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On the Removal of CSA Symbols

I have written before about my criticisms of the reverence for the symbols of the confederacy (for example, herehere, here, and here, to choose but four).  Of the various complaints I have about these symbols is that fact that they were clearly used to oppose civil rights and were symbols of American apartheid.

Steve Chapman has a good piece on this topic at Reason (Confederate Monuments Deserve to Go) which reminds us of the growth of these symbols in the late 1950s and early 1960s:

In 1961, when I was a boy in the West Texas city of Midland, a new high school opened. It was named after Robert E. Lee, for reasons that are obvious: White resentment of the civil rights movement had produced widespread nostalgia for the Confederacy. San Antonio’s Lee High School opened in 1958; Houston’s in 1962.

Midland Lee called its sports teams the Rebels and used the Confederate battle flag as its symbol. Black students didn’t mind, because there weren’t any. They attended a segregated black school.

The general did have a connection to Texas. His last U.S. Army command before the Civil War was at a fort in the Hill Country town of Mason—which has no Lee monument. Gerald Gamel, editor of the Mason County News, ascribes the omission to strong anti-secession sentiment in Mason. That tells you something about why other places honor Confederate heroes.

Indeed (and emphasis mine).

Schools across America were named for Robert E. Lee in 1958, 1960, and 1961 (Montgomery’s Lee HS opened in 1955) for a clear reason, the same reason many states starting flying confederate battle flags at the same time:  to display a giant middle finger to those who would deign to mix the races in public schools (and elsewhere).  This was the era of the burgeoning civil rights legislation that would culminate in the landmark bills of the 1960s.  It was, more pointedly, the era of Brown v. Board of Education (1954).  It was the beginning of the end of Jim Crow and legal segregation.

This is the context of the deployment of many symbols that celebrate the confederacy. This context needs to be remembered and understood.  It is this context that undercuts the notion that such symbols are about an accurate representation of history or are just harmless symbols of southern pride.*

More broadly, Champman writes in regards to these symbols and the movement (by some) to remove them:

Yet grand memorials were erected across the South to celebrate what the traitors did. The monuments were built by whites at a time when blacks had no political power—a condition those whites were desperate to preserve.

They failed, and they deserved to fail. It’s only fitting that Southerners who reject the legacies of slavery, secession, and Jim Crow would prefer to be rid of these tributes to them.

[…]

For a long time, American history was owned by white men and minimized the treatment of blacks, women, Indians, and Latinos. Accommodating our public spaces to their full citizenship doesn’t erase history. It fills in parts that had been shamefully omitted.

The Confederate monuments belong not in places of honor but in museums, as artifacts of past error. They were put up to enshrine an interpretation of the past that has been discredited. Taking them down and putting up different statues is a reminder that in understanding the past, we shape the future.

Indeed.

That which we celebrate shapes the way we view the past.  What we honor matters.  As such, it is well past time to be recognize the sins of the past, rather than pretending like they should be honored.

As a side note, it is continually amazing to behold reverence for the CSA alongside the very strong patriotism that is also prevalent here in the South.

*I do understand that some people honestly feel that way–but I think that they are in denial about what message those symbols send, if anything to African-American fellow citizens.

 

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    Got in real trouble at a party last month when I summarized a discussion on the confederate battle flag as “Flying that flag and claiming it’s not about slavery and white supremacy is like claiming you can fly the Nazi flag without supporting the holocaust.” That comparison was not appreciated.

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  2. Gustopher says:

    As a side note, it is continually amazing to behold reverence for the CSA alongside the very strong patriotism that is also prevalent here in the South.

    I don’t call that patriotism.

    It’s nationalism.

    It’s actually not even nationalism, as it’s directed towards people inside the country, rather than outside — they are “real Americans” unlike those people in the cities, and those people who don’t support “real America” values.

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    We made a critical mistake allowing the myth of the Lost Cause to survive. It was a war to extend slavery, an evil cause, a treasonous cause.

    But as we’ve seen recently, conservatives are quite favorably disposed toward treason so long as they get what they want thereby.

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  4. CSK says:

    Up here in New England, the display of Confederate regalia–particularly the battle flag–is generally confined to a certain cohort who, interestingly enough, also tend to sport Nazi regalia.

    If you’re ever riding around the back ways of New Hampshire, and pass by a roadhouse the parking lot of which is crammed with motorcycles and pick-up trucks festooned with swastikas and the Stars and Bars–get the hell out of there.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    IIRC, and I may not, there’s a might-have-been story around Lee’s command of the U. S Army in Texas. He had been called to Washington, leaving his second in temporary command, when Texas seceded. Texas demanded the surrender of forts, arsenals, etc.. Isolated and outnumbered, Lee’s deputy acceded to Texas’ demands and quietly led the troops out of the state.

    Given Lee’s sense of honor and his lack of ties to Texas, had he been present, he might well have insisted on at least a token resistance. Lee might then have become the first U. S. commander to be fired on by the forces of a seceding state, in which case, he might have been more receptive to the offer of command of the U. S. Army.

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  6. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    Perhaps, but in a letter to his sister, Lee wrote this:

    “I look upon secession as anarchy. And, if I owned every slave in the south, I would sacrifice them all to save the Union. But, how can I draw my sword against Virginia, my native state.”

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  7. Mister Bluster says:

    …harmless symbols of southern pride.

    Just in case anyone is confused about what these symbols represent:

    Constitution of the Confederate States of America
    Article I, Section 9, Par. 4
    No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

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  8. michael reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    Sort of a Lindsay Graham figure then. “Ah recognize evil, and I do declare it gives me the vapors, but I will faithfully serve it just the same.”

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  9. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Yep. I’ve argued with southern acquaintances who always insist that “it was about states’ rights, NOT about slavery!”

    To which I reply, “Then why did the Declaration of Secession by South Carolina specifically state that the premier states’ right they were interested in keeping was the right to own slaves?”

    The discussion never goes much beyond that.

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  10. @CSK: The lack of proper instruction on this topic in our schools (and not just Southern ones) is a huge problem.

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  11. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That’s it in essence, with Lee, though the issue might have been a bit more complicated. The Colony of Virginia was established in 1607, and I think a lot of southerners, Lee included, felt on some level that Virginia had been around much longer than the United States, and therefore deserved their primary loyalty.

    That’s a guess, though. I’m trying to reason out something that doesn’t lend itself to reasoning.

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  12. michael reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    It would come a bit after Lee’s time but in the Nuremberg trials we established that there really was no excuse for doing evil. Of course had Lee read his Bible he’d have already known that, which IMO opinion leaves him without a fig leaf to cover his crimes.

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  13. Jay L. Gischer says:

    Both of Lee’s sons had already enlisted in a Virginia regiment, and were prepared to join the Confederate cause. He discussed this with Winfield Scott when Scott offered him command. Scott’s response was “You are equivocating, Lee, and I have no room for equivocators in my army.”

    Lee went home and resigned and joined the Confederate army. I’m pretty sure “raising his sword against Virginia” had a very personal meaning to him, as he was a devoted father and family man. How many of us fathers could go to war knowing that our sons would be on the other side?

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  14. @Jay L. Gischer: I think there any number of human reasons that would help us understand what Lee did. My objection is that those reasons are used to defend his choice. He made the wrong moral choice, even if we can understand, in human terms, why he did what he did.

    He doesn’t, however, deserve the special moral dispensation many wish to give him (and I am not saying anyone in this thread is so doing–just clarifying where I am coming from).

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  15. @Jay L. Gischer: I think there any number of human reasons that would help us understand what Lee did. My objection is that those reasons are used to defend his choice. He made the wrong moral choice, even if we can understand, in human terms, why he did what he did.

    He doesn’t, however, deserve the special moral dispensation many wish to give him (and I am not saying anyone in this thread is so doing–just clarifying where I am coming from).

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  16. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    There is no excuse for it, not even the time-honored one that he was just a product of his times.

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  17. CSK says:

    How many southern state capitols still fly the Stars and Bars? And why was this not always considered, at the very least, a serious violation of protocol?

    It’s as if Massachusetts decided to raise the Union Jack above Beacon Hill.

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  18. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I almost caused a riot at the office Christmas party when a visiting rep from the South made a reference to the issue of flying the Confederate flag, which was then high on the headlines in many newspapers. I said the last flag of the CSA was the white flag of surrender, and that I would have no problem if they wanted to march under that.

    Some people are very touchy.

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  19. Jay L. Gischer says:

    I don’t disagree Steven. I just wish for Lee to be understood for the decision he actually made. I feel that I could have easily made a similar bad decision.

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  20. An Interested Party says:

    That comparison was not appreciated.

    Of course it wasn’t appreciated, because it was spot-on…

    How many of us fathers could go to war knowing that our sons would be on the other side?

    How many honorable human beings would go to war to support treason and the right to own other human beings as property…

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  21. DrDaveT says:

    or are just harmless symbols of southern pride

    My problem with this one is that ‘southern’ was not a demographic that people identified with, apart from the Confederacy. Prior to 1860, South Carolinians did not feel any particular unity with Mississipians or Kentuckians — apart from the unity of slavery. “Southern pride” only exists, historically, as Confederate pride and its descendants, which in turn depended critically on common defense of the “Peculiar Institution”.

    (Of course, the same was true of the North. The hordes of farmers from Indiana and Illinois who died fighting the traitors were more likely to be descended from Kentuckians and Tennesseeans and Virginians than from Pennsylvanians and New Englanders. The Union became a union in opposition to slavery, despite the relative lack of active support for abolitionism in the North prior to the war.)

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  22. Gustopher says:

    Lee’s decision to not accept command of the Union Army is entirely understandable and forgivable.

    His decision to accept command of the Confederate Army is unforgivable. He was a traitor, and he committed treason to defend slavery.

    It’s not like he had no other options in life than to command an army.

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  23. Guarneri says:

    I think you and Chapman have penned thoughtful and generally even-handed pieces. And although I agree with your disdain for the symbols and what they (may – I don’t read minds) communicate, I remain concerned that the distance between well intentioned concerns or views – “That which we celebrate shapes the way we view the past. What we honor matters. As such, it is well past time to be recognize the sins of the past, rather than pretending like they should be honored.” – and censorship under the guise of enlightenment is precariously thin.

    We do not live in, if there ever were, thoughtful times where mob rule, political opportunism and the power to censure are not the prevailing environment and goals. Just observe the discourse of our political class, or, say, the commentary at this blog site just about every single day. Does it in any way approach, as I said, the thoughtful and even handed piece you wrote? Would you bet your freedom on its outcome?

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  24. @Guarneri: I see no censorship in removing statutes on public grounds nor in renaming schools and other buildings. It is as much a public policy choice to keep the statue or name in place as it is to remove it.

    In regards to the discourse, which is problematic (to say the least), all I can try and do is be thoughtful in my contributions thereto.

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  25. Mister Bluster says:

    @G String:..the symbols and what they (may – I don’t read minds) communicate,..

    You don’t have to read minds to know what is being communicated. All you have to read are the published words I posted earlier. Here they are again:

    Constitution of the Confederate States of America
    Article I, Section 9, Par. 4
    No…law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

    I redacted the earlier post to make it easier for you to grasp.

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  26. Guarneri says:

    I understand the point. But who or what body is making the public policy choice? Who is guarding against censorship? You and I would agree that certain statues, symbols or naming are distasteful. But they are part of the regions history, and there are those who feel differently. I can only see putting it up for a vote if a czar mentality is not to prevail.

    You apparently have more faith than I in the motivations and actions of advocates. I am not a religious man, yet recognize that there are those who would stamp out all public references to religion if given the chance. Similarly, faux outrage has been generated by those wanting to eliminate the “offensive” mascots of sports teams. And who can deny that the motherload issue of abortion has two legitimately competing views depending on onescjudgment about the beginning of “life.” As for the issue at hand, I would observe that the nation has survived despite the crass views of some and that civil rights are not in jeapordy, and would argue that erring on the side of protecting free expression is the more prudent course.

    It’s midnight here in London. Gotta go.

    Best.

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  27. @Guarneri: Your use of the word “censorship” is incorrect in this context.

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  28. An Interested Party says:

    Oh my, someone get out the fainting couch and the smelling salts! To remove statues of known traitors from public spaces and to criticize those who would flaunt symbols of racism and treason is now “censorship”…meanwhile…

    …civil rights are not in jeapordy…

    Tell that to Republican-controlled state legislatures that are doing everything they can to make it harder for certain people to vote…there is plenty of proof of this…

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  29. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds:

    had Lee read his Bible he’d have already known that

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/on-the-removal-of-csa-symbols/#ixzz4mNlqEIMs

    Modern Jews, Christians and Muslims might wish this what true, but thr fact is that their shared bible (the Old Testament) mentions slavery matter of factory a number of times, and never speaks against it. So the New Testament must condemn it, right? Nope, pretty much the same thing: mentions it in passing, admonishes slaves to be obedient and masters fair.

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  30. Tony W says:

    @MarkedMan: Religion is hardly the scion we should herald for morality.

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  31. Sleeping Dog says:

    The removal of Confederate statuary came up at breakfast in in Cow Hampshire, there was mutterings about how this was a denial of southern heritage. I pointed out that these men were traitors, more muttering but no challenges to the facts. Too much watching Fox News.

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  32. Andre Kenji says:

    @DrDaveT: Societies that used to have large numbers of slaves are societies that are defined by slavery. Most societies that had a plantation based economy are now very poor countries, and that’s not a coincidence. Many problems in Brazil can traced to the fact that the country used to be largest importer of slaves in the American Continent(I think that explains in part the fact that the country has poor institutions, for instances). A lot of slang and expressions in Brazilian Portuguese are related to slavery.

    Slavery was an essential component of the Southern economy, it defined a lot of the Modern South. It’s impossible to separate these two things.

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  33. de stijl says:

    Confederate symbology is a direct response to the civil rights movement as has been noted.

    It is white fear. Expicitly, it is the fear of the loss of white privelege.

    ——

    I know. I know. “Privelege”

    And “White Privelege” to boot.

    I must be an aggrieved SJW with dirty dreads.

    No, white straight affluent male here.

    But stick with me, CSA gear is a refutation of emancipation.

    Not fear of releasing slaves ‘cuz that would be super sketch. Slavery is obvs mega bad, but those unfortunate few affected should be glad and appreciative that they were plucked from deepest darkest Africa and “transported” to God’s chosen land. We christianized those folks and saved their souls and rescued them from depravity.

    This is the best land and the best country that ever was.

    Your dissent and your desire for liberty and agency are offensive to me on a very deep level.

    I’m officially butt-hurt. You are purposefully ignoring the positive aspects of withdrawing you from a bleak, Godless land to this Eden. I will go to my grave believing that because the alternative is madness.

    The stars and bars are a symbol. If you fly it, you are conflicted but complicit.

    True emancipation means that you no longer have any appreciable power over the newly emancipated. They no longer have to fear you (or accede to you.)

    Sorry, but no forgiveness from me. You chose poorly.

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  34. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    Slavery is obvs mega bad, but those unfortunate few affected should be glad and appreciative that they were plucked from deepest darkest Africa and “transported” to God’s chosen land.

    While it was undoubtably terrible for the folks abducted and sold into slavery, if you look at Africa now… colonialism and independence caused more problems for the descendants of those not taken, compared to slavery and emancipation caused for the descendants of the survivors of those taken.

    I have no idea what sub-Saharan Africa would have been like without colonialism, but it didn’t fare well with colonialism. Also, Ebola.

    So, sarcastically meant or not, there is a touch of truth there.

    I blame white men. White men of a few hundred years ago, mostly. Most of the white men to blame were likely cisgender and straight, to boot.

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  35. michilines says:

    I’m sorry, but the current batch of Lost Cause defenders are idiots. Just look to the recent idiocy in Houston. They don’t even know their own history. Sam Houston didn’t want Texas to join the confederates.

    It’s not about censorship. It’s about knocking heads.

    Gustopher: they will outlive all of us, I think. Africa has always been more diverse than any other place on the planet. It is the birth place of our species and I think the last people on this planet will live there and not somewhere else.

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  36. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    I blame Martin Luther, personlly.

    White, hetero, privileged Martin Luther.

    His nail, nay his dissent doomed “The West.” :-;

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  37. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Guarneri: I am a religious man and have no problem whatsoever with a society that stamps out all references to religion in public life. Such a nation cannot diminish my faith at all; it can only diminish itself and the fabric of it’s people. Most of your contributions to what we should laughingly (in your case) refer to as “the discussion” serve mostly to diminish your own credibility as a serious thinker, and yet you worry about your contributions to the incivility of society not at all. I wish you were a religious man; it might do you some good.

    Enjoy London.

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  38. de stijl says:

    Furthermore, I also blame:

    Willem Defoe
    Paul Rudd
    Zoey Fitzgerald
    The Old Spice Guy
    Paul Westerberg
    JoJo the dog faced boy
    Dikembe Matumbo
    Flo
    Annika Sorenstam
    Martin Freeman
    Bai Ling

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  39. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I once met a student’s assertion about states’ rights vs. slavery with the question, “Then why did the Dred Scott decision in effect declare that states had, at best, very limited rights to keep slavery out?” No answer.

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  40. KM says:

    @DrDaveT :
    I would argue this is still true today. “Southern” is a defensive identification, one that comes in to play when cultural norms get challenged and no real defense is at hand. It’s a fallback oppositional grouping instead of some kind of unifying culture. You will rarely hear someone ID themselves as a Northerner but rather by their state or perhaps region (Tri-state, etc) much like someone from the Continent would say they were French instead of European. Texans and Floridians still have very little in common and will most likely butt heads but as soon as a New Yorker walks into the room, its North vs South all over again.

    For fun, point out all those Southern coastal states that somehow get a pass when “the coasts” come up. I once let someone rave about the evil coastal elites who were ruining the country and should be wiped from the map. When I said we should start with Houston and Mobile, he shut up fast….

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  41. CSK says:

    @KM:

    YES! Yes, yes, yes.

    “East Coast elites” really means “anyone who lives between Boston/Cambridge and Washington, D.C.”

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  42. al-Alameda says:

    @KM:

    For fun, point out all those Southern coastal states that somehow get a pass when “the coasts” come up. I once let someone rave about the evil coastal elites who were ruining the country and should be wiped from the map. When I said we should start with Houston and Mobile, he shut up fast….

    Hear hear!
    Basically, since the end of Reconstruction those non-liberal coastal elites – From Virginia and the Carolinas all the way to Houston – have been running Congress and the country.

    Trump notwithstanding, isn’t it time to give the non-Confederacy a chance?

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  43. michael reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Yes, the Bible does endorse slavery, but Lee previously recognized that slavery was an evil and yet continued to defend it. It’s that hypocrisy the Bible would have denigrated.

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  44. @KM: I am going to disagree insofar as there is a distinct “southern” culture that is identifiable. There is a linkage of social norms, food, vocabulary, music, clothing, and and any number of other things that are distinct.

    There are definite variations–and there is a clear difference between southern and the Deep South.

    Texas is on the fringe of the south (and east Texas is more southern than is west Texas). The Florida panhandle, in places, is very much like Alabama and Georgia, while southern Florida is clearly not.

    Yes, some cities (e.g., Atlanta, Houston, etc.) are less “Southern” than the more rural areas (although Atlanta is certainly more southern than is Los Angeles or San Diego).

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  45. KM says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Texas is on the fringe of the south (and east Texas is more southern than is west Texas). The Florida panhandle, in places, is very much like Alabama and Georgia, while southern Florida is clearly not.

    But that causes the problem of what exactly are they if not Southern? I totally get states not being homogeneous (upstate NY vs NYC is a shock to many who think its liberal land all over). I would put the division as rural/urban rather then south/north. Rural folks from the south, north, west and east have a similar verbiage, culture, clothing, etc. Frankly, the only thing I would put as uniquely Southern is the accents and food and even then its because of the commercialization of the idea in the last century. Things like fried okra and soul food wouldn’t have been so prevalent and grits could have be found surprisingly far north.

    I don’t dispute that there is a “Southern” identity so much as it’s a forced one based on cherry picked coincidences. You don’t really see people talking about their Midwest identity even though all those linkages you mentioned being just as valid. It’s more….. hey, you have blues and we have blues we’re sooooo alike vs any real cohesive bonds. That whole parts of the state need to be left out since they don’t apply makes it even more artificial. The Deep South is definitely a thing but when a Virginian waffles on whether they are “Southern” or not, you know it’s more of a cultural ideal then a fact.

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  46. @KM: But that is how this culture thing works. It is not easily defined by the lines on the map.

    For example, there is clearly a Texas identity, but it is not the same across the entire state, and there are various ways to slice and dice it.

    There is a clear western identity and a clear Pacific coast identity (and it, too, can be sliced and diced–NoCal and SoCal are distinct, but they both have some clear Cal in them that is quite distinct from Alabama southern).

    Indeed, you note “you know it’s more of a cultural ideal then a fact.” Well, sure. Except culture is a fact of life, so I am not sure I get your dichotomy here.

    (And I think there is a Midwest identity. I know that the is a New England identity, etc.)

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  47. bookdragon says:

    @MarkedMan: The bible never speaks against slavery?

    You mean all that scripture we read every year at Passover is from some other book?

    (Yes, I know the bible talks about slavery as a legal practice, but the south never practiced biblical slavery. There was no Year of Jubilee. There was no recognition that slaves were as human as their masters, and certainly no “for we were slaves in Eqypt” admonition to treat them with justice and dignity. And as to the NT, if you read Philemon it’s pretty clear Paul is making a case that a slave who is a fellow Christian should be treated as a brother and freed.)

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  48. Tyrell says:

    It seems that appropriate places to move these monuments would be the National Civil War Parks and Battlegrounds, and Civil War Museums. My two favorite Civil War monuments are the North Carolina Memorial at Gettysburg, and the Stonewall Jackson monument at Manassas.
    We have to wonder what will be next: renaming the Washington Monument, removing Jefferson from the Jefferson Memorial, closing Grant’s tomb, renaming Jackson Square in New Orleans (“the man who saved New Orleans”), removing the Custer monument. I think we will see some who want cleansing from the history books of the two wars the US fought against Britain.
    Watch “The Day Georgia Howled: Sherman’s March To the Sea”. General Sherman – “the father of total war”. Sherman’s destruction in our state was unequaled until Hurricane Floyd came through.

    “There stands Jackson like a stone wall”

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  49. Andre Kenji says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I live some miles from a city founded by families from Alabama, that wanted to keep slaves after the end of Civil War. Slavery creates bonds where they shouldn’t exist.

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  50. MarkedMan says:

    @bookdragon:

    it’s pretty clear

    It may be pretty clear to us, since we “know” that enslavement is un-Christian. But some of those same passages were interpreted in the exact opposite sense for many centuries. As far as I know there is no place in old or New Testament that speaks explicitly and clearly asgainst slavery, and a fair number of places where it is referenced in a morally neutral tone. If I’m wrong I would appreciate a chapter and verse. I would truly be pleased to be wrong.

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  51. Kari Q says:

    @CSK:

    To which I reply, “Then why did the Declaration of Secession by South Carolina specifically state that the premier states’ right they were interested in keeping was the right to own slaves?”

    Not just South Carolina but every single state that seceded named slavery in their declaration of secession. Some of them named no issue other than slavery.

    I had a similar conversation once and the response was “That was just an excuse they came up with to justify something they’d decided to do.”

    I can only wonder what secret reason they believed was the true motivation that was so abhorrent that maintaining and extending slavery seemed like a better excuse.

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  52. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    About the New England identity: Of course there is one, but it’s become diluted over the past half-century by people from other parts of the country who’ve settled here. Eastern Mass. is more characteristically “New England” than western Mass., which has seen an influx of New Yorkers and New Jerseyites building vacation houses and then permanent residences in the Berkshires and the Pioneer Valley. Their speech, their ethos are those of greater metro NY.

    I remember once having to inform a ten-year resident of a Berkshire hill town (an NJ transplant) that Boston was the capital of Massachusetts and not Springfield. I’m not sure she believed me.

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  53. Kari Q says:

    @Tyrell:

    General Sherman – “the father of total war”

    1. This wasn’t total war.

    2. He isn’t the one who came up with it.

    I suggest you look up Chambersburg, Penn, which was nearly totally destroyed, with much less reason, by Confederate troops under Jubal Early.

    In any case, this was far from “total war.” Sherman gave orders, which were mostly followed, not to destroy or seize private property including homes. The property seized or damaged was overwhelmingly industrial, governmental, military, or food needed for his men and animals. Civilians were not targeted. They could, in fact, prevent damage and danger by not resisting Sherman’s men; when Savannah surrendered without a fight, he left it intact.

    Sherman’s destruction in our state was unequaled until Hurricane Floyd came through.

    and shortened the war by cutting off the rebel army from supplies, undermining support for the rebellion among the civilian population, and demonstrating that the Union army could operate at will in the area in rebellion. Shortening the war undoubtedly saved lives in the long run.

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  54. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am going to disagree insofar as there is a distinct “southern” culture that is identifiable. There is a linkage of social norms, food, vocabulary, music, clothing, and and any number of other things that are distinct.

    Actually, this is precisely the claim I was trying to refute. In 1860, this was not true. There was no distinct, identifiable southern culture other than the economic culture of plantation slavery and small farmers. The various states or subregions of what we now call “The South” had their own cultural norms, their own foods, their own music, their own accents and vocabulary, etc. — but they weren’t particularly similar across the South. (Well, apart from fried chicken :-) )

    What’s more, those non-economic regional patterns ignored the boundary between free and slave states, to a large extent. The two sides of the Mason-Dixon line were indistiguishable; southern Illinois-Indiana-Ohio were much more like Kentucky and West Virginia in their speech and dress and habits than they were like Rockford or Sandusky, much less Chicago or Cleveland. Maryland is another key test case — clearly close kin to Virginia pre-war, clearly not part The South today.

    Post-rebellion, the South became unified by the fact of their rebellion and defeat. The commonality of culture that you see is the result of the war, not a contributing cause. Without it, I don’t think you would have Texans and Virginians and Floridians and Kentuckians today all identifying as “Southern”, except in rare contexts.

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  55. CSK says:

    @Kari Q:

    Indeed. I cited South Carolina because it was the first to secede.

    @michael reynolds:

    About the glorification of the Lost Cause: I wonder how much of that we can blame on David O. Selznick and Gone with the Wind? Have you ever watched the prologue to the movie? It scrolls across the screen with references to “cavaliers” and “gallantry” and “knights and their ladies fair.”

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  56. @DrDaveT: A couple of thoughts:

    1) Sure, there are clear elements of solidarity linked to the CSA and the Lost Cause.

    But,

    2) You can’t pretend like that is everything, not can you discount 100+ years of other stuff that has been going on.

    3) I don’t know how to say this without sounding like I am picking a fight (which I am not): but you sounds like the stereotypical “coastal elite” telling the folks in flyover country that they don’t know their own reality.

    4) As much as I am clearly interested in the south (and the US in general) coming to terms with its past, you can’t just reduce all there is about the region as being a result of the CSA. I have lived in CA, TX, and AL–there are rather clearly distinct sub-cultures to be associated with the areas in question. I am not even sure how that is debatable.

    5)

    In 1860, this was not true.

    What do you base that on?

    Post-rebellion, the South became unified by the fact of their rebellion and defeat. The commonality of culture that you see is the result of the war, not a contributing cause.

    I think this is a gross over-generalization and of the type that is counter-productive. Do you really think you are going to get people to get over the past if you tell them that their entire cultural identity is linked to the Lost Cause ethos?

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  57. There is, I will allow, a certain southern ethos linked to the lost cause narrative, but it is problematic to pretend that it is the totality of southernness.

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  58. @CSK:

    About the glorification of the Lost Cause: I wonder how much of that we can blame on David O. Selznick and Gone with the Wind? Have you ever watched the prologue to the movie? It scrolls across the screen with references to “cavaliers” and “gallantry” and “knights and their ladies fair.”

    Ugh, yes.

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  59. MarkedMan says:

    A bit off topic, but I’ve been fascinated by who calls who “Yank” or “Yankee” Years ago I lived in New Orleans and later, Atlanta. I camped and hiked all throughout the Blue Ridge, and have lived a total of nearly a decade in a several places in Maryland. Two decades in upstate NY in two different places and a stint in Connecticut. And I’ve spent significant amounts of time in factories all over the South and the Northeast. And gradually I became aware: “Yankee” is anyone significantly north of you. And the amount of insult is directly correlated to how far south. So in a factory in Mississippi, even Atlantans were sometimes referred to as Yankees, mostly because of how much the Norther migrants had changed the city. Native Atlantans though, well they would take those as fighting words. People in Georgia and South Carolina felt the Yank-itude started as soon as Research Triangle Park, but those inhabitants felt they were just as Southern as their more cotton based brethren. Virginia might have had historical chops, but almost anything south of Raleigh was universally assumed to be Yankee territory – except of course by those who lived there. Marylanders are always a little bit on the fence (Union, but the canons on Federal Hill normally pointed in towards Baltimore, not out at the Harbor, however fast they could be changed), but were sure you had to reach Pennsylvania before there were real Yankees. And there, people assume it was up north of NYC. And at last there, in CT, were the first people who conceded there might be some Yankees around. It was no insult either but rather a way to describe long time residents who were thrifty and taciturn. Most Connecticutioners felt there were more in western Mass, and to get any numbers you had to get up towards NH, Vermont and even Maine. I haven’t spent as much time up there, but I’ve met more than one native who felt complimented to be called “Yankee”.

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  60. MarkedMan says:

    A bit off topic, but I’ve been fascinated by who calls who “Yank” or “Yankee” Years ago I lived in New Orleans and later, Atlanta. I camped and hiked all throughout the Blue Ridge, and have lived a total of nearly a decade in a several places in Maryland. Two decades in upstate NY in two different places and a stint in Connecticut. And I’ve spent significant amounts of time in factories all over the South and the Northeast. And gradually I became aware: “Yankee” is anyone significantly north of you. And the amount of insult is directly correlated to how far south. So in a factory in Mississippi, even Atlantans were sometimes referred to as Yankees, mostly because of how much the Norther migrants had changed the city. Native Atlantans though, well they would take those as fighting words. People in Georgia and South Carolina felt the Yank-itude started as soon as Research Triangle Park, but those inhabitants felt they were just as Southern as their more cotton based brethren. Virginia might have had historical chops, but almost anything south of Raleigh was universally assumed to be Yankee territory – except of course by those who lived there. Marylanders are always a little bit on the fence (Union, but the canons on Federal Hill normally pointed in towards Baltimore, not out at the Harbor, however fast they could be changed), but were sure you had to reach Pennsylvania before there were real Yankees. And there, people assume it was up north of NYC. And at last there, in CT, were the first people who conceded there might be some Yankees around. It was no insult either but rather a way to describe long time residents who were thrifty and taciturn. Most Connecticutioners felt there were more in western Mass, and to get any numbers you had to get up towards NH, Vermont and even Maine. I haven’t spent as much time up there, but I’ve met more than one native who felt complimented to be called “Yankee”.

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  61. christopher osborne says:

    @MarkedMan: I cannot remember where I head it first, but to someone from England, a Yankee is an American; to an American, a Yankee is a northerner; to a northerner, a Yankee is someone from New England, to someone from New England, a Yankee is a Vermonter, to a Vermonter, a Yankee is someone who eats pie for breakfast….

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  62. CSK says:

    @christopher osborne:

    That’s true.

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  63. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I don’t know how to say this without sounding like I am picking a fight (which I am not):

    That’s appreciated; I’m really not disagreeing with you as much as perhaps you think I am. Let me see if I can be more clear. (Though my non-coastal non-elite cred is better than you think.)

    1) Sure, there are clear elements of solidarity linked to the CSA and the Lost Cause.

    Ah, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. The Lost Cause is an ex post facto rationalization, piled on top of the much less specific earlier sense of Southern solidarity that grew out of the long decades of forced political unity in defense of slavery. The Lost Cause narrative didn’t exist prior to the war either.

    3) [You] sound like the stereotypical “coastal elite” telling the folks in flyover country that they don’t know their own reality.

    I was born and raised in flyover country. Both of my parents were the first ever college grads in their respective families. They’d be tickled pink to hear I was mistaken for “coastal elite”.

    4) As much as I am clearly interested in the south (and the US in general) coming to terms with its past, you can’t just reduce all there is about the region as being a result of the CSA. I have lived in CA, TX, and AL–there are rather clearly distinct sub-cultures to be associated with the areas in question. I am not even sure how that is debatable.

    5)

    In 1860, this was not true.

    What do you base that on?

    Post-rebellion, the South became unified by the fact of their rebellion and defeat. The commonality of culture that you see is the result of the war, not a contributing cause.

    I think this is a gross over-generalization and of the type that is counter-productive. Do you really think you are going to get people to get over the past if you tell them that their entire cultural identity is linked to the Lost Cause ethos?

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/on-the-removal-of-csa-symbols/#ixzz4mToXpXYM

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  64. @DrDaveT: At this point I am not sure what your point is.

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  65. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I clicked on the wrong key in the middle of replying. I then clicked “Edit” and fixed the whole thing… only to have it perhaps time out first.

    Crap.

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  66. @DrDaveT:

    The commonality of culture that you see is the result of the war,

    I am sorry, but I call BS on that. It is grossly over-simplistic.

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  67. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    At this point I am not sure what your point is.

    OK, in lieu of the long and oh-so-convincing post that just got eaten, let me sum up. Picking up at point #4…

    1860 was a bad choice of year on my part; the extended defense of slavery up to that point had already unified the South politically, so that Floridians could think of themselves as “of a group” with Arkansans, and (some) Marylanders with Texans. But the key here is that slavery was the direct cause of this unification; it was not built on any underlying existing common culture or ethos across the South that was unrelated to slavery. Your point about subcultures is on-point — that’s all there were, at first.

    5) I base this on my admittedly fallible memory of things written in the first half of the 19th century by people living in the states that would become the Confederacy. It’s empirical, and thus subject to correction by facts.

    I will rephrase my gross generalization — it was not the war per se that unified the South. It was slavery, and the long defense of slavery. The war simply locked in that bunker mentality. But I see no evidence of a pan-Southern common culture, apart from the common practice of slavery, in the first half of the 19th century. (I see even less evidence of a common Northern culture before the war.)

    This is really hard to see in hindsight, because we’ve been used to thinking of The South as a thing for so long, and things like the Lost Cause ethos just reinforce that. The pan-Southern unity was (and is) so much more than just the Lost Cause — but I’m arguing the practice of slavery was a sufficient cause for that unification.

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  68. @DrDaveT:

    I see no evidence of a pan-Southern common culture

    Try explaining okra, grits, and black eyed peas to a dude in a SoCal grocery store and get back to me.

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  69. I suspect, btw, this conversation would be easier as an actual conversation.

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  70. My point about the “Coastal Elite” crack is you are doing, it seems to me, what conservatives, especially in flyover country/the south often say liberals do: deny their own experience and tell them that they know best and, to top it all off, everything about them is about the worst elements of racial history in the US. If you are going to tell southern people that their entire understanding of their southernness is because of slavery, what is the point of a conversation?

    BTW: you are also dealing with a broad simplification of “southern”–Texas southern ain’t Cajun southern ain’t Alabama southern, and so forth.

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  71. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Try explaining okra, grits, and black eyed peas

    The half of that sentence that you deleted changes its meaning considerably.

    Okra was introduced by the slave trade, so that would seem to count on my side of the discussion. No slaves, no okra — they went together.

    Black-eyed peas were probably also introduced by the slave trade, but it’s less clear.

    I don’t know when grits became differentiated from other corn mush dishes, which were also common in the North. So maybe that’s one.

    Nobody doubts that these are now signifiers of Southern Culture (though I grew up eating both okra and black-eyed peas, in a former Union state). The question is how much of what is thought of as traditional Southern culture did not depend directly or indirectly on the practice of slavery. ‘Grits’ is probably not enough to base a feeling of sectional unity on.

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  72. @DrDaveT: The problem with your thesis isn’t that slavery isn’t part of the story–it is that you are trying to make it the entire story.

    Somehow I don’t have the patience to try and delineate cultural signifies in a way that will meet your standards. I won grits, so I guess I will move on.

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  73. Here is my main problem: no complex sociological phenomenon is monocausal.

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  74. Tyrell says:

    @Kari Q: “Father of total war” : a quote from a History Channel documentary on Sherman’s March. A very good program with an interesting portrayal of General Sherman.
    There are remains of an old mill in Columbia, SC that Sherman burned down. It is on the river across from the Columbia Zoo.
    My favorite Union general was Burnside.
    “Burn this town to the ground !” (Judge Proctor, “The Night Riders”, tv’s “Gunsmoke”)

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  75. Kari Q says:

    @Tyrell:

    “Father of total war” : a quote from a History Channel documentary on Sherman’s March.

    In which case, let’s just be glad that they didn’t work in aliens, Bigfoot, or mermaids.

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  76. Tyrell says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Add these to the southern food plate: Moon Pie and a Sun Drop. A very popular snack, but only in certain southern locales.

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  77. @Steven L. Taylor: Another problem: the thesis reduces African American contributions to culture to slavery. It is like saying that without slavery we wouldn’t have jazz. The statement is both true and grossly reductive.

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  78. Moosebreath says:

    A comic strip related to this discussion.

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  79. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: The earliest references I find to “scorched earth”-type warfare (the total war variety) are found in the building of the Assyrian empire in, maybe 400 B.C.E.

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  80. flat earth luddite says:

    With no apologies to those who bemoan the loss of the “War of Northern Aggression,” remember that winners write the history, and you guys LOST.

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  81. @flat earth luddite: ironically, in the case of the US Civil War much of the post-war narrative was written by the losers–hence the existence of all these statues.

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  82. Tyrell says:

    “If old Stuart hadn’t got lost, we would have won that battle”

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  83. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The problem with your thesis isn’t that slavery isn’t part of the story–it is that you are trying to make it the entire story. […] Here is my main problem: no complex sociological phenomenon is monocausal.

    So, before you ever wrote that, the website ate a second moderately long entry in which I said (among other things) that I’m enough of a historian to know that single overriding factor arguments are always wrong, and it’s complicated and messy and so forth. Except in those very rare cases where there really is one factor that dwarfs the others.

    (You’re right — this would have worked much better as an actual conversation. I had hopes for it. I’m not sure it’s worth continuing at this point.)

    I’ll close with just 2 points and leave it be.

    1. Though you find it aesthetically displeasing, it really is both true and descriptive that there would be no jazz if it weren’t for slavery. That’s useless as a way to understand jazz, or the contributions of African-Americans to culture — but that’s not what this thread is about. It’s about why the South is the way it is, culturally.

    2. I encourage you to do this parallel thought experiment in alternative history: how might the cultures of the North and the South (as geographically and culturally delineated today) have been similar to and different from the way they are today, if slavery had been abolished in the colonies 1706 (when it was abolished on English soil)?

    I would suggest that the North might still be fairly recognizable, but the South could not be. I think that’s important for understanding the South, and no more of an oversimplification than is warranted by the magnitude of the effect.

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  84. gVOR08 says:

    @Tyrell: @Tyrell:

    “If old Stuart hadn’t got lost, we would have won that battle”

    Stuart didn’t get lost. He knew exactly where he was, on the other side of the U.S. Army from Lee. This came about because Meade, a much underrated general, got off the mark and headed north, paralleling Lee, faster than expected.

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  85. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    there would be no jazz if it weren’t for slavery.

    In my ongoing effort to understand conservatives, I read Russel Kirk, The Conservative Mind, a few years ago. It is highly instructive, but not in way Kirk intended. He had a long chapter on conservative thought in the ante bellum South. He started out saying he’d mostly ignore slavery because it was complicated, so there was no hope of an honest analysis. Kirk felt a leisured elite like the plantation “aristocracy” was necessary to preserve culture. I’ve asked occasionally what were the great cultural accomplishments of the 19th century South. Jazz is all I can come up with, a creation of the oppressed, not the oppressors.

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  86. @gVOR08: Indeed–weirdly there is a space for analysis of the south that neither totally ignores slavery and treating it that the sole variable 😉

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  87. Tyrell says:

    @gVOR08: Then there is the Pickett’s Charge controversy.

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  88. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    weirdly there is a space for analysis of the south that neither totally ignores slavery [nor treats it as] the sole variable

    Apparently that space is mostly full of grits. :-)

    (Weirdly, there is considerable space between “treating it as the sole variable” and “cannot be explained without.” It’s the “necessary vs. sufficient” gap, in fact.)

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  89. @DrDaveT: If you are going to say that the development of the south can’t be explained without slavery, we are in agreement. It is your insistence that it is the master variable that explain all things that I dispute.

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  90. J-Dub says:

    @CSK: I am a transplant into the Pioneer Valley in Western Mass, in Holyoke, which oddly enough is mostly Puerto Rican. The rest of the town is mostly Irish and seems to have a strong New England culture.

    I’m a native Virginian raised in Maryland, where I went to a Junior High in Prince George’s County named after Roger B. Taney and with a “Rebel” mascot, complete with a Confederate Soldier festooned on the front of our yearbook. By my second year there (1981) we were renamed the Tigers and then some time after that the school became Thurgood Marshall Middle School. Progress, but then PG County is majority black so they have the power to make appropriate changes.

    On a side note, if you have ever been to Richmond you may leave wondering who actually won the war.

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  91. DrDaveT says:

    @christopher osborne:

    a Yankee is someone who eats pie for breakfast….

    I’ve heard that one, too — specifically from a person who caught me eating pie for breakfast.

    (Which I have done all my life, despite being from the South Midlands, as were my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents before me.)

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  92. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It is your insistence that it is the master variable that explain all things that I dispute.

    I didn’t say it explains all things. I said that no thing can be explained without reference to it — which (to me at least) is a radically different claim. It’s a much weaker claim than “slavery explains everything”, but a stronger claim than “the development of the South can’t be explained without slavery”.

    The specific question that triggered this whole thing was the origins of a pan-Southern core culture, which clearly exists today. I opined (though perhaps not very clearly) that this culture did not pre-date the polarization of North and South over slavery, and that no such culture would have achieved similar pan-Southern status absent the slave trade, the practice of slavery, and the Civil War that resulted. That’s the only specific hypothesis I’m considering in this thread.

    I think it’s an empirical question — an interested researcher “could look it up”, as Yogi Berra would say. Is the preponderance of southern culture like grits, or like rock-and-roll? Which aspects of it might have developed similarly, absent slavery? What mechanisms might have spread them to the bounds of the would-have-been Confederacy, but no further? I find it a fascinating question, and I have been struck by how strongly (it seems to me) the prima facie evidence points toward one of those rare cases where the oversimplification is importantly correct.

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  93. Tyrell says:

    @DrDaveT: There was (and maybe still is) a custom or rule in many areas of the South that you don’t sweets and desserts for breakfast. I remember it well when I was a young child. But many a morning we had toast, jelly, and pancakes drenched in syrup !

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  94. @DrDaveT: Just to clarify: I never stated anything that came close to saying that one could speak of the development of the south without reference to slavery.

    Indeed, you can’t explain America, let alone the south, absent that variable. Slavery, Jim Crow, not to mention westward expansion and the Trail of Tears, the treatment of Chinese and Mexican laborers in the west. We could toss in other examples. One could highlight the American cultural ideal of self-reliance and merit and then have to consider how slavery and taking land from the natives plays into that narrative, and so forth. However, as important as that variable is, it is still one variable.

    Beyond that, I object, on social scientific and historical grounds to what I see as an over-simplification–forget the specifics of the subject material–I think it is impossible to make the kind of claim you are making to any example of sociological development.

    On contemporary political grounds I fear that the position also smacks of anti-southern bias in a way that is not constructive. And I say that as someone whose original post is clearly critical of large swaths of persons in the contemporary south–including some friends, neighbors, and family members.

    Conservatives constantly moan that liberals think everything is about race and here you are saying, at least as I understand your argument, that yes, all things linked to southern culture are somehow about slavery and therefore race. And at that point I suspect that any discussion of why CSA statutes ought to be taken down is over because one side will have stopped listening. Of course, if I thought your hypothesis was correct, I guess this aspect of the discussion would be irrelevant, as correct is correct. It is just that since I think the underlying hypothesis is flawed, I think the rhetorical and political ramifications are all the worse.

    And yes, I really should just let it go… 😉

    It is hard enough to get folks in the south (and let’s be honest, in the rest of the country as well) to confront our past racial sins, but forget about it if we can’t see the south with a bit more nuance than your position would suggest.

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  95. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    and here you are saying, at least as I understand your argument, that yes, all things linked to southern culture are somehow about slavery and therefore race.

    No, I really am not saying that. About is not a word I used, or would use, and I have tried very hard to avoid saying things that you could interpret that way. It’s disappointing. The fact that okra arrived on slave ships is not “about race”.

    Let me see if I can find a totally unrelated analogy. Suppose you were trying to understand the history and common culture of the Levant and Arabian Peninsula. It is certainly possible to trace local customs and quirks that pre-existed Islam and were not fundamentally transformed by it, but all of the common culture that now spans the entire region was hopelessly, irrevocably mediated by, shaped by, transformed by the birth and struggles and expansion and consolidation of that religion.

    How is that different? What is an acceptable (to you) statement to make about the degree of influence Islam has had on the Middle East, that does not qualify as gross oversimplification? I wouldn’t mind if you were arguing that I’m wrong based on actual evidence, rather than saying (as best I can tell) “you must be wrong because that kind of argument is always wrong”. Even about Islam in the Middle East.

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