Redefining Confederate History Month in Mississippi

Last month I reported on efforts to add an interpretive plaque to the Confederate soldier statue on the campus of the University of Mississippi. At the time I expressed some concerns as did others.

It was unfortunate that the school’s history department was not consulted, but today they released a statement that includes their own revisions to the interpretive plaque. It is appropriate that such a statement is released during the state’s official recognition of Confederate History Month.

Mississippi Interpretive PlaqueClick here for additional information on the Atlanta History Center’s interpretive template.

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

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16 comments… add one
  • Boyd Harris Apr 7, 2016 @ 6:14

    I would venture to say that none of the signers to this statement think that their interpretation would be placed word for word on a plaque next to the Confederate monument at UofMiss. Instead, the University History Department is offering their expertise in crafting a new context plaque with other university groups and interested parties. The initial plaque was created by a four member group with no input from university faculty or students. The campus NAACP and Critical Race Group have also released their own suggestions for the plaque in which they directly connect the Lost Cause with the racial views of the mob during the Meredith Riots in 1962. There are portions of that interpretation which as a historian I find problematic. Nevertheless, that is how monuments and memorials are created. A thorough discussion should take place on the community level and that was not even considered when the plaque was installed during Spring Break.

    For more information, I’m sharing a good friend of mine’s first blog post. Amy Fluker received her PhD from the University of Mississippi in 2015 and works on Civil War memory in Missouri. This post provides some of the background on how different generations have viewed/used the campus Confederate monument.!Contextualizing-the-Confederacy-at-the-University-of-Mississippi/c1mbt/68A46011-45CE-4D14-99DA-48FEB362A066

  • Kerry J Apr 5, 2016 @ 15:59

    This is utterly bizarre, and Emancipation Mythology has now become a Frankenstein. The idea that slavery is even mentioned as a cause of the Civil War is preposterous; the idea that slavery is recognized as ” the central cause of the Civil War” is such extreme and shameless propaganda that it genuinely shocks the conscious. With the plain language and explicit words of Abraham Lincoln staring the historians in the face and flatly contradicting this monstrous falsehood, how, exactly is it possible to assert that slavery was the cause of the war?

    The war was fought over the right of a state, or states, to withdraw from the federal union. And nothing else.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2016 @ 16:02

      The good people of Mississippi would disagree with you:

    • Jimmy Dick Apr 5, 2016 @ 16:48

      Why secede then?

    • hankc9174 Apr 6, 2016 @ 4:57

      which raises interesting questions:

      1) why was it only southern, slave-holding states that appreciated the ‘the right of a state to withdraw from the federal union’ in 1860.

      2) of the many millions of possible 11-state combinations to form a confederacy, why was it only the 11 states with the greatest slave percentage of the population to do so?

      • bob carey Apr 6, 2016 @ 13:59

        Allow me to add a third question.
        If it was all about state rights,why did these 11 separate states form a confederation with a central government and a constitution?

  • Patrick Jennings Apr 5, 2016 @ 10:33

    I think this is a nice try, but is still lacking. To start with, the monument has nothing to do with the rest of the south, so they need to limit the opening line to the number of monuments in Mississippi alone. From there the text is mostly OK but smacks of the typical bloat of those modern historians who believe they have full vision on the morality of the past – a mistake when something is written in stone. I would propose the following:

    “From the 1870s through the 1920s, memorial associations erected more than XXX
    Confederate monuments throughout Mississippi. These monuments reaffirmed the
    commitment of many white southerners’ to a “Lost Cause” ideology that justified the
    Confederate defeat as a moral victory and secession as a defense of constitutional
    liberties. The “Lost Cause” insisted that slavery was not a cruel institution and – most
    importantly – that slavery was not a cause of the Civil War. It also conveyed a belief,
    widely accepted throughout the United States, in white racial supremacy. Campaigns
    for legally mandated “Jim Crow” segregation and for the disfranchisement of African
    Americans accompanied celebrations of the “Lost Cause;” these campaigns often
    sparked racial violence, including lynching.

    Slavery was the central cause of the Civil War and freedom was its most important result.
    Although deadly and destructive, the Civil War freed four million enslaved people and led
    to the passage of constitutional amendments that promised national citizenship and equal
    protection of laws, regardless of race. This monument, erected in 1906 to recognize the
    sacrifice of Mississippians who fought to establish the Confederacy as a slave holding republic,
    must now remind us that their loss brought freedom to millions of people.”

    • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2016 @ 10:39

      I like it, but I completely disagree that the “monument has nothing to do with the rest of the South.” Of course it does. It occupies one small place in a broader movement that defined much of the former Confederate South.

      • Patrick Jennings Apr 5, 2016 @ 10:46

        To be honest, I agree. But, the line about “1000’s of monuments” is regional. This statue is local, widening to Mississippi at best. If you fail to keep your public history local…well…you fail. In that failure you open good work to easy attacks.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2016 @ 10:48

          I see your point. Seems to me you can do justice to both perspectives.

  • Pat Young Apr 4, 2016 @ 11:01

    Nothing on the segregationist rally. Apparently history ended in 1906.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 4, 2016 @ 11:12

      As you know, the amount of historical context that can fit on a plaque or wayside marker is limited. That said, I am also surprised that they didn’t at least attempt to address the history of the monument. It appears the department responded to the broader concerns that slavery wasn’t more explicitly acknowledged.

    • Eric A. Jacobson Apr 4, 2016 @ 15:57

      Pat, please tell us what you think the marker should say.

  • Kurt Luther Apr 4, 2016 @ 5:21

    It’s a shame the history dept. wasn’t consulted. The revised text is really good context and background for the monument, but in two paragraphs, there is only half a sentence about the monument itself. The AHC template recommends details about who erected it, a quote from the ceremony, etc. which are unfortunately missing here. The original plaque fell short in providing context; this one falls short in providing detail. Frustrating.

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