Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

This Should be the Last Word. . . but Probably Won’t Be

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on January 18, 2011

On his blog Crossroads, Brooks Simpson has what really ought to be the last word on the common arguing tactic of deflecting an historical focus on slavery in the South, and its central role in both Southern society and in the coming of the war, by pointing to racism that existed in the North:

Responsible scholars recognize the persistence and depth of racism among white northerners during the Civil War period.  It’s a key component in constructing the narrative of the sectional crisis, the war, and Reconstruction.  One of the reasons Lincoln hesitated in issuing a proclamation of emancipation was because he knew it would arouse opposition in the free North among Democrats.  None of that, however, has anything to do with the centrality of slavery in southern society or the reasons why secessionists advocated separation and independence: to protect slavery from the threat posed by Lincoln’s election and the long term implications of the Republican triumph in 1860.  Moreover, pointing to the existence of northern racism does not make it disappear from southern society.  Nor does it necessarily follow that because in 1861 most white northerners did not support going to war to destroy slavery (let alone to secure black equality) that white southerners did not go to war to protect a society and a way of life that was ultimately grounded upon and supported by the enslavement of several million human beings.  To deny that is to deny historical reality.

Go read the whole thing, then print out a copy to carry in your wallet.