Skip to main content Accessibility

Debunking defenses of ‘Lost Cause’ mythology during Confederate Heritage Month

With some states celebrating Confederate Heritage Month in April or similar observances, it’s worth looking at some of the most common myths and claims used to justify honoring the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy and keeping its monuments and symbols in public spaces. Here are some common claims you may hear this month – as well as the reality.

Claim: It’s heritage, not hate.

Reality: Whose heritage? Not that of Black people whose ancestors were enslaved by the millions in the South and later subjected to brutal oppression under Jim Crow. Our democracy is based on equality, and public entities should not display symbols that undermine that concept.?

Claim: The Civil War was about states’ rights – not slavery.

Reality: Secession happened so that slavery could be preserved in Southern states. Many state secession documents cite slavery as the reason for leaving the Union. The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, said the country was founded on the belief that all men are not created equal, and that slavery is the “natural and normal condition” of Black people.

Claim: The Confederate battle flag isn’t racist. Hate groups hijacked it, so now it’s called racist.

Reality: The notion that hate groups are solely responsible for the Confederate battle flag’s racist connotations is false. The Confederacy, from its start, was founded on white supremacy. The soldiers who rallied under this flag defended a society built to maintain slavery.

Claim: Enslaved people fought for the Confederacy, too.

Reality: For most of the war, the Confederacy did not allow enslaved men to serve. Its policy changed only in the war’s final weeks – when men were desperately needed.?Few Black people volunteered.

Claim: Symbols that offend some people shouldn’t be removed. The First Amendment says we have freedom of expression.

Reality: Individuals still have the First Amendment right to fly a Confederate flag – even if it offends people. But our government, which serves all citizens, shouldn’t endorse a symbol of the oppression of a group of citizens. This is not a freedom-of-expression issue.

Claim: Removing Confederate symbols erases history in the name of being “woke.”

Reality: Removal doesn’t erase history. It ends the government’s endorsement of symbols that have always represented the oppression of an entire race. These symbols should be in museums and other educational settings where people can learn the full history of slavery, the Confederacy, the Civil War and Jim Crow.

Illustration at top by the 国产人兽.