Still Fighting the Civil War
The American South and Southern History
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
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Praise, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Preface to the Updated Edition
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The Civil War continues to fester in the South more than in other places. Place still matters here and the war was fought on this ground. Its scars are still visible in some areas, and where they are not, memorial markers and statues keep that history alive. It surrounds us, not as obtrusively as it once did, but its presence is still palpable. It is an ill-fitting cloak among the bank...
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I live in a tolerable yet sometimes intolerable place. Its sensual climate lures the unsuspecting, and the grace, manners, and civility of its citizens impart a preternatural quietude that belies the storm beneath. Its culture is rich in music, food, conversation, and literature;yet it can be a barren place, a tundra of conformity, a murderer of imagination, inquiry, and innovation. Some who have loved it most deeply only to uncover the unpleasant...
1 The Past Is
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One of the most frequent comments from newcomers and visitors alike is that the South is still fighting the Civil War. The immanence of the war is a given for a southerner, at least for white southerners. Southerners tend to live in multiple time zones. Past, present, and future are conflated, and the past is the most important of all.We are comfortable with this; it has become second nature. The title character of Mississippi writer Barry...
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It would come to this: a liberating religion would turn confining and harsh, as hard as the lives of the people whose faith rode on the promise of ever after, not here and now. Their evangelical ancestors would scarcely recognize them. For in the forest clearings and towns of the late-eighteenthcentury South, the young, unmarried preachers spoke the Gospel and demanded...
3 Culture Protestants
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As the greatest religious movement in our nation’s history wound down in the mid-1960s, the lessons of grace and redemption imparted by southern blacks did not go unchallenged into the hearts of white southerners. The evangelical Protestantism preached and practiced by the movement did not readily dissolve the myths of southern history and the religious justifications that supported them. White southerners were vigilant about false...
4 Pretty Women
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Southern women conformed to an ideal after the CivilWar and Reconstruction. In the society ordered and arranged by white men, southern women, white and black, occupied a clearly defined place designed to serve and service white men, promote their ambitions, and ensure the tranquility and smooth operation of the domestic realm. The needs of history and the tenets of religion prescribed these roles, and thus bound by tradition and theology,...
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5 Lady Insurrectionists
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It is one of the many ironies of a region steeped in irony that the same faith that blessed white supremacy also inspired the changes that undermined it. Not that those who took comfort from evangelical Christianity and shaped their faith to reshape the South felt they were engaged in heretical or radical activity. The teachings of the Bible that so permeated southern society showed them a way, and they took it....
6 A Woman's Movement
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Most white southern women lived comfortably with prevailing views of southern history. Their clubs espoused the Lost Cause and the Redemption, and their sisters subscribed to white supremacy and patriarchy. Their reform efforts often employed white supremacy as a rhetorical strategy. Patriarchy may have been a velvet chain that enslaved their ambitions and talents,...
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From the time the first African stepped onto the shores of North America, probably early in the sixteenth century with Spanish explorers, the status of blacks posed a dilemma for European transplants. The relationship between black and white (and red during the relatively brief time that Indians composed a sizeable proportion of the southern population) was always a...
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The great tragedy was that southern blacks and whites had touched each other in so many ways over the centuries, but the artifice of history obscured the common bond of place, blood, and culture. Deeper than the casual contacts of workers, and more lasting than the occasional, yet genuine, kindnesses that occurred between black and white, the very essence of southern culture knew no racial boundaries. The amalgam produced a unique...
9 New Battlegrounds, Old Strategies
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Reminiscent of the hopeful freedmen who lined up by the registration desks in the tumultuous days following the Confederacy’s surrender, African Americans after the Voting Rights Act passed stood in registration lines, carefully filling out forms with whatever writing implements they had at hand. One hundred years had passed, and nothing, it seemed, had happened....
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Measuring racial progress in the South since 1965 is a tricky business; there are abundant examples to satisfy both the optimists and the pessimists. How the races perceive each other today reflects to a great extent how each race perceives southern history, how the Civil War and Reconstruction have burrowed into the consciousness of black and white, and how they remain...
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So what is left? A region that is still burying its Civil War dead. Since the 1920s, southern writers, William Faulkner in particular, have demonstrated that the creation of a new perspective would be difficult. The old view was corrupt and corrupted; the new version of modern America lacked spiritual and social conscience. Like Will Barrett in Walker Percy’s...
12 The Real War
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The fellow was near tears. He stood at the back of the room and cried out, “I feel that my heart is being ripped out every day. . . . They’re taking everything away from us.” The audience cheered. I had just completed a twenty-minute presentation on the historical connection between white supremacy and the Confederate battle flag. The audience of roughly 125 white men and women, tightly packed into the community room of the ...
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Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2013
Edition: Updated edition