“Confederate soldiers should be honored because they bravely fought to keep black people on American soil enslaved.”
That above statement, while not openly uttered, summarizes the attitude of a certain segment of American society that is in love with symbols of America’s nadir, namely the war to preserve slavery, a.k.a the U.S. Civil War.
Granted, that institution of slavery was initiated by the British, and the USA’s founding fathers reluctantly put the issue of slavery on the back burner when they declared independence from the British. Still, the evil of slavery wasn’t something that could be tolerated in a nation which declared that all men are created equal.
Over time, as the northern states gained more control over D.C. politics, Americans opposed to slavery gained opportunity to limit (if not completely eliminate) such evil.
The rise of the Republican Party, with Abraham Lincoln as its presidential choice, spelled disaster for white southerners who profited from slavery. If slavery were to continue, then the white southerners would have to do something drastic, and they did.
Contrary to what pro-southern revisionists keep claiming, the Confederacy was formed for the purpose of preserving slavery. As historian Gordon Rhea states, “The Confederate States were established explicitly to preserve and expand the institution of slavery. Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s vice president, said so himself in 1861, in unambiguous terms.”
After the Civil War ended and slavery was eliminated, Confederates consoled themselves by saying, “We lost, but we should be proud of our heroic efforts to keep slavery alive.” They and their descendants then set up monuments honoring the defenders of slavery.
In 1895, one such monument was set up in Louisville, Kentucky in a location that is now within the University of Louisville. On 04/29/16, the university’s president and the mayor of Louisville announced that the monument would be moved from its current location and that it would be cleaned, repaired and stored until another location for it is selected.
Typically, whenever such a symbol of the Confederacy is removed from public property, somebody somewhere claims that U.S. history is being scrubbed. On the contrary, such a removal is a recognition of history. University of Louisville professor Ricky Jones says it best in a column published by Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper:
Let me be clear about what the battle flag, statues and other symbols of the Confederacy are. They are representations of hate, emptied-out ideas of racial superiority, inhumanity and devilishness. The Civil War was not a war of “northern aggression” fought by sympathetic, victimized “Gone with the Wind” characters. It was a war about slavery – plain and simple. It was a conflict the South started to maintain its right to continue playing pharaoh and endlessly force its black brutes to make bricks out of straw. Every battle flag, T-shirt, and monument to these inhumane traitors remind us of that fact.
It is amazing that, in the 21st Century, symbols of the old Confederacy are still being used to extol the southern states, as if the southern states hadn’t changed any since the Civil War.
Well, the southern states have indeed changed. Gone With The Wind is just a movie, not a documentary about modern southern living. The nadir of America’s history is to be remembered and taught about, but it isn’t something to be proud of.
If modern-day southerners want to display something that represents southern pride, then they should display symbols of NASCAR, which has long been identified with the southern states.
After all, Richard Petty is already a southern icon.
In a 2011 speech to the Charleston Library Society, historian Gordon Rhea states the following:
“Unlike present-day South Africa, the South had no truth-and-reconciliation commission. Our ancestors did not have to come to grips with their own history at a time when honesty might have carried the day. Instead, we are left with the post-war fantastical tall-tales of men like Stephens and Davis that race and slavery had nothing to do with the South’s drive for independence, tall tales that have become grist for the mill of neo-confederates and their present day partisans. Those tall-tales and after-the-fact justifications, however, can survive only if we ignore what the South’s leaders actually said as they urged their countrymen to action. Those words are preserved in repositories such as the Charleston Library Society. They are here for the world to read. So long as libraries across the country preserve these original speeches, pamphlets, and sermons, the message remains loud and clear: You can run from the truth, but you cannot hide from it.
It is no accident that Confederate symbols have been the mainstay of white supremacist organizations, from the Ku Klux Klan to the skinheads. They did not appropriate the Confederate battle flag simply because it was pretty. They picked it because it was the flag of a nation dedicated to their ideals, i.e., “that the negro is not equal to the white man.” The Confederate flag, we are told, represents heritage, not hate. But why should we celebrate a heritage grounded in hate, a heritage whose self-avowed reason for existence was the exploitation and debasement of a sizable segment of its population?”