Click here to go to the Home Page The Real Agenda of the Museum of the Confederacy and Why I Don’t Want Our Book to Receive an Award from Them - By Edward H. Sebesta - Guest Commentator

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[This is Part 1 of a 4-Part series]

Recently, and against my wishes, my book, The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The "Great Truth" about the "Lost Cause"(University Press of Mississippi, 2010) was submitted to the Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) to be considered for an award. [1] BC Question: What will it take to bring Obama home?The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader shows, in the Confederates’ own words, that the purpose of the Confederacy was to preserve slavery and white supremacy, and demonstrates that current Confederate “heritage” practices and neo-Confederate beliefs are centered upon white supremacy.

I never imagined that such a book would be considered for a MOC prize, however, the MOC solicited submission of the book from my co-editor and copies were sent to the award judges by the publisher. Awards are given by institutions to lend themselves prestige; as the saying goes, “By honoring others we honor ourselves.” Giving The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader an award would offer the MOC the opportunity to co-opt my reputation. By honoring a critic and the leading anti-neo-Confederate researcher, MOC officials could demonstrate their supposed objectivity and magnanimity. I do not want to legitimize the MOC, and I do not want to be associated with the MOC. I will reject any MOC award.

I wrote to the director of the MOC and each of the four award judges, stating that I would refuse any MOC honor, explaining that if The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader did win, I would use the occasion to criticize the MOC. John Coski, Historian and Director of Library & Research of the MOC, replied to my letter and said that the prizes are given directly to publishers, and that any book submitted will be considered. Coski thought The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader, “would be a strong nomination for the award.” In short, the MOC will give my book a prize if they want to, whether I like it or not. Given these circumstances, I have chosen to publish the material that I have collected over the past two decades [2] about the MOC before the 2012 awards are made because I believe there needs to be a public discussion about the Museum of the Confederacy.

I hope that my review of MOC activities will prevent them from giving me an award. What follows is an essay which details:

1. That the Museum of the Confederacy typically elides the issues of slavery or sanitizes them in their exhibitions. The exception of the “Before Freedom Came” exhibit was positioned such that it minimally impacted the Lost Cause myths of the Confederacy.

2. That the Museum of the Confederacy is intertwined with outspoken supporters of neo-Confederacy and closely aligned with the increasingly radical neo-Confederate groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, often claiming an affinity with their views.
3. That the Museum of the Confederacy continues to offer hagiographical portrayals of Confederate leaders.
4. That the primary function of the Museum of the Confederacy is the production and facilitation of the consumption of Confederate identity and nationalism.

Finally, I will not suffer a confidential or personal letter from the Museum of the Confederacy that debates these issues but seeks to keep them from the public. All correspondence from the Museum of the Confederacy will be made public if I so choose.


The Museum of the Confederacy and the White House of the Confederacy are adjacent sites owned and run by the same institution, the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, founded in 1890. Originally the White House of the Confederacy was used as the museum, but a new museum building was constructed and opened in 1976. In the ten years thereafter, the White House of the Confederacy was closed and restored to its appearance during the Civil War when it housed Confederate President Jefferson Davis. It has since reopened to the public. [3]

For much of its existence, the MOC was a monument to the Confederate Lost Cause. In the early-1990s, efforts were made to shed this image. “Before Freedom Came,” an exhibition that focused on slavery, was displayed at the Museum of the Confederacy in the second half of 1991. [4] Hosting this exhibition enabled the MOC to present itself as a professional, historically objective museum. [5] It worked. This exhibit, now twenty years old, resulted in critics largely giving subsequent MOC displays and activities a free pass. Yet, despite this, the record of the MOC since 1991 shows a museum that has reverted to its prior practices, namely pro-Confederate interpretations and, more recently, increasingly neo-Confederate perspectives.

A Neo-Confederate Speech at the MOC

In 1994, Southern Partisan (SP) magazine, the periodical of the neo-Confederate movement since 1979, [6] contained an article by Ludwell Johnson III. The article was based on a November 1993 speech given by Johnson at the Museum of the Confederacy upon being named a Museum Scholar. “Is the Confederacy Obsolete?” was identified by SP as “a rousing call to arms.” [7] A professor of history at the College of William and Mary from 1955 to 1992, [8] and author of “Division and Reunion: America 1848-1877,” described by John Merig of the University of Arizona as “the Southern Version” of the Civil War and Reconstruction, [9] Johnson is a major figure in the neo-Confederate movement. When MOC officials decided to make Johnson a Museum Scholar, just two years after “Before Freedom Came,” they would certainly have known he was a leading neo-Confederate scholar as he had published his opinions on numerous occasions including seven articles in SP, prior to being made a Museum Scholar. [10]

Illustrative of Johnson’s hysterical neo-Confederacy is the SP article, “Securing the Blessings: Today the South, Tomorrow.” The cover illustration of this SP issue shows New York City and the Statue of Liberty engulfed in flames with the statue’s head broken off, its harbor littered with sinking ships, and military bombers flying overhead. This illustration represents what Johnson sees as a potential “Armageddon,” by a conspiracy that was first unleashed by the abolitionists fighting for emancipation and Union victory in the Civil War. The lead-in to the article states:

We are threatened by a powerful, dangerous, conspiracy of evil men. The conspiracy of the enemy of free institutions and civil liberties, of democracy and free speech; it is the enemy of religion. It is cruel and oppressive to its subjects. Its economic system is unfree and inefficient, condemning its people to poverty and deprivation. It has relentless determination to spread its system to other peoples and lands. Its threat comes not only from without, but from its collaborators in our midst.

Its aim is total domination. To compromise with it is impossible, because its leaders are treacherous and only agree to compromise in order to prepare the way for further aggression. For them agreements are made to be violated. Living with this evil permanently is thus impossible; there can be no peace or security until it is completely eliminated and its place taken by a system like or own, for our system is the best hope of all mankind. Our way alone guarantees freedom, peace, and prosperity. [11]

In his MOC speech, Johnson argued that the Confederacy “has much to teach us” but these are not moral lessons; rather, Johnson defends the Confederacy and antebellum slaveholders, his interpretation of American and Southern history echoing those written in the early 20th century when white supremacy was at one of its heights. [12] Rejecting scholarship written in and after the modern civil rights era by historians who discarded the underlying assumptions of white supremacy and the Lost Cause, Johnson laments that popular and academic history has changed. Implying that post-1960s historical scholarship is driven by ideology, and thus its interpretations of slavery, the Confederacy and Civil War are invalid, Johnson presumes that historians of the early 20th century were, by contrast, objective:

With the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, the moral interpretation of the Civil War revived, Southerners were compared with fascists and slavery with Nazi concentration camps, and the war was again seen as a necessary part of the eternal struggle of Good against Evil. The first major scholarly revisionist work to appear during these years was Kenneth Stampp’s The Peculiar Institution (1956), which aimed at overturning Ulrich B. Phillip’s magisterial American Negro Slavery (1918), which had portrayed slavery as relatively humane and the slave’s yoke as not very burdensome, a view not acceptable to many in the late 1950s. A parade of revisionist studies then began and still goes on...

Central to Johnson’s dismissal of post-Civil Rights scholarship is his assertion that unnamed “champions, self-appointed or otherwise, of the black minority” have forwarded a “devil theory” of history that demonizes “white Southerners.” This “devil theory” enables Johnson to attack scholarship and commentary about slavery by African Americans as unprofessional and emotionally driven. “Doubtless many of the devil theory proponents are sincere,” writes Johnson, and “many have a vested interest (whether academic, political or professional) in keeping that theory alive.” For Johnson, there are two major reasons why this scholarship has developed. The first is that “after all the government programs to rectify injustices, after all the policies to eradicate discrimination, many African-Americans still find themselves at the bottom of the heap. This has produced two very human reactions. The first is to search for someone else to blame, for a scapegoat; the second is an attempt to show that even if African-Americans are bringing up the rear, over the years they have achieved many great things that others have been given credit for.” The second reason, “legitimized by government at various levels” and having “significant effects on the educational curriculum from grade school to college” is “rewrit[ing] parts of history” and the “invention of past glories [that] has led to the assertion of innate racial differences, with claims for the superiority of the black race, to say nothing of bizarre conspiracy theories…”

Recall that Johnson’s article is based on a speech given at the Museum of the Confederacy, which he describes nostalgically as a “‘reliquary’ ...a sort of eddy in time, unaffected by events in the mainstream.” The MOC’s “Before Freedom Came” exhibit is understood as being a part of the MOC program to reflect contemporary issues and rebut African American criticism of the Confederacy. Johnson states, “A good example of this was its “‘'Before Freedom Came’ exhibit, focusing on slavery, which with all its implications for modern race relations, is the most controversial subject of all. Unlike Carol Moseley-Braun, [13] the program recognized that slavery is a part of our history, especially Southern history.” African American U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, Democrat, is known for her defeat of the effort to renew a design patent for the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Renouncing “devil theory” assessments of slavery that criticize antebellum white slave-owners, Johnson quotes the liberal historian Henry Steele Commager’s (1902-1998) statement that “It is absurd for us to pass moral judgment on slaveholders, absurd to indict a whole people or to banish a whole people to some historical purgatory where they can expiate their sins.” Such a citation, namely that of a northern liberal, implicitly adds credence to Johnson’s assertions and thus he suggests that “A fearless look at the past, however distasteful some of it may be, is essential to the understanding that Commager held up as the historian’s first responsibility and is equally essential to the Museum’s modern policy of moving with the times.”

At this point, Johnson sees two possible routes forward for the MOC. One is acceptable: that African Americans should come to identify with the Confederacy. Recounting the presence of African Americans amongst the cadets from Virginia Military Institute at a recent commemoration of Confederate war dead and noting the work of “Rudolph Young, a black Vietnam veteran and amateur historian who has been investigating the subject of blacks who supported the Confederacy,” Johnson suggests there are “some promising signs” on this front. It is worth noting, however, that Young is identified as an “amateur” historian: in contrast, it is the “academic, political [and] professional” writers whom Johnson holds responsible for devising the “devil theory.” In sum, this route means that Johnson and others who believe that slavery was benign servitude do not have to change their views; rather, African Americans would adopt this neo-Confederate viewpoint.

Johnson terms the second, unacceptable path for the MOC “the [Carol] Moseley-Braun syndrome,” giving it the name of the then-U.S. Senator. Johnson deplores this “new view of the past” that is “becoming ever more prominent in education, politics, and moral attitudes,” which “damn[s] the Confederate flag as a hate symbol,” and echoes proponents of Reconstruction in “hoist[ing] anew the Bloody Shirt of Civil War hate propaganda.” Johnson explains that should this be the route the MOC takes, he would rather “bring in the bulldozers” and tear down the museum than see it “become a sort of Southern equivalent of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., a museum to keep alive memories of Southern iniquity.” It is important to observe, however, that Johnson does not consider “Before Freedom Came” to threaten or lessen the role of the MOC as a “reliquary” enshrining the Confederacy. It does not make the MOC equivalent to a “Holocaust” museum and, therefore, does not challenge Johnson’s neo-Confederate beliefs. To the contrary, Johnson perceives the exhibit as a defense of the Confederacy against what he calls the “Moseley-Braun syndrome.”

That Johnson should express these opinions could not have come as a surprise to employees of the MOC as his views were well known and long-standing. Thus, it seems that in the early-1990s, the MOC had two faces. One for the general public, was of modernization and scholarship as exhibited in “Before Freedom Came;” the other was neo-Confederacy, as exemplified by Johnson’s speech for a private audience. In the years that have followed, these two faces uneasily coexisted. As I explain below, it is the latter that has come to dominate MOC operations, activities and, increasingly, its public operations.

Restoration of the ‘Loyalists’

Following the “Before Freedom Came” exhibition there has been a series of changes in the administration and board members of the MOC. The result has been a restoration of a board that supports and, in many cases, advocates Confederate nationalism.

Exploring how museums represent American slavery in the collection Museum Frictions, Faith Davis Ruffins writes that shortly after “Before Freedom Came” opened in 1991, the Director and some of the board members who supported the exhibition left the MOC. [14] These included MOC Executive Director Louis Gorr who had publically stated, “We are the Museum of the Confederacy and not for the Confederacy.” [15] Ludwell Johnson’s neo-Confederate speech followed in 1993 and, Ruffins contends, by 2003 pro-Confederate “loyalists” were back in control of the MOC. [16] Indeed, given Johnson’s acceptance of “Before Freedom Came,” the question could be asked whether the museum’s operation as a Confederate “reliquary” had ever really stopped. Internal disputes continued throughout the 1990s and in 2001, Robin E. Reed, Gorr’s successor, abruptly resigned. The New York Times explained that “supporters contend[ed] he was purged because of his enthusiasm for helping the Tredegar’s effort at telling a more inclusive story of the war.”

‘‘Robin wasn’t pro-Southern enough,’’ contended one ranking professional in the museum field who spoke on the condition of not being identified. ‘‘His taking a balanced approach in his own exhibits disturbed members of his board,’’ said this historian, speculating the Museum of the Confederacy might become more closely aligned with conservative donors and supporters of the current statehouse fights over the Confederate flag. [17]

The Confederate Tredegar ironworks has been made into a museum in Richmond and is known as the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. As its website proclaims, it is dedicated to “interpret the Civil War from Union, Confederate, and African American perspectives.” [18]

Soon after, in March 2002, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported that less than two weeks after cutting 20% of the staff, J.A. Barton Campbell, Executive Director of the MOC, hoisted the Confederate battle flag in front of the museum. The Times Dispatch reported that this decision was supported by the MOC’s board of trustees. Campbell stated, “I’m hoping it will be an education piece – to help others understand why it was designed, how it was used and what it represents.” The article also reports “Since Robin E. Reed’s quiet departure last November, rumors have been circulating that he was forced out because of his desire for telling a more inclusive story of the war. During his tenure, the museum tackled such topics as slavery and the roles of women.” It was reported that Reed was forbidden by a confidentially agreement to comment on his resignation, but he did explain the reasons why he never flew the Confederate battle flag, saying, “I don’t think it is an effective way to educate people about battle flags,” and “These are relics and icons form the killing fields themselves … they never really flew on public buildings.”

Further the article continues, “During his first few days on the job,” “Campbell began replacing the term ‘Civil War’ with ‘War Between the States’” in the museum. “I like that term,” Campbell is quoted as saying, “To me, it’s more accurate. Some of my scholarly friends might disagree with me, but I think it’s more descriptive of what transpired.”

Echoing former Executive Director Louis Gorr, an employee who left the MOC before the layoffs commented in the Times Dispatch article, “Robin Reed made this the Museum of the Confederacy. Now I am afraid it’s going to become the Museum for the Confederacy.” [Emphasis added.] Campbell, in a self-contradicting statement, claimed that “We are going to be a professional proponent of Confederacy history. We are not going to slant anything. We want to reach out across the country and be inclusive. We want to spread the word that … we are the folks telling the Confederate side of the story. That’s what we are after all, the Museum of the Confederacy.” [19] Recall that for neo-Confederates like Ludwell Johnson, a pre-Civil Rights/Lost Cause interpretation of the Confederacy and the Civil War is, by definition, unbiased; it is recent historical scholarship which neo-Confederates believe is rife with ideology. Given that Barton Campbell was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) his commitment to providing a balanced perspective must be questioned, as should that of his successor, Waite Rawls, also reported by the SCV as being a member. [20]

From May 23, 2003 to the end of 2004, [21] the MOC showcased an exhibit titled, “The Confederate Nation.” The Richmond Times Dispatch reported that Campbell was “almost giddy” when talking about this new exhibit:

People in the South had a dream of independence, they exhibited great sacrifices and valor. We need to recognize the contribution their character made to this country. These were fine Americans. We are telling their story.

In this statement Campbell asserts that “the South” and the Confederacy are the same thing. Further, he suggests that Confederate nationalism is honorable and the effort to establish a slave republic somehow “contributes” to the “character” of the United States. It also presumes that public opinion was monolithically in support of Confederate secession, a position which denies the fact that a large number of whites in the South were opposed to secession, particularly in Eastern Tennessee or what is now West Virginia. Campbell also claimed that the MOC’s mission was not changed either by flying the Confederate battle flag or by this exhibition. Applauding Campbell’s leadership, John M. Coski commented, “I’m pleasantly surprised in many ways. But that is tempered by realism. We are not in a great financial situation, and everyone knows that. But we’ve done well. Barton is an infectiously enthusiastic person. That’s been good for all of us.” [22]

One result of Campbell’s changes was that MOC exhibits no longer recognized slavery as the cause of the Civil War. Indeed, discussion of slavery is avoided altogether. Describing “The Confederate Nation,” a different Richmond Times Dispatch article on the exhibit, Coski commented:

Anyone who says the war was all about this or all about that – that’s an over-simplification. It wasn’t about just one thing. Our purpose is to address that and invite them to understand the complexity of all history and this history in particular. [23]

Rather than identify slavery as a causal factor, the exhibit romanticizes the establishment of the Confederacy’s Provisional Constitution:

The 12 men used the U.S. Constitution as a guide, and on Feb. 8, the Provisional Constitution was approved. The first official document established a separate government for the Confederate States was brought to the new capital in Richmond, then accompanied the Confederate government in its flight southward.

Suggesting that the Confederacy had a direct lineage from the founding documents of the United States implicitly legitimates the short-lived state, yet contrary to Coski’s assertion, this is itself an “oversimplification.” Such a statement omits the most prominent difference between the Confederate and U.S. Constitutions, namely the former’s clauses dealing with slavery.

Rawls more recently in 2007 has claimed all the popular ideas of the Civil War as stated in a Washington Post article where it is reported:

“… Rawls is pointing out how the museum has gone from Old South shrine to a professionally managed museum. It houses more than 15,000 documents and artifacts that white Southerners wanted to make permanent (along with slavery, states’ rights and low tariffs). [24]

Rawls is also contending again that the Confederacy is the South and further that the Confederacy constituted a nation and which would make its members a nationality implying that their descents, modern white southerners are Confederate Americans.

Working With Neo-Confederate Organizations

The neo-Confederate literature demonstrates how the MOC has represented itself to this constituency and gives insight into the direction the museum has taken since 1991. It shows the MOC working with neo-Confederate organizations the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), actively seeking their support and claiming to share a common cause with them.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans

In 1999 the SCV publication Confederate Veteran, announced that the new President of the Board of Trustees of the MOC would be James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart IV, an SCV member and great grandson of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart. [25]

In the first few years of the Twenty-First Century, a power struggle within the SCV had purged the organization of “moderates” and left neo-Confederates, many of whom espoused white supremacist positions, in charge of the organization. [26] This tendency was exemplified by publications of the SCV’s educational foundation, most importantly Southern Mercury magazine, which regularly contained racist articles. One of the most prolific SCV authors in these venues is Frank Conner, who describes Nineteenth Century African Americans as a “childlike people”. [27] He further argues that white “liberals” worked for most of the Twentieth Century to create a “false public image of the Blacks” by rejecting the contention that IQ is racially differentiated and celebrating achievements of African American athletes, artists and performers. For examples of the SCV racism and extremism, such as claiming Lincoln was part of a communist conspiracy, see this article at the History News Network.

Writing to this SCV audience in the November/December 2004 issue of Confederate Veteran, the highest profile SCV publication, Henry E. Kidd, Commander of the Army of North Virginia (ANV) Department of the SCV asks: “The Museum of the Confederacy: Future in Doubt?” Concerned with declining attendance at the museum and the construction of Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical complex around it, Kidd recounts that the he and other ANV members were given a special tour of the MOC collection, including that in storage vaults. Urging SCV members to support the museum, Kidd writes:

I realize that there has been debate about some of the politically correct presentations of Confederate history in the past. But, a lot has changed. I know Barton Campbell, the previous Executive Director, and the current Executive Director, Waite Rawls. They are both good Southerners and SCV men who bring Southern pride to the Museum and have eliminated much of the political correctness of the past. However, nothing can over shadow the fact that the MOC houses the largest collection of our Confederate heritage in the world, and we must protect and preserve it. [28]

Again assuming a direct relationship between “Southern,” “Southerners,” and the Confederacy, a central assertion of neo-Confederacy, Kidd’s comment that Campbell and Rawls have “eliminated much of the political correctness of the past,” refers to the MOC staff whose efforts resulted in “Before Freedom Came.”

Indicating that the MOC had returned to its pre-1991 role as a pro-Confederate institution, a series of advertisements in the Confederate Veteran in 2002 asked SCV members to, “Come Home … To Your Heritage,” [29] and stated that there would be an MOC presence at future SCV conventions. In 2003 the MOC again advertised in the Confederate Veteran stating, “For us to be the viable protector of our heritage, we need your support more than ever.” [30] This raises the question, whose is “our heritage” that MOC is serving and whom (or what) does this need protection from? It also signals to the members of the SCV that the MOC has recognized and has seen as valid the SCV members’ Confederate identity. Despite these efforts, by 2006, the MOC and SCV seem to part ways; the latter seeking to build its own Museum of the Confederacy, one that it can control and fill with an explicitly expressed neo-Confederate ideology . [31] At the center of the division was apparently a proposal to relocate the MOC and build satellite MOC campuses, but the likely reality was that the radicalized SCV membership had come to insist that the MOC adopt an explicitly neo-Confederate stance, which the MOC could ill afford to do. MOC Executive Director, Waite Rawls, wrote to the SCV in response to their complaints, but was castigated in a rebuttal in Confederate Veteran by Past SCV Chaplain-in-Chief Rev. Fr. Alister C. Anderson for using the term “Civil War” and invoking the “Pledge of Allegiance” in his argument. Anderson, like most neo-Confederates, rejects the Pledge’s assertion that the United States is “one nation, indivisible,” and believe that “Through some devious political connections,” the author of the Pledge, Francis Bellamy, “was permitted to write the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ with his Socialist intentions to weld together the mentality of all Americans in their allegiance to a centralized Federal Government.” Anderson’s rejection of the MOC ends with a tirade against public schools, John Dewey, and the phrase “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”

United Daughters of the Confederacy

The Museum of the Confederacy has kept cordial relations with the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) over the years, despite that organization’s support for neo-Confederacy and white supremacist books even after the “Before Freedom Came” exhibit.

The MOC sent a letter of congratulations to the UDC on their 100th anniversary in 1994 which was reproduced both on the cover of the May 1995 UDC Magazine and inside. The letter reprints a resolution of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, the organization which operates the MOC, to “celebrate the centennial anniversary of the United Daughters of the Confederacy” praising their activities and thanking them for their support. [32] This is particularly odd for a museum claiming to be a legitimate, scholarly organization. The letter praises the UDC for their “historical” “endeavors,” which by definition includes the UDC’s uncritical promotion of a Lost Cause history of the Confederacy. Also, the resolution is silent on other lesser known UDC “endeavors” such as its extensive praise for the Ku Klux Klan as ex-Confederate heroes who saved the South from Reconstruction and for white supremacy. The UDC has also continued to praise the violent white supremacist Red Shirts into the 21st century, and in the 1950s was adamant in its opposition to Civil Rights. Today, the UDC actively promotes neo-Confederacy. For documentation of UDC neo-Confederacy and racism see, Issue #274. Also, documentation of the UDC’s opposition during the Modern Civil Rights Era of the 1950’s and 60’s provides online critical primary historical material.

In the UDC’s special Sept. 1994 100th anniversary issue, Guy R. Swanson, director of the Eleanor S. Brockenbrough Library at the MOC described the library. [33] In the issue, a full page MOC advertisement stated: “The Museum of the Confederacy shares your commitment to Confederate history and invites you to join us as we look to our centennial in 1996.” The advertisement offered a 15% discount to the MOC for attendees of the UDC’s 1994 annual convention.

If the members of the UDC did not get the message in 1994, the MOC made it clear on the back cover of the December 2003 UDC Magazine: “Our cause is your cause... Are we doing all we can to honor the memory of those who sacrificed so much for the Confederacy?” The MOC advertisement explains further that “For the museum to be the viable supporter of our important heritage, we need your help, NOW MORE THAN EVER.” The persons that the MOC seeks to ‘honor,’ are ‘honorable’ on the basis that they sacrificed for the Confederacy, hence the MOC is glorifying the Confederacy.

Prior to the December 2003 advertisement, in that year’s August issue of UDC Magazine, John Coski, MOC Historian, describes the history of the MOC. In this article Coski pointedly does not explain that the purpose of the MOC to be an objective historical institution regarding the Confederacy, but instead reiterates the MOC founder’s purpose that the museum should be a vehicle for the Lost Cause: “It was dedicated to not only to preserving the memory of Confederate heroes, but was also an enterprise dedicated to collecting, preserving, and displaying what one early leader called “authenticated data” about the Confederacy.” Quoting a Mrs. Park from 1899 stating, “a sum of money… for the running expenses of this sacred treasure house” is required, Coski concludes, “Her appeal is as relevant today as it was then.” [34]

Ruth Ann Coski, John Coski’s wife, spoke at the UDC’s 38th Annual Massing of the Flags on May 31, 2003. This event is conducted by the UDC’s Jefferson Davis Memorial Committee to celebrate and venerate Jefferson Davis. Ruth Coski spoke on Davis’ personal life. At the 42nd Annual Massing of the flags in June 2007, Waite Rawls, by now titled President and CEO of the MOC, spoke on the topic “Jefferson Davis: A Renewed Interest in His Life and Legacy,” and assured UDC members that the MOC, “remain[s] dedicated to your organization.” Rawls’ speech, reported in the UDC Magazine, avoided anything unpleasant about Jefferson Davis, instead noting the MOC’s upcoming plans to celebrate his 200th birthday (2008). Quoting Rawls, the UDC Magazine continues:

There is “a lot more interest in Davis today, and despite the tendency of some modern historians to tear everything [Confederate] down, Jefferson Davis is holding up even under such scrutiny. The hard part of my job,” he concluded, “is fighting off the hospital next door or being politically correct, or getting the schools to educate our children better. And so we keep on working.” [35]

In this speech to the UDC, Rawls positions himself as a defender of the Confederacy against “modern historians” and fighting off “being political correct,” which the UDC would understand as meaning advancing an MOC that supports the Lost Cause understanding of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

At 2009’s Massing of the Flags, Rawls again attended. Thanking UDC members for supporting the MOC, he is described as reminding “us of our responsibility to future generations to protect our Confederate history.” [36] Rawls conveyed a similar message in 2010, [37] when Ruth Ann Coski also attended the UDC’s 2010 annual convention as a speaker for its Historical Evening. [38]

Attempting to keep close relations with organizations that have a neo-Confederate agenda like the UDC and, less successfully, the SCV, is an ongoing policy of the MOC. In articles, speeches and advertisements, MOC officials send the clear message that the museum is aligned with and allied to their pro-Confederate positions. This is not merely pandering to a customer base; it is an alignment that, since 1991, as I will explain in subsequent installments, has led the MOC to use its resources and platform to advance a neo-Confederate nationalist position and interpretation of the Civil War and the Confederacy.

Click here to read any of the parts in this series. Guest Commentator, Edward H. Sebesta, is co-editor of Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction (University of Texas, 2008) and The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The ‘Great Truth’ of the ‘Lost Cause’ (University Press of Mississippi, 2010) Click here to contact Edward Sebesta.

[1] The awards and their recipients are listing on the Museum of the Confederacy web site at:

[2] I began researching neo-Confederacy in 1991 and started gathering information on the MOC in 1994 after a leading neo-Confederate, Ludwell Johnson III, was made a MOC Fellow. In his speech accepting this fellowship, subsequently published in the neo-Confederate magazine Southern Partisan, Johnson denigrated African American scholarship and leaders. Johnson’s speech is reviewed below.

[3] No author, “The History of the Museum of the Confederacy,” Museum of the Confederacy Website page,, printed 1/15/11.

[4] Dart, Bob, “Chilling chapter on slavery finally taught at Rebel museum,” The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Sept. 8, 1991, mentions that it opened in the Summer and the last month would be December 1991.

[5] For articles and books regarding the exhibit and the MOC’s image see: Brundage, W. Fitzhugh, “The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory,” Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2005, page 299;  Dart, Bob, “Chilling chapter on slavery finally taught at Rebel museum,” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Sept. 8, 1991, Section M, Page 1; Burchard, Hank, “Before Freedom Came,” Washington Post, Dec. 17, 1993, page N67.

[6] It appears that the Southern Partisan magazine is finally defunct. The 2nd to last issue was April 2008, and prior issues have been irregular. Also, the person believed to have sponsored it has recently passed way in May 2010., printed 1/9/10.

[7] No author, Table of Contents, Southern Partisan, 3rd Quarter 1994, page 1. Johnson, Ludwell III article “Is the Confederacy Obsolete?,” Southern Partisan, 3rd Qtr. 1994, pages 21-26.

[8] No interviewer name mentioned, “The Sage of Williamsburg,” Southern Partisan, September/October 2002, pages 21-26.

[9] Quote in advertisement for book, outside back cover of Southern Partisan, Vol. 15, 1st Qtr. 1995. This is an endorsement of Johnson’s re-titled reprint, North Against South: The American Illiad, 1848-1877, The Foundation for American Education, Columbia, SC, 1995. The publisher shared a mailing address with the Southern Partisan.

[10] Johnson, Ludwell “In Search of the Real Honest Abe,” Vol. 7 No.3 Summer 1987, pages 22-26, cover topic; “The Southerner who became the World’s First Chess Champion,” Southern Partisan, Summer Issue, 1988, pages 30-35; “The Plundering Generation,” Southern Partisan, Fall/Winter 1988, pages 16-20; “Securing the Blessings: Today the South, Tomorrow …,” Southern Partisan, 2nd Quarter 1989, pages 16-24, cover article for issue; “PBS’s Civil War: The Mythmanagement of History,” Southern Partisan, 3rd Quarter 1990;  “Our Friends, the Enemy: How the North Supplied Confederate Armies,” Southern Partisan, 4th Quarter 1990, pages 26-28; “Furl That Banner?: The New War on Southern Heritage,” Southern Partisan, Vol. 12 1st Quarter 1992, pages 20-27, cover topic;  “‘Where’s My Pa?’: A short history of campaigning from Bloody Shirt to Blundering Bush,” Southern Partisan, 2nd Quarter 1993, pages 29-33; “North Against South, 1861-1865: Armies, Strategies and Politics,” Southern Partisan, 1st Quarter 1995, pages 20-27; “No Faith in Parchment,” Southern Partisan, 4th Quarter, 1995, pages 20-24; “Bushwhacking the Bill of Rights,” Southern Partisan, July/August 2002, pages 16-20, cover topic.

[11] Johnson, Ludwell, “Securing the Blessings: Today the South, Tomorrow …,” Southern Partisan, Vol. 9, 2nd Quarter 1989, pages 16-24, cover article.

[12] If you haven’t read it, I can’t strongly enough recommend reading, “Betrayal of the Negro,” by Rayford W. Logan.

[13] Moseley-Braun was Illinois United States Senator from 1993 to 1999 and had been much in the news in 1993 (when Johnson gave this speech). On July 21, 1993 she spoke forcefully on the floor of the U.S. Senate opposing the renewal of a design patent of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in opposition to North Carolina U.S. Senator Jesse Helms and South Carolina U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond resulting in a revote on the patent and ultimately defeating its renewal. Two recommended articles from the New York Times, June 23, 1993, are “Daughter of Slavery Hushes Senate” by Adam Clymer and editorial, “Ms. Mosely Braun’s Majestic Moment.” See also Butler, John, “Carol Moseley-Braun’s day to talk about race: A study of forum in the United States Senate,” Argumentation and Advocacy; Fall 1995; 32 (2) 67-74; Walls, Celeste, “You Ain’t Just Whistling Dixie: How Carol Moseley-Braun Used Rhetorical Status to Change Jesse Helms’ Tune,” Western Journal of Communication, Summer 2004, 68 (3) 343-364.

[14] Ruffins, Faith Davis, “Revisiting the Old Plantation: Reparations, Reconciliation, and Museumizing American Slavery,” pages 394 – 434, footnote 23 on page 428, in “Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations,” edited by Ivan Karp, Corinne A. Kratz, Lynn Szwaja, and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, Duke University Press, 2006.

[15] Dart, Bob, “Chilling chapter on slavery finally taught at Rebel museum,” The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Sept. 8, 1991, Dixie Living Section M, page 1.

[16] Ruffins, Faith Davis, “Revisiting the Old Plantation: Reparations, Reconciliation, and Museumizing American Slavery,” pages 394 – 434, footnote 23 on page 428, in “Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations,” edited by Ivan Karp, Corinne A. Kratz, Lynn Szwaja, and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, Duke University Press, 2006.

[17] Clines, Francis X., “Museums Of Civil War Are Torn By Debate,” New York Times, Nov. 15, 2001.

[18] American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar,, printed July 24, 2011.

[19] Caggiano, Janet, “Museum’s Director Has Unfurled a Debate,” Richmond Times Dispatch, March 13, 2002.

[20] Kidd, Henry E., “The Museum of the Confederacy: Future in Doubt?,” Confederate Veteran, November/December 2004, pages 16-17, 48.

[21] Caggiano, Janet, “Exploring South’s Effort at Governing,” Richmond Times Dispatch, May 21, 2003, page E-1.

[22] Caggiano, Janet, “Confederacy Museum Ends a Tough Year,” Richmond Times Dispatch, March 9, 2003, page F1.

[23] Caggiano, Janet, “Exploring South’s Effort at Governing,” Richmond Times Dispatch, May 21, 2003, page E1.

[24] Tucker, Neely, “Swept Away By History; Virginia’s Museum of the Confederacy Is Struggling Not to Become a Relic of the Past,” Washington Post, April 4, 2007, page C01.

[25] No author, “J.E.B. Stuart IV Elected Board President at the Museum of the Confederacy,” Confederate Veteran, Vol. 2 1999, page 46. NOTE: The Confederate Veterans has had several numbering systems for its issues. In 1999, and some other years, there were six issues and they were numbered volume 1, volume 2, … volume 6. This use of the term volume doesn’t relate to the normal use of the term volume in bibliographic notes. The number system has been changed since then.

[26] Beirich, Heidi, “The Struggle for the Sons of Confederate Veterans: A Return to White Supremacy in the Early Twenty First Century?,” in “Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction,” Univ. of Texas Press, Austin, 2008. This is a good account of the takeover of the SCV by radical elements, but the author doesn’t agree with the idea of the SCV returning to white supremacy, but rather from administrations that kept a low profile regarding their racism to administrations that were overtly and explicitly racist.

[27] Conner, Frank, “Where We Stand Now And How We Got Here,” Southern Mercury, Vol. 1 No. 2, Sept./Oct. 2003, pages 10-14, extract from page 12). The entire article is in the book, “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader,” University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2010.; See also Conner’s website:

[28] Kidd, Henry E., “The Museum of the Confederacy: Future in Doubt?,” Confederate Veteran, November/December 2004, pages 16-17, 48.

[29] Ads were in the Confederate Veteran; Vol. 3 2002, page 49; Vol. 4 2002, page 9; Vol. 5 2002, page 17.

[30] Confederate Veteran, Vol. 3 2003, page 36.

[31] The series of articles which cover the break between the SCV and the MOC and all from the Confederate Veteran, are: Starnes, Darryl Felton, “Forward the Colors: Museum of the Confederacy in Financial Decline,” Sept./Oct. 2006 pagse 10-11; Casteel, Ronald E., “Report of the Lt. Commander-in-Chief: Has Political Correctness Arrived At the Museum of the Confederacy?,” March/April 2006, pages 8-9; Starnes, Darryl Felton, “Forward the Colors: Mixed Signals from the Museum of the Confederacy,” May/June 2007, pages 10-11;  Casteel, Ronald E., “Report of the Lt. Commander-in-Chief: Waite Rawls Speaks – An SCV Chaplain Responds,” Nov./Dec. 2007, pages 8-9. Starnes, Darryl Felton, “Forward the Colors: How Do We Defend Our Southern Heritage?,” May/June 2008, pages 10-11.

[32] H. Alexander Wise, Jr., resolution of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, Nov. 30, 1994, UDC Magazine, Vol. 58 No. 5, May 1995, page 36. The letter was also shown on the cover the magazine.

[33] Swanson, Guy R., “The Museum of the Confederacy’s Eleanor S. Brockenbrough Library,” UDC Magazine, Sept. 1994, pages 78-79.

[34] Coski, John M. “The Museum and White House of the Confederacy,” UDC Magazine, Vol. 65 No. 7, August 2002, page 10.

[35] Boltz, Martha M., “Commemorating Jefferson Davis’ Life and Legacy: 42nd Annual Massing of the Flags,” UDC Magazine, August 2007, page 14-15.

[36] Joyner, Barbara, “44th Annual Massing of the Flags,” UDC Magazine, August 2009, pages 16-17.

[37] No author, “45th Annual Massing of the Flags,” UDC Magazine, Sept. 2010, pages 10-11.

[38] The announcement that Ruth Ann Coski was going to attend was, No author, “Historical Evening,” for the 117th Annual General Convention in Richmond, Virginia, November 4-8, 2010, UDC Magazine, August 2010, page 21; reporting on Ruth Ann Coski attendance was, No author, “Richmond Convention Entertained and Inspired: Featuring Lively Entertainment, Smoothly run Business, and Lasting Memories,” UDC Magazine, February 2011, page 14.

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