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Est. April 5, 2002
July 02, 2015 - Issue 613

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Has the Neo-Confederacy Fallen?

A Commentary on Twenty-Three Years of  Fighting
the Neo-Confederate Movement

By Ed Sebesta

"The flags and monuments may come down
but the  neo-Confederate movement is still
there. They are still generally not known to
the public and they are still having an enormous impact."


It is Saturday morning and the media has stopped calling. I have my reference material piled on tables and the ironing board which I am putting away. I am catching up with all the news about Confederate monuments and symbols and flags.

The publisher of Black Commentator, a publication which has been very helpful over the years aiding my efforts to fight the neo-Confederate movement has asked me to write a commentary on my reaction to what is the new reality regarding the neo-Confederacy from the perspective of a long term campaigner against the neo-Confederate movement.

I am overwhelmed with the recent changes, and I am sorting out in my mind what is the new reality. First, I think I should give a explanation of how I got into this research and the long campaign so far. It will provide the framework for my perceptions of the new reality.

It was about twenty-three years ago while living in Dallas, Texas I saw the movie Glory and decided it was wrong for the city of Dallas to have monuments to honor the Confederacy and its leaders. At the same time the Soviet Union had fallen and statues in the former Soviet states were coming down. Through a federal court order, Dallas stopped having an at-large system of city council representation and went to an a district system.  As a result, the city council of Dallas now had a number of minority members.

I thought surely with that many minority members on the city council and a park board with a great many minority members this would be an easy task and the Robert E. Lee statue would be removed and the Robert E. Lee Park would be renamed. I was so wrong, I was clobbered. City council member Domingo Garcia who put my proposal before the park board abandoned me and African Americans on the park board were very willing to argue against my proposal, and for the statue, and one even posed with the Dallas Southern Memorial Association for photos. The Dallas NAACP spoke against my effort. The Dallas Morning News was entirely against my effort.

I got a lot of hate mail and I had to change my landline phone number to stop getting hateful phone calls.  I was surrounded by hostility not just from neo-Confederates and white people, but the city’s minority leadership. When I spoke at a public hearing on the issue the park board minority members staged a walk out. I was alone and it was scary.

Last Thursday and Friday I read that the Dallas Morning News editorialized that the Confederate statues need to go. They interviewed me in a story and I am now a sort of pioneer. It still is hard to believe, though I have read the article three times and will enjoy reading it again.

After being defeated, I went down to the downtown Dallas Public Library. During my campaign I had seen in the card catalog a magazine called the Southern Partisan and it was in the back room. I asked to have all the issues brought out to me to browse through.

The contents were astounding.  It wasn’t just the racism, it was seeing who was involved in this publication.  It was professors, authors, columnists, elected officials, and prominent conservatives.  It wasn’t something poorly produced by marginal individuals on the fringes, it was a magazine produced by highly educated people who were in the system and able to exert influence in multiple venues. 

It wasn’t just a magazine focused on defending the Confederacy, it was also developing a reactionary ideology for the readership, a world view of society, religions, history, politics from a Confederate point of view.

I thought at the time that people would be astounded that prominent individuals were involved in this movement, and also surely this showed the “heritage” was hateful in response to the Sons of Confederate Veterans slogan “Heritage not Hate.” However, it turned out that a lot of people really didn’t want to know about the neo-Confederate movement. I discovered that the Confederacy had a lot of friends across the political spectrum.  I remember one individual who was a member of a self-proclaimed radical group saying, “I am not like my mother who is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, but I think you are slandering the South.”

People expect a racist to be a marginal individual, rude, belligerent, spouting racial slurs and can comfort themselves that they must not be racist since they are not like that. I was discomforting.  Newspapers, major dailies, liberal magazines and other publications were resolutely not interested.

So I continued to research year after year, purchasing all the neo-Confederate magazines and back issues, indexing them, archiving them, and purchasing all the neo-Confederate books, videos, audio cassette tapes and indexing and archiving them.  I would try to get news media interested but largely failed.  There was just a few articles here and there in the alternative media

However, starting in 1998 matters started to change. Trent Lott was heading up the impeachment effort against Bill Clinton and  by getting on the Internet, I started to get emails about the impeachment and ignored them for a couple days until someone pointed out that the topic of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) had come up and Lott was denying he was a real supporter. Using the Internet, I got Tom Edsall’s phone number and called and the next day I was faxing. All the material you read on the internet about Lott’s involvement with the CofCC or his interview in the Southern Partisan came from material I supplied to journalists at one time or another.

After a few years no elected official or anyone who wanted a career in government or politics would speak to the CofCC or be a member.

Then in 2000 John McCain had hired Richard Quinn, a political consultant, who also was also the editor of the Southern Partisan. All of a sudden the Southern Partisan was big news, a national scandal. Interestingly enough, George W. Bush won the South Carolina primary with a campaign run by Richard T. Hines, former associate editor of the Southern Partisan.

The Southern Partisan afterward started to lose article contributors and couldn’t get anyone to interview who wasn’t retired or had an expectation of a career. It gradually sputtered out and the last print issue was in 2008.  I had defeated a major institution that was developing the neo-Confederate movement and a major means of their connection into the Republican Party.

However, in 2000 that fact that Dick Armey, Phil Gramm, Thad Cochrane, Lindsey Graham, Jesse Helms, and other prominent conservatives, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson had interviewed in the Southern Partisan was not considered news by reporters as much as I tried to get journalists interested.

Each time, as suddenly as neo-Confederacy was in the news it was then not news. I realized that my material was news when one political group wanted to get at another political group. However, this led to some victories and at least some awareness of the neo-Confederate movement.

The most important thing around that time was contacting Euan Hague, originally from Scotland, a then university teaching assistant, now a professor at DePaul University in Chicago, who needed some material to support a claim he had made on the British Broadcasting Corporation radio. I had the material.

The neo-Confederates have a theory that the South is Celtic and has distinctive racial characteristics in contrast to non-Southerners who are held to be English and having different racial characteristics. Scots don’t like Scotland being the object of racist fantasies. Euan convinced me to write an article for Scottish Affairs at the University of Edinburgh. I am a chemical engineer in semiconductor manufacturing. When I was in college the English professor offered me a deal to rewrite all my papers and he would give me a C grade.  I accepted the professor’s offer immediately without discussion. An academic paper seemed daunting but I decided to do it. After a lot of struggle I produced the paper. When it was done, I felt that even if it wasn’t published, I was very happy to have written it. It was published and I felt I could write another paper and it might be published.

Then Euan and I started writing papers together. He suggested books for me to read and I read them and some of the books in the footnotes of the joint papers we wrote I would buy and read. It was like getting a graduate education in cultural geography which involves nationalism. Suddenly, for the first time I really comprehended the materials I was collecting.

After some articles a group of us wrote the book, “Confederacy: A Critical Introduction,” University of Texas Press, and later with James Loewen we produced “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader,” University Press of Mississippi, which was primary documentation showing that the Confederacy was about slavery and white supremacy and that after the Civil War honoring the Confederacy, neo-Confederacy, was about white supremacy.  James Loewen tried to get this book an award by the Museum of the Confederacy. I averted this by writing the Museum of the Confederacy that I would publically reject the award and write an expose of them. 

I am happy to report the book didn’t get the award. I was condemned strongly by some Civil War historians. Which brings up another issue, white supremacy and neo-Confederacy tends to be given a free pass in the fields of Civil War history and Southern Studies.

So by now I had become a subject matter expert, surely I would get a hearing for my research during controversies over Confederate symbols and surely my research on the neo-Confederate movement would get a public airing. No such luck. I couldn’t even get the entry in Wikipedia for Neo-Confederate properly edited.  Neo-Confederates would undo my edits and the Wikipedia editor in this case was indifferent. Wikipedia is a playground for neo-Confederates, but as one person I don’t have the time to engage in futile efforts.

It wasn’t all bleak during this period of time. I did get some information to the public here and there. People were purchasing the two books and once people understood what neo-Confederacy was they could recognize it when they hear or read it. I did finally get Bill Clinton’s three letters of congratulations to the United Daughters of the Confederacy published online by

I did provide a wealth of materials to academics whose writings helped bring before audiences information that related to neo-Confederates. “Loathing Lincoln” by John Barr is one example.

However, I felt very strongly that I was really failing.  I had multiple potential academic projects that I could do, and as such I might have a very successful academic career, my goal, which is to defeat neo-Confederacy, was failing badly.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans were still able to present themselves as sentimental heritage advocates instead of being known for who they were. The neo-Confederate movement and its agenda was still largely unknown to the general public. There was no movement to get rid of a racialized white landscape of statues and symbols. Elected officials still wrote letters of congratulations when the UDC and SCV had conventions in their town. Churches still offered their facilities to them.

Also, I was discovering that I was getting old, the surprise when you suddenly realize that it is you and not just those other old people who need the flu shot or when a senior discount comes up on your bill.  Time was running out.

So in 2012 I sat down and started to think what I could do. One day I sat started writing down things that people in general cared about and thought how my research connected to these things.  Basic things such as, food, children, education, mortgages, housing, clothing, etc.  I came up with a list and then did brainstorming and screening of ideas with some friends and came up with a candidate list of topics and set to writing.

I needed an outlet and Black Commentator came to my aid again. The first was an article advocating screening out people who are sympathetic to the Confederacy from juries. In the South this would have a tremendous impact on the composition of juries in the South.  Even outside the South it would have significant impact. Though I have contacted many groups, no one is engaged with the idea.

Then I wrote a piece on the racism and extremism of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for Black Commentator

This led up to a 2013 project. Though an affinity purchasing group, We Care, major corporations were donating money to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. ESPN, Banana Republic, Aeropostale, Barney’s New York, DNKY, Sakes Firth Avenue, Ralph Lauren and numerous others, were donating money to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, it seems unwittingly. I wrote them letters including printouts of the We Care web pages showing their logo with the Sons of Confederate Veterans Confederate flag logo, and a copy of the Black Commentator article on the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  

It was a quick victory.  As a result of the BC report and my follow up letters it took only eight days before BC was able to report We Care dropped the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It was also a sort of defeat. Besides a small group of people in the 25 corporations I initially wrote, no one else really knew anything about the racist and extremist agenda of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  But it was a victory.

So the next and current project is to write churches to not host events for neo-Confederate groups. There have been some successes, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia disinvited the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 2014. However, otherwise I can say it was easier to get the temples of Mammon to give up neo-Confederacy than the churches of Christ. Evasions, or no responses and the hosting of neo-Confederate groups has so far been the result.

Pictures of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Mobile, Alabama

Note: the church office has informed BC at this time (07/02/2015) they do not display any flags in the church or at services

These are not fringe denominations. The Episcopal Church, Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian USA Church are doing most of the hosting, though it seems that the Southern Baptist Church (SBC) is now starting to host more since it seems that some denominations are becoming more reluctant to do so and quietly are rejecting neo-Confederate groups.

I wrote the president of the SBC, their entire executive board, the leadership of the Ashley River Baptist church, where a recent neo-Confederate event occurred, and there was no response. Also I have written Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission who was interviewed in the media about the SBC reaching out to minorities. No response.  The Court Street UMC in Lynchburg, Virginia is scheduled to host the Children of the Confederacy, a youth group run by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to indoctrinate young people that the Confederacy was glorious, on July 16, 2015. I have written Rev. Dr. Mark A. Tinsley, no response.

It has been an uphill battle getting anywhere with the Churches but I keep working at it. I have realize that it isn’t just an activist project, I am mapping out American Christianity and race.

I am also planning to start writing letters to the American military regarding the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ attempt to get themselves involved in high schools by giving awards to Junior ROTC cadets evidently with the U.S. military’s approval.

Finally I have decided to leave the desk and get out there and meet people, to speak and to protest. Another article isn’t going to defeat neo-Confederacy by itself.

I have a PowerPoint presentation about the neo-Confederate movement which I have started to give to show that the core idea of neo-Confederacy is inequality and how that relates to everyday life.

Since May of this year I have been planning protests at the 2015 Sons of Confederate Veterans National Reunion and will be protesting at their reception at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia on July 15, 2015 from 5pm to 9pm. This is the Facebook Event Page.

Then the Charleston Church Massacre occurred.  I recognized from the jacket patches that the person was likely a neo-Confederate and as news came out I was busy researching and downloading, and printing information from Dylann Roof’s Facebook page and his website before it disappeared from the web and then came the journalist inquiries.

There have been astounding changes. For example, the National Cathedral announced that they were going to get the Confederate stain glasses removed. They were donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. This was a goal I wasn’t even going to try until sometime in the distant future.  I would be quite content to just get the Episcopal Church to stop hosting neo-Confederates and it seemed even that would take years.

Monuments and flags and Confederate symbols are rejected by government and commerce everywhere. There is a call for the Jefferson Davis highway to be rejected in Arizona, though for some reason California and New Mexico are keeping it. It is like a revolution. [It goes from Alexandria, Virginia to San Diego and up to the northern border of California.]

The recent surge against the Confederacy is good, it will have to be seen how many monuments and flags come down. But surely some will go. And the more the Confederacy is removed from daily life the less it will be normalized and the more the remaining instances of the Confederacy will seem anomalous which will help to get some of them removed and the cycle repeats. This is important. Every Confederate monument whispers, “civil rights is just the slogan of the day but white supremacy is for the ages,” the monument’s whisper is the truth, for if the nation really believed in civil rights, why is the monument still there?

The neo-Confederate movement is enabled by these public endorsements of the Confederacy by symbols and monuments which normalize the Confederacy. The fewer there are, the more the neo-Confederates will not be accepted.

One unfortunate feature of the new opposition to Confederate flags is that it is still often framed in the paternalistic terms of it being offensive to African Americans which reduces the argument to African American emotional reactions, not that African Americans might have an intellectual assessment that the racialized landscape and endorsement of the Confederacy by government bodies is a denigration of their humanity and inimical to their rights. I think some people sense this and it might be why they think the effort is a distraction.

Worse is that this argument doesn’t acknowledge that the Confederate landscape and the Confederate symbols primarily serve to poison the thinking of white people.

A friend joyfully proclaimed that I could “retire.” Is the struggle over or nearly over? Not at all.

The flags and monuments may come down but the neo-Confederate movement is still there. They are still generally not known to the public and they are still having an enormous impact. For example, the Politically Incorrect Guide to American History is a New York Times best seller, it is written by Thomas Woods, a leading neo-Confederate.  The American conservative movement is learning its American history from a neo-Confederate. Many of the other books in this series are also written by those who contributed to Southern Partisan.  The neo-Confederates have a lot of soft power through various means like these books and through other avenues. There still is the Abbeville Institute made of professors and university students. I struggle to get the public to understand that these people are educated and not like Klansmen. They are in the system, in the establishment. There is still almost no public awareness of this movement.  Though this is beginning to change some, Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, denounced the anti-Lincoln neo-Confederate propaganda warning that:

Operationally, they are pro-Confederacy. Their influence shouldn't be exaggerated. The vast majority of people will never hear of them. They exist only as a small but foul temptation on the right. If American conservatism ever wants to commit suicide, they offer the ready means. And it begins with the root-and-branch rejection of Abraham Lincoln.

Rich Lowry hopes that they are small, but neo-Confederacy is creeping into the American conservative movement.

More ominous is the percentages of people who believe that the Civil War was about states’ rights and not slavery. The percentage that think it is about states’ rights and not slavery goes up with decreasing age. As the Pew Research Center reported.

Young people are more likely than older Americans to say that the war’s main cause was states’ rights – 60% of those younger than 30 express this view, the highest percentage of any age group. Those 65 and older are the only age group in which more say that slavery, rather than states’ rights, was the main cause of the Civil War (by 50% to 34%). While 48% of whites view states’ rights was the war’s main cause, so too do 39% of African Americans.

Note, even 39% of African Americans. 

The nation is facing an imminent catastrophe where the neo-Confederate view of the Civil War is the norm. We are about to be a Lost Cause nation. The abolitionist view of the Civil War is about to be Gone With The Wind. 

[Lost Cause is another term for the neo-Confederate understanding of slavery, the Confederacy, Civil War, and Reconstruction.]

The reader might ask how can this be with so much opposition to the Confederate flag, it should be considered that much of the opposition is framed with the paternalistic idea that the Confederate flag is emotionally hurtful to African Americans through misuse by the Klan or associations with slavery.

This shouldn’t be surprising if a person looks at American school history textbooks of which the author has bought many. The neo-Confederates raise a stink about text books and the result is text books that leave the question of the cause of the Civil War unclear. James Loewen as part of the research for the book, “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader,” at his speaking engagements had the audience vote as to the cause of the civil war. States’ rights won each time, even with a group of African American school teachers. If we teach a history that black lives don’t matter is it surprising that often times black lives don’t matter? It is surprising that we are becoming a Lost Cause nation?

Then there is a developing counter revolution which seeks to block efforts to eliminate Confederate symbols, flags and monuments from public places. As the public’s interest wears off and the neo-Confederates get their campaign mobilized there will be resistance. The good thing is that so much is happening in so many places it will be hard for them to offer effective resistance everywhere the glorification of the Confederacy is being challenged.

However, there is one very positive development which holds a lot of promise to defeating neo-Confederacy. Dr. David Hayes-Bautista has researched the history of Cinco de Mayo and is the author of Cinco de Mayo: An American Holiday. It turns out it was started in California during the Civil War. At one Cinco de Mayo during the Civil War, pictures of Benito Juarez and Abraham Lincoln were carried at the head of the procession. It is an American anti-Confederate holiday and at a 2012 Cinco de Mayo celebration at the La Plaza de Arte y Cultura in Los Angeles there was a whole evening of plays and dancing to explain the anti-Confederate origins of Cinco de Mayo. 

Additionally La Plaza de Arte y Cultura had an exhibition giving the history of the Civil War and the history of the French invasion of Mexico.

The neo-Confederates are very expressive in their hostility to Hispanics and Hispanics have noticed. As this new understanding of Cinco de Mayo spreads across the nation I think that Hispanics will be less likely to tolerate the Confederacy. 

I am not so worried about conservative efforts and neo-Confederates for which I have counter measures but I am worried about the counter measures of certain people in the Democratic Party and in some Liberals.  Arguments which will shut me down in my attempts to get the message out to the public.

A good example is a July 26, 2015 editorial by Mary Frances Berry, former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,” and Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought at the University of Pennsylvania, in the Washington Post titled “The Confederate flag is just a distraction.”

Berry denigrates efforts to get rid of the Confederate flag in her editorial.

Their actions are merely diversions. They are addressing the least important cause of Roof’s racist murder spree. Focusing on flags and monuments draws our attention from the hard work that is required to reduce the burden of racism in American society.


The #TakeItDown movement is dizzyingly seductive and grows in ever-increasing intensity, blotting out all other concerns about the Charleston shootings.

And she makes other similar assertions that efforts to get rid of Confederate symbols somehow preclude actions on other issues of race. Nobody is saying that they are working to take it down in lieu of doing something else. She seems to lack understanding of the power of historical memory which historians and other academics are realizing is a real form of power in society.

Berry’s arguments are nearly the same as those of Walter Williams, an African American conservative, expresses in a Southern Partisan column titled “Misplaced Priorities,” who opens his defense of the Confederacy with attack on the NAACP’s opposition to the Confederate flag with this snide remark:

Now that the schools that black youngsters attend are educating well, the devastating crime rate in black communities has abated and the black family has recovered its past stability, the NAACP can focus on perceived indignities such as the Confederate battle flag flying over the Capitol Dome of South Carolina. [Williams, Walter, “Misplaced Priorities,” Southern Partisan, Vol. 19 4th Qtr. 1999, page 51.]

Also her views are similar to those of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The following is a cartoon from the Confederate Veteran, Vol. 3 2000.  It shows the paternalistic racism of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that African Americans can’t have a voice on the issues of history and historical memory.

One of my challenges has been to show that the soft power of the neo-Confederates has real impact. What is the impact when a region believes that the Confederacy is worth honoring?

People are now plotting politics, issues and conditions geographically across the United States. In map after map you see “Confederacies.”

The following map is the congressional vote on the 19th Amendment, two-thirds approval was needed, it only passed by a few percent. It is not a wonder that the United States was the 27th nation to give women the vote.

Here is another Confederacy.  Phyllis Schlafly was interviewed by the Southern Partisan after her victory party and the following is here quote.

Or another Confederacy. (States that ratified it are in blue.)

Or this Confederacy

The whole point of monuments and symbols is to shape peoples identities of who they are and incalculate certain sets of values.  It seems to work. 

The point of historical narratives are to shape values and understanding. The Bible contains narratives of what happened in the past and all religions have narratives of what happened in the past. On Easter Sunday the Resurrection isn’t old stuff or a distraction from the issues of the day, but a renewal of values. So are the observances of other religions.

The power of the neo-Confederate movement is through the shaping of identity and values, they don’t need to advocate many specific policies, thought they do advocate some. Once Jefferson Davis is your hero and the plantation is your ideal, whether conscious or not, you will naturally support the politics of inequality.  Perhaps if people don’t identify with the Confederacy they will identify with social justice more.

When I explain to people that the core idea of the neo-Confederate movement is inequality people tell me that there is already growing inequality. Well yes, there is, look at this T-shirt which was sold by the Southern Partisan and figure it out.

Also, it isn’t only about racism. Neo-Confederates have anger against Liberals, Unitarians, Jews, Hispanics, Lesbians, Gays, Muslims and many others. They are against democracy itself.

Neo-Confederates believe in a hierarchical society and seek to divide people by race, offering racial privilege to those who are white. The many prejudices of the neo-Confederates are just a tool box to divide people, to break down the 99% into many small percentages.  
Fighting neo-Confederacy quickly involves confronting white anger and establishments that don’t want to confront the issues. Neo-Confederates are not marginal fringe individuals that you will never meet, but people in your social circles, people you will have to face, people with influence. 

Fighting neo-Confederacy can involve losing white votes, and evidently even a few African American votes, that might otherwise accrue to a candidate.

The arguments that it isn’t important provides cover for those who don’t want to have to confront neo-Confederacy or politicians who hope to poll a few extra white votes. They can pose the idea of it being a distraction and as having a more advanced thinking. It even provides cover for those who are sympathetic to the Confederacy, they can take this stance to block efforts against the Confederacy by using this argument.

The primary obstacle I face in the future and have faced in the past isn’t the neo-Confederates, instead it is the argument that the issue isn’t important, which shuts down the effort to fight the neo-Confederacy and is even used by neo-Confederates to do so.

In conclusion, though recent events are very encouraging and will represent real progress in fighting the neo-Confederacy, there is a long struggle ahead and a lot will depend on people realizing this is important and affects the real issues of the day.

Over the twenty three years it sometimes has seemed like I have wandered in the wilderness. But I always remember the atrocities at Olustee, Poison Spring, and Fort Pillow, the struggles of the abolitionists, the suffering of the slaves, the troubling stories in Litwack’s book “Trouble in Mind,” and go on. I have a historical consciousness which forms my values also.

Regardless of the challenges I will be fighting to the end. With recent events I am hopeful. Guest Commentator, Ed Sebesta is an independent researcher. Co-editor of Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction and The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The ‘Great Truth’ About the ‘Lost Cause’. Author of chapter about the Civil War and Reconstruction in the notorious Texas teaching standards in Politics and the History Curriculum: The Struggle over Standards in Texas and the Nation. Click here to contact Mr. Sebesta.

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