A National Legacy: Our Collective Memory of Slavery, War, and Race

The Transformational Agenda Magazine 26th Edition

400 Years in Seven Movements
The SIXTH Movement

 

A National Legacy: Our Collective Memory of Slavery, War, and Race

Just as the coming of the twentieth century emboldened a rising generation of Alabama lawmakers and others throughout the South to test the bounds of federal civil rights protections, it ushered in a different cultural project: rewriting the narrative of the American Civil War.

White Southerners began to describe the Confederate cause as noble and admirable and insisted the Civil War was not connected to the institution of slavery.

In addition to a state constitution that denied them the vote and other basic rights of citizenship, and a social system that subjected them to racial violence and terror, black Alabamians also witnessed the creation of monuments and a proliferation of narratives that romanticized the Civil War and slavery.

The intensity of Alabama’s resistance to civil rights for African Americans in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is directly related to the inseparable connections between the Confederacy, the slave trade, slavery, and racial hierarchy. Continued denials of this history frustrate efforts to deal truthfully with the past and to destroy the legacy of inequality and hate, which can be found throughout the South.

Following World War II, and into the 1950s and 1960s, Southern white resistance to the civil rights movement on the national stage often shrouded itself in defiant references to the Civil War and the Confederacy’s “bravery in the face of federal tyranny.”

Divorcing the Civil War from its origins in slavery and recasting it as a “states’ rights” struggle gave the Confederate identity renewed political value.

Even today, efforts to recast the Civil War and its origins have continued. The Confederate monument still stands at the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery and, in 1996, Alabama state senator Charles Davidson supported a return of the Confederate flag to the state capitol building. Davidson argued that slavery was a “family institution” and “civilizing influence” that gave enslaved people education and the Christian religion, for which “those converted black Southerners are most grateful today.”

The Transformational Agenda Magazine 26th Edition

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