Confederate History Month

By , April 19, 2010 9:20 pm

If you know me, you know that I love history and that I truly believe having a complete understanding of history is important so we’re not doomed to repeat it (as the saying goes). Understanding and celebrating history, though, are two different things. So, the fact that several states are currently having Confederate History Month boggles my mind.

Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Bob McDonnell Holds Women's Rally

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell came under fire earlier this month for leaving slavery out of his declaration of April as Confederate History Month. He apologized, put slavery in the new declaration and the story died shortly after that. I don’t think the controversy should have been about why was slavery left out of the Virginia declaration. The controversy should have been why is Virginia, as well as Georgia and Alabama, having Confederate History Month at all?

The Civil War wasn’t a noble struggle for states’ rights. The only state “right” the Confederacy defended was slavery. The Civil War was only about slavery. Defending slavery wasn’t just about perpetuating a the slave labor system (which, even if Lincoln hadn’t ended it, probably wouldn’t have been able to sustain itself anyway). It was about having a population that boosted slave states’ representation in Congress and the Electoral College. Even though slaves couldn’t vote, they counted towards 3/5 of person toward representation in Congress. Not only did that influence the passage of laws, it influenced the Electoral College which elects the president. Southern states seceded because they saw their voting power and economic way of life being threatened by abolitionists and the balance of power toward the free states in North. The balance of free and slave states was maintained by the Compromises of 1820 and 1850 and helped keep the Union together. But numerous events in the 1850s began to shake this fragile balance. One event was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act which empowered the federal government to capture, try and return escaped slaves to their masters, even in free states. Slave-holding states didn’t care about “states’ rights” when it came to getting their slaves back.

History, both good and bad, need to be remembered, studied and understood. But let’s not confuse understanding and studying history with having a month “to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens” as Gov. McDonnell suggests Virginians do for Confederate History Month. It’s important to remember the Civil War as a whole, to understand the reasons for it, to know what happened during the conflict and to study its consequences for the entire nation. But to distinguish the Confederacy as sympathetic as a way to understand their “sacrifices,” is impossible for me. How can I have sympathy for them? Their “sacrifices” were made to enslave people: My ancestors! I don’t mind seeing historical sites of any type, but saying specifically that “the White House of the Confederacy and other Confederate sites are open” to “encourage tourism in [the] state” isn’t appealing to me. In fact, making the Confederacy sympathetic to bring in tourism dollars is offensive as well.

The Confederacy fought for an economic system based on human-trafficking and forced labor that was enforced by violence, rape, castration, lynching, fear and cultural extermination. The Confederacy seceded so that system could be maintained. That’s what the Confederate flag represents. That’s why so many people are offended by the flag and the romanticization of the Confederacy. That’s why the Confederacy and what it represented isn’t something to be honored.

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy