Does the Civil War Really Represent “Southern Culture”?

Bryan Woolston via ZUMA

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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?

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And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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