and Grant, however, refused believing the Union prisoners might go home but the Confederate prisoners might go back to fight.

Captain Henry Wirz was unfairly charged of war crimes and it is written that no witnesses for the defense were allowed to testify. Among those who would have is a Union soldier who was a prisoner at the prison.

For over 30 years there have been efforts to exonerate the good name of Captain Henry Wirz. There is an annual memorial service to Wirz on the Sunday nearest November 10th each year in Andersonville, Georgia, at the monument to Wirz placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Georgia Division).

This sort of rewriting of history really is appalling. Wirz was hanged for a reason. He was neither a hero nor a martyr. He was a war criminal. Casting him in any other light is just plain wrong, and is something we need to remain constantly vigilant in battling. Call these neo-Confederate revisionists on their nonsensical hooey. Don’t let them get away with it.

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Lest we lose sight of Lost Cause and neo-Confederate ideology, I highly recommend taking a few minutes of your time and read the excellent and though-provoking post on Rea Redd’s blog today. Both Rea and David Blight nail it.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”–George Santyana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905

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The city council of Lexington, VA has voted, 4-1, to ban the display of the Confederate battle flag on flagpoles owned by the city. Here’s a link to some media coverage of the issue. Kevin Levin has also had quite a bit of coverage of this issue on his blog over the past few days.

What’s important to note here is that this ban applies ONLY to flying the Confederate battle flag from PUBLICLY owned flagpoles. NOWHERE does the ordinance say that the battle flag is banned from any sort of private display. Indeed, such a restriction would be a flagrant violation of the First Amendment. However, nothing in the First Amendment says that the city has to permit the Confederate battle flag to be flown on publicly owned flagpoles.

In spite of that, and surely not to my surprise, the Lost Causers and neo-Confederates are screaming bloody murder about this, intentionally misconstruing the ordinance to make a ridiculous emotional argument. The image below demonstrates precisely what I mean:

I wish I could say that this sort of emotional, manipulative and wholly inaccurate sort of thing would follow very quickly, but I would be lying if I did. Calling for violence when locally elected officials make a policy decision is NEVER appropriate, but here we have “call to arms”. This is grossly inappropriate.

There’s no place for this sort of thing in a rational discussion, but here it is nonetheless…..

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It seems that there are now three Republican presidential candidates with public records of supporting neo-Confederate ideology. I’ve long known that Ron Paul has long espoused neo-Confederate theories and sympathies, as he plainly demonstrated earlier this year. I’ve addressed Rick Perry’s calls for secession here previously. It’s bad enough that these two Texas loons are in the race.

Apparently, Rep. Michele Bachmann–who has amply demonstrated that she has no command of American history whatsoever again and again in the past–warmly embraces neo-Confederate views of slavery and of the Civil War also. In this blog post, it becomes clear that she takes her view of these events from the writings of a clergyman named Rev. J. Steven Wilkins. Reverend Wilkins is a prior board member of the leading neo-Confederate advocacy organization, The League of the South. Certainly, the view of slavery and the view of the South that Bachmann endorses is the mainstay of neo-Confederate ideology.

I personally find this trend both extremely disturbing and quite scary. What is it about these right-wing Republican candidates and their embracing of neo-Confederate ideology? Two them–Perry and Bachmann–represent the religious right, and if this is what the religious right advocates, then I’m surely worried about one of them actually being elected president. I would surely like to know.

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