Civil War Memory and the “Anglo-Saxon Civilization” of The New South

Yesterday while reading about the history of the Confederate monument vandalized for a second time in Charlotte, North Carolina I came across the United Confederate Veterans official program for its dedication. The event took place on June 5, 1929. The program is filled with what you might expect. There is a schedule of events, articles about Stonewall Jackson and other prominent Confederate, images of local and national U.C.V. members  as well as words of support from various ladies auxiliary groups. Advertisements for Davidson College, Merrick’s Chocolate and Plexico can also be found. None of this surprised me.

What did surprise me, however, is a full-page feature on “Negro Schools” and “Negro Education in the South.” Why would this be in a U.C.V. program?

UCV ProgramThe answer has something to do with reference on the monument to the preservation of “Anglo-Saxon Civilization” which possibly attracted the vandals attention. In the comments section Chris Graham drew a helpful distinction between the meaning of this phrase in 1861 and 1929, which at first I didn’t entirely understand.

I think I do now. In fact, I believe the key to interpreting what many people view as a charged reference to white supremacy featured on the monument is to see it alongside the above feature on black education. Flip through the program and you will also see advertisements for Duke Power Company as well as features on “Industrial Charlotte.” Taken together, all of this reflects the values of “The New South.”

The rural black schools featured on the left were all supported by the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which provided funds through Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. On the right some of the “objectives” of the Rosenwald Fund are listed including:

Social relations, involving the whole problem of living together in organized society, such as economics, care of dependents, prevention of crime, and individual adjustment to group life.

Finally, there is a brief editorial about Johnson C. Smith University and the question of whether ‘It Pays To Educate the Negro.’

It turns out that it does, but only if it succeeds in “race building” and leads to a stable black community – a community that contributes to the economic advancement of the region without losing sight of its proper place within that “civilization.”

If this makes sense than it also provides a way to understand the pensions that former camp servants received by the turn of the twentieth century from former Confederate states. Those pension were awarded to individuals who could demonstrate their loyalty to their former masters and the cause for which he fought. The pension reflected vindication of their Lost Cause and also provided a model of what an upstanding black citizen should aspire to following Reconstruction and moments of racial unrest.

The U.C.V.’s program depicts the “Anglo-Saxon Civilization” of a New South, one that the veterans from the Charlotte could celebrate and that the entire community could recognize as their ultimate victory.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

7 comments… add one
  • Pat Young Aug 6, 2015 @ 15:41

    Guess the real Confederates didn’t know their NeoConfederate wannabe descendants would characterize them as Celts.

  • Craig L. Aug 6, 2015 @ 13:56

    The Angles were German and so were the Saxons, but the Angles were already there when the Romans arrived in Britony and called the place Anglia or England. The Saxons moved in after the Roman Empire fell and were basically the same bunch of Germans who were also sacking Rome. Sacking is what Saxons do. Modern Germany has twelve states. Three of them, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony, bisect the country north and south, extending from the Polish border to the North Sea. Eventually the euro will prevail and Great Britain will be known as Anglo-Saxony.

  • BPS Aug 6, 2015 @ 9:15

    Kevin in the article, I read ” leads to a stable black community – a community that contributes to the economic advancement of the region without losing sight of its proper place within that “civilization.””
    I clicked on the screen shot and couldn’t find this in it. Did I miss where it said this, or is this your analysis?

    • Kevin Levin Aug 6, 2015 @ 9:21

      You misplaced the quotation marks. They are mostly my words.

  • cagraham Aug 6, 2015 @ 7:02

    Yeah, these variations in the terms of white supremacy in the post-war years and the twentieth century are important to note. White southerners recognized that they had lost and that their former conception of race relations was no longer tenable. So they rebuilt it, drawing from their contemporary post-war world, using hard science, Populist agrarian nostalgia, colonialism, and a spirit of technological and social entrepreneurialism that Union victory had unleashed. Despite the persistence of violence, this version of white supremacy–“Anglo-Saxon Civilization”–had enough factors that allowed for the humanity of African Americans (in their place) that it possessed the sheen of “civilization.” Like the antebellum version on steroids, but changed enough that while this is happening, it could allow Charles Hamilton Houston at Howard Law to be producing a generation of lawyers who will eventually dismantle it all.

    Anyhow, here is a neat companion to the pensions–the story of Stephen Slade. He was enslaved to Abisha Slade of Caswell County (N.C.), who drove the development of flue-curing bright leaf tobacco. (Perfecting the process was essential to the growth of the tobacco industry in the south.) In the 1880s, a myth developed that the key to flue-curing had been discovered when Stephen Slade fell asleep at his station at a curing barn, and when startled awake, quickly shoveled piles of coal into the barn. The resulting sharp increase in temperature produced the famous bright leaf.

    He may or may not have done that, no one really knows. But the real development of this method was due to the experimentation of local agricultural societies and changes in seed types, transportation, and marketing.

    But Stephen Slade was elevated by tobacco growers in the 1880s to mythic status, and as Barbara Hahn points out,and as Barbara Hahn points out, it was largely because he was a loyal democrat at a time when agrarian/plantation nostalgia was ramping up into the Populist movement. (Also, she notes, because a mythic story will always prevail over a story of plodding technological improvement. My version of this story, btw, comes entirely from her book…this is not my own work.)

    The thing is that the “sleeping slave” story is still current in local history of the development of bright leaf tobacco. It has a prominent place in the very good exhibit on bright leaf tobacco culture and history at Duke Homestead.

    Again, this wouldn’t have happened if the Confederacy had won the war.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 6, 2015 @ 8:01

      Wow. This is the first I’ve heard of Stephen Slade so thanks for sharing it. Interesting how this version of the story places a former slave (behaving irresponsibly) at the center of a story about the modern production of a cash crop. I need to check out this book. Thanks again, Chris.

  • Christian McWhirter Aug 6, 2015 @ 4:03

    Fun fact: Rosenwald grew up across the street from the Lincoln Home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.