U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Confederate Memory: A Reading List

There isn’t much left to say about Confederate Memorialization that hasn’t been said in the last week. Most confederate memorials were created, not in the years immediately following The Civil War, but during the height of the second KKK and the Civil Rights Movement. They are monuments to white supremacy, little more. There are monuments to the confederacry dotting the south, but there are also 31 confederate monuments standing at Gettysburg, which will not be removed, though the majority were put up after 1960. These are not the only such monuments in the North. But I’m not going to rehash these ideas: I am going to suggest some readings, for those who did not grow up obsessed with the Civil War or attend an SEC school where you learned about Civil War memory through osmosis.

1. Dixie’s Daughter’s by Karen Cox. This book is brilliant and super short if you don’t want to commit to a longer monograph. Cox details the ways in which the United Daughters of the Confederacy created the lost cause myths that are still prevalent in Civil War memory. She makes clear that these were calculated choices made by these women and focuses on the ways these myths landed in monuments, textbooks, and innumerable other places.

2.  Race and Reunion by David Blight. Probably everyone has read this book. It’s what  introduced me to Civil War memory in college. But for anyone who still has questions about why and how America remembers the Civil War writ large, this is still essential reading.

3.  Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horowitz. If you are less in the mood for historical monographs, Tony Horowitz does a great job of getting at confederate memory from an ethnographic and journalistic perspective, attempting to understand the lives of confederate sympathizers in the 20th century. Though, my favorite part of this book is Horowitz’s own grappling with his childhood fascination with the confederacy.

4. This essay, published by the Bitter Southerner, after the Confederate Flag came down in Columbia South Carolina, is certainly worth a read.

5.  Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity covers much more then issues of confederate memorialization, but focuses on how and why southerners came to see themselves as a distinct region. Importantly, when referring to Southerners, Cobb is clear to include the identities of African American southerners and issues that may not be stereotypically associated with the South. It’s a great book and covers everything from the UDC to Nascar.

6. Black Reconstruction by W.E.B. Dubois. This might seem a little out of left field, but Dubois’s book is one of the first to focus on the accomplishments of African American southerners during reconstruction, a critical period for anyone studying the lost cause. It serves as a great antidote to mythical stories about the dangers and failures of reconstruction (this book has a lot in common with Foner’s Reconstruction, but predates it by decades).

7. So much of the discussion surround confederate memory has focused on the history of sexual violence against black women. For more on this subject, Deborah Gray White’s Arn’t I A Woman: Females Slave in the Plantation South is essential reading.

7. And Historian Kevin Kruse listed about 100 of his favorite things about the South on twitter, which served as a refreshing antidote to all of the focus on white supremacy, confederate memory and violence. Worth a read.

Please include suggestions and thoughts in the comments!