Jonathan Zimmerman: Civil War Relativists are on the Right - and Wrong

Roundup: Talking About History

[Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth. He is the author, most recently, of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory" (Yale University Press). He can be reached at]

Here's a quick quiz culled from our contemporary culture wars: Who said, "There are two sides to every story, two sides to a conflict, and while it would seem simple to record and report history, it has always been open to different interpretations"?

A. An NAACP official.

B. À La Raza activist.

C. A Sons of Confederate Veterans member.

If you said "A" or "B," you're wrong. The statement comes to us courtesy of John A. Griffin, the "History Education Project Coordinator" for Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp No. 674 in Moultrie, Ga.

Griffin's comment highlights a rich irony: When it comes to the Civil War, Southern white conservatives have become America's leading tribunes of historical relativism. And as we approach the 150th anniversary of the war, we should all be on our guard against that....

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