Winston Churchill is famously quoted as saying, “History is written by the victors.”
So then how was American civil war history written by the losers?
After the civil war, the Confederate South crafted a narrative that aimed to justify its role in the war as heroic and just. This movement has come to be known as the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, and its mission was two-fold: justify the actions and beliefs of the Confederacy and teach their children and future generations of white southerners to believe their fight was admirable and just.
Umm, bold much?!
The catalyst behind the “Lost Cause” was a group of white, female socialites that called themselves the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). Founded in 1894, their mission included, “creating a social network, memorializing the war, maintaining a ‘truthful record of the noble and chivalric achievements’ of their veterans, and teaching the next generation ‘a proper respect for and pride in the glorious war history’.”
Again, bold much?!
This group used two primary means of advancing the Lost Cause agenda. The first was erecting statues to memorialize and celebrate the Confederate in prominent public spaces. Said simply, these women were out here creating false idols.
Their second strategy was to shape how children think about the war and their southern heritage by influencing what they were taught in schools. That’s right, integrating this bull**** into children’s textbooks! Jesus take the wheel.
The craziest part about this whole thing? The UDC did all of this at a time when women did not have the right to vote and were not participating in politics. Talk about privilege.
What the UDC and the Lost Cause underscore is how deeply engrained so much of this thinking is across certain parts of the U.S. Almost to no fault of their own, millions of children are growing up being taught history, values and ideologies that are broken, and they grow up knowing nothing else.
Now we are not going to sit up here and defend foolishness and make excuses for people buying into racist, white supremacist thinking. But it does present an opportunity to reflect, empathize, and understand that all of us come from different starting points.
Thank you, Vox, for the history lesson. Check out the full video here.