Republican Texas House Leader Wants State to Admit Civil War Was About Slavery

Today, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, joined the continuing push to take down Confederate monuments by calling for the removal of a plaque at the statehouse entitled the “Children of the Confederacy Creed” that asserts the Civil War “was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.”

In a letter sent to members of the State Preservation Board—of which he is a member along with Gov. Greg Abbot and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick—the Republican lawmaker described the plaque as “not accurate,” and explained, “Texans are not well-served by incorrect information about our history.” (Strauss and Patrick, were engaged in a recent public fight during the legislative session over Patrick’s unsuccessful push to mandate everyone use the bathroom of their sex assigned at birth.) Just last week, a Confederate monument was removed in a Dallas park. 

Neither Abbott nor Patrick have responded to the letter. Last month, during a debate following the violent protests against the planned removal of a Charlottesville, Virginia, monument commemorating Robert E. Lee by white nationalists and white supremacists, the Texas governor said removing Confederate monuments “won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.” Patrick also criticized the overnight removal of a Confederate monument at the University of Texas.  

The statehouse plaque was erected by the Texas Division of the Children of the Confederacy in 1959. “It most likely reflects something about resistance to Brown v Board of Education and the end of a Jim Crow system,” University of Texas historian Walter Buenger told the CBS station in Austin, Texas.

So far social media reactions are mixed, with some users applauding Straus and others accusing the House Speaker of not knowing his history, arguing that states rights caused the Civil War. One user wrote, “He needs to resign his position as Speaker and go back to school to LEARN HIS HISTORY!”

That’s not a surprise considering what’s taught in Texas public schools. In 2010, a school board member called slavery a “side issue to the Civil War,” when the board adopted new standards mandating that students be taught that the war was caused by “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery.” Some members of the state board of education have said the standards were prioritized in this way to underscore that slavery was not the central issue leading to the Civil War, despite the fact that historians are overwhelmingly agree that slavery was the cause of the Civil War.

Just before those standards were adopted, I attended a Texas public school and was taught that the Civil War was about states rights and not slavery. Kevin Drum has been asking readers what bad history they’ve had to unlearn about the Civil War—you can share in the comments section here