Does the Civil War Really Represent “Southern Culture”?

Bryan Woolston via ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

This weekend the Washington Post ran a story about a huge Confederate statue in Louisville that was dismantled and shipped off to the town of Brandenburg, which thought it might be a good tourist attraction. Apparently everyone was pretty happy about it except for Mildred Brown, an African-American seamstress who’s lived there for 50 years:

She recalled telling him [the judge executive in Meade County] that having the monument was a mistake. It was a symbol of dark times — dark enough that she no longer went to the riverfront. “It doesn’t unify us,” she said. “It separates us.”

He recalled telling her: “Don’t worry, we’re not going to let people come down there and throw a fit and have Confederate flags and call names.” He also said the monument was about preserving a part of history with a lot of nuance. “It had a whole lot more to it than slavery,” he said.

I don’t want to pretend to be naive, but when Southerners talk about these statues representing their heritage, or their history, or their culture, what heritage do they think it represents? Let’s assume they don’t buy the argument that these statues are mostly 20th century monuments to Jim Crow and white terror. Fine. They’re certainly monuments to the Civil War. I can understand why northern states would build monuments to the war, but why would Southern states do it? It was a war of treason. It was a war to protect slavery, even if there were other catalysts too. It was a war of white supremacy. It was a war of personal bravery in defense of the indefensible. It was a war they lost.

From the perspective of 2017, what exactly is there to honor about that? What’s the party line here?

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate