Manual Advises how to Stop Removal of Confederate Statues: Don’t Mention RaceHistorians in the News
tags: Confederacy, Lost Cause, Sons of Confederate Veterans
A 2016 internal document from the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) organization lays out detailed tactics for members to use in preventing the removal of Confederate monuments and symbols, including lawsuits, rallies, media management and political campaigns.
The SCV is a neo-Confederate group dedicated to preserving what it sees as southern heritage, in particular Confederate statues and war memorials. That task has become far more controversial recently amid the rise of Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests, which frequently target such statues as memorials to racism and slavery.
The 18-page Sons of Confederate Veterans Heritage Defense manual also castigates perceived opponents of the SCV, accusing the NAACP civil rights group of spreading “hate and dissension” under the direction of “Marxists”.
The document is attributed to the highest level of SCV leadership at that time and buttresses its defense of monuments with a detailed account of the civil war which falsely denies the centrality of slavery in the conflict.
The document outlines a range of suggested methods for protecting Confederate monuments, flags, school dedications and mascots from what it describes as “heritage attacks” from those seeking to remove them.
The document groups a number of often bizarre tactics under the heading, “rallies and public events”, which it says can be “a way of showing public support to the public at large” when “a person or group takes oppressive action against … hallowed locations”.
The document devotes almost a fifth of its length to historical arguments which it says support its position on Confederate monuments, and the nature of what it repeatedly refers to as the “War for Southern Independence”.
The arguments are drawn exclusively from a book by an early “lost cause” activist and historian who served as a Confederate infantry captain, campaigned against Reconstruction in the wake of the south’s defeat, and who himself participated in the erection of Confederate monuments in the early 20th century.
The book, The Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern states and the War of 1861-65, was published by Samuel Ashe in 1935. Ashe served in the Confederate army, was elected to the North Carolina state house in 1870 and was vice-president of the SCV’s forerunner organization, the United Confederate Veterans.
The document follows Ashe in arguing that the war was not primarily about slavery, but driven by anger at taxes imposed by a Congress dominated by northern politicians, and a fear not about the dissolution of slavery per se, but because emancipation would “devastate the capital infrastructure” in the south.
Adam Domby is a historian at the College of Charleston, whose book The False Cause highlights the construction of false “Lost Cause” narratives in the south which sought to rewrite the history of the war. He pointed out that Ashe was “not a trained historian in the modern sense, and he served as a Confederate soldier”.
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