Air Date 12/9/2020
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall learn about the real-time construction of the world's newest Lost Cause narrative, the failed re-election of Donald Trump. This is not our country's first experience with Lost Causes, however, and it's not, contrary to popular opinion, even our second connection to a Lost Cause narrative because we didn't invent the first one, we borrowed it from somewhere else and I will tell that story today.
I do have clips for you today, as I normally do, but first I must set the stage a little bit, and I'm going to start at the end. My conclusion today is that we are witnessing the birth of a new Lost Cause narrative, that Donald Trump's refusal to accept the election results is not just due to his oversized ego's inability to accept defeat, nor is it purely a money-grab - though it is obviously that as well. In addition to those factors, we are also witnessing the creation of a Lost Cause myth. And I think the motivation behind this is that Lost Cause myths have proven to be some of the most durable and powerful legacies that can be left behind to live on after a movement has faltered or failed.
It's the ideological seed that gets planted for a future generation to harvest.
MAGA, the New Confederate Lost Cause Part 1 - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 11-16-20
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:01:19] So this morning, while many of us were still lost in our dreams, Donald Trump tweeted. And I know that is a sentence none of us ever really need to hear again. But this time it seemed to imply that he had gotten his head around the fact that Joe Biden won the election. This of course set all kinds of people ablaze, wondering if he was finally prepared to concede. But within a couple hours, he was back on message, lying about voter fraud and insisting that he won, in spite the enormous and transparent evidence that he lost -- by a lot. We are several days into this performance, with remarkable moments like the secretary of state Mike Pompeo's press conference last week.
REPORTER: [00:02:03] Is the state department currently preparing to engage with the Biden transition team? And if not, at what point does it delay, hamper a smooth transition, or pose a risk to national security?
MIKE POMPEO - US SECRETARY OF STATE: [00:02:14] There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration, right? We're ready.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:02:21] Or White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany's appearance on Fox Business this weekend.
STUART VARNEY - HOST, FOX BUSINESS: [00:02:27] Are you prepared to say that the president will, President Trump will definitely attend the inauguration?
KAYLEIGH McENANY - WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: [00:02:33] Uh, again, you know, that's many, that's many steps away here. Uh, we're talking January and, uh, President Trump believes he will be President Trump, have a second term and litigation is the first step, many steps away from that.
STUART VARNEY - HOST, FOX BUSINESS: [00:02:45] It would look pretty bad if he did not attend the inauguration, it would sound like sour grapes, wouldn't it?
KAYLEIGH McENANY - WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: [00:02:53] I think the president will attend his own inauguration. He would have to be there in fact.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:02:58] Many people are understandably mocking this stuff as some kind of alien planet of reality. And the general consensus seems to be that this can't succeed. He will have to leave the White House and then it'll all go away.
But it's that last bit that I question. About the staying power of this denial and what it can do when it sticks.
I'm thinking of Barack Obama's birth certificate. Of death panels. Remember that? The last time there was a public option up for debate. Or for that matter of welfare moms or pizzagate, we could go on and on with fantastic absurdist assertions that, nonetheless, stuck with people and mattered. A Politico morning consult poll taken a few days after the election found that 70% of Republicans don't believe the election was fair. Seven out of 10. This can mean all kinds of stuff about the short-term faith in our democracy. And that's a big deal by itself. But I also wonder about the long-term narrative of history. Because we have in our history a powerful and terrifying example of how this kind of denialism can consume not only our politics, but the soul of the country.
So this week we are, again, going to travel back to those crucial and instructive years following the Civil War, when the Confederacy managed to claim victory, despite defeat. And it worked.
Jay's history lesson on the Lost Cause of the Jacobites
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:04:21] Now, before we dive in deep to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, I want to lay out some history in broad strokes to explain how a Lost Cause narrative gets built. So here's the basic structure with a story you'll be familiar with.
There's two groups of people, North and South, they're ruled by the same government, but bitter divisions exist resulting in a war being launched to defend to the liberties and the very way of life of the aggrieved. A leader rallies his side and fierce rebellion, the fighting is bloody and brutal, but the rebellion is ultimately crushed. In the wake of the fighting years of harsh crackdown follows. The victors look to extinguish, many of the customs of the losing side in an effort to drown any final embers of rebellion. The defeated are demoralized and utterly disempowered. They still live in their homeland, but it is now a military occupation and they are forced to adhere to the customs of their oppressors. Years pass and bitterness grows. There is a longing for an antebellum age, before the war, when they may not have been entirely independent, but at least they could follow their customs and live the life they felt was their birthright.
Then there's a turning point, that longing for a bygone age was able to be converted into a powerful, irrepressible pride for their heritage. They couldn't reverse the result of the war, but they were able to take back control of the narrative. They combined romanticized stories of the old ways with heroic and noble accounts of the failed fights to maintain their way of life as a fulcrum and lever to lift their previously sunken spirits to new heights.
This narrative carried on through the generations with constant retellings and celebrations. Money was raised and monuments were built to commemorate the heroes of the lost war, and those who would go on to tell the romanticized version of their story. The legacy carries on to this very day and echoes can be felt in the makeup of the government and the sentiments of the people who are the descendants of that bloody war between North and South.
Now, if any of that sounds familiar, it should, because I have just described, in rather loose terms, the very famous Jacobite rebellion of 1745 consisting primarily of Scottish Highlanders waging war against the British under the leadership of Bonnie Prince Charlie. You might think that I've pulled this all historical switcheroo on you for fun - not so because I am going somewhere with this and it is important to understand this history in order to truly understand America, believe it or not.
So let's go over that one more time with a few more details filled in. Many in Scotland in the 1700s felt that Prince Charlie was the rightful heir to the throne in both England and Scotland. And so that combined with enough economic and political pressure was enough to spark an uprising. One of the most famous places in Scotland related to the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 is a place called Glenfinnan. And there's a good chance you've actually seen this place without knowing about it.
If you saw the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, you may recall the scene in which Harry and Ron take a flying car to Hogwarts—they nearly get crushed by the Hogwarts Express on the way. That scene with the train was filmed at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is within eyesight of an enormous monument erected on the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed and raised his flag calling on the leaders of the Highland clans to join him in a campaign against the British. Oh, and the Hogwarts Express shown in the movie, in real life that train is called the Jacobite.
The uprising, which launched in 1745 lasted about eight months before being crushed in a final battle in 1746, less than one year later. After the fighting ended, the British wanted to ensure that the rebellion wouldn't start up again, so they stationed in military units all over Scotland and implemented new laws banning aspects of traditional Scottish culture, including tartan, kilts, and the Scots language. Things continued on in this way for decades. The spark that helped rekindle pride in Scottish heritage, and the reason why we know what tartan kilts are today, came in the form of the writings of Sir Walter Scott. You may have heard of his name, even if you don't know what he wrote or why he's famous.
Scott began writing historical fiction novels in the 1810s. So this is about 60 years after that failed Jacobite uprising. And for context, this moment in Scottish history, as Scott begins writing, is coinciding with the explosion of the cotton industry in the American South. So Scott wrote romanticized stories of old Scotland, like Rob Roy, Ivanhoe, and his series of a Waverley novels. In his stories, he would often include passages actually written in the old Scots language and young readers who only spoke English would have to ask their older relatives what these words meant, and it created this sort of intergenerational conversation about Scots and the old ways. And so for this reason, Walter Scott is often credited with not only rekindling a pride in Scottish heritage, but also helping to save the Scots language from extinction.
And Scott would go one to become the first writer in history to become world famous during his own lifetime. Other authors had become world famous, but only after they'd passed away. And if you want to know how the people of Scotland felt about him, besides him being famous, you just have to look up a picture of downtown Edinburgh where the Scott's monument dominates the skyline of New Town. It's been nicknamed the "Gothic Rocket" and it was built primarily with money crowdfunded from average people to honor the person who they felt was most responsible for giving the Scots back their pride in their country and heritage. Sounds familiar.
And just next to the Scott's monument is Edinburgh's train station, Waverley Station—named after Walter Scott's Waverley novels. As you well know, tartan kilts are going strong in Scotland and are even worn by the British Royal family for special occasions, how's that for a switcheroo, as for the Scott's language, if you'll allow me just one more Harry Potter reference, evidence of the health of that language can be seen in the fact that the Harry Potter books are being translated into Scots.
Reading Harry Potter In Scots
STYLIST MAGAZINE: [00:11:36] Mr. And Mrs. Dursley a nummer fower, Privet Loan were prood tae say they were gey normal, thank ye verra much.
Nae doot Dumbiedykes isnae the ainly ane You-Ken-Wha wis feart o.
The fower hooses are cawed Gryffendor, Hechlepech, Corbieclook and Slydderin, said Professor McGonagall.
They were lookin straicht intae the een o a monstrous dug, a dug that filled the haill space atween ceilin and flair. It had three heids.
Jay's comments continued
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:12:13] And in addition to the language and kilts and all the rest, as I said, you can trace the legacy of the rebellion and subsequent rebirth of Scottish nationalism, right up until today. Just on the most major issue we'll all have heard of, in the Brexit referendum, where voting took place in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, it was in England where the support for Brexit was strongest with 53%, sort of slim margin, voting to leave while in Scotland, they had the most lopsighted vote in the UK with a landslide 62% in favor of remaining in the EU.
And now after the 2019 elections in the UK, the SNP, the Scottish National Party is dominant in Scotland having run on a platform of calling for an independence referendum in the hopes of breaking away from England and the rest of the UK once and for all this, time at the ballot box rather than on the battlefield. And then if they can manage that, they hope to rejoin the EU.
But we're not here to talk about the present, we're talking about the past. So we've seen as an example, what kind of impact the writings of Walter Scott and his romanticized version of Scottish history had for Scotland. Now, we're going to look at the impact he had on the Southern United States, a place filled with Scottish immigrants who had been forced from their Highland homes in Scotland during the Scottish Clearances during the late 1700s and early 1800s, which is a whole other story, and found new Highland homes for themselves in the American South, where they became farmers and were known as hillbillies.
Sir Walter Scott, The Old South and The Lost Cause - Who Put The Klan Into Ku Klux Klan?
NEIL OLIVER - DOCUMENTARIAN: [00:14:03] To the frontier farmers, the economics are simple. Cotton was a cash crop that brought relatively easy money.
It also offered an easy life, as long as those picking the cotton are slaves.
As the cotton industry grew, so did slavery. By 1810, the number of slaves in the US rose to 1.2 million, almost double what it was 20 years earlier.
Now the descendants of mainly oppressed and downtrodden refugee Scots took the path of racism to become oppressors themselves.
And the simple farm houses became increasingly grand plantation houses, like this one built in 1851, just outside Charleston, by William Wallace McLeod.
He owned one of the largest plantations in South Carolina. But like many, he never forgot his roots. He called the grand house Inverness.
The impression planters wanted to give was one of affluence. And the most striking display of wealth at that time was measured by the number of slave cabins that line the drive to the house.
Here there were 23.
William Wallace McCloud enslaved up to a hundred people on his plantation, though he lived the life of undoubted privilege.
Being here, in a place where slavery actually happened, I have to admit I am filled for the first time with feelings of disbelief at the surreal nature of the life that those elite whites chose for themselves. How do you get to the point where you can enjoy a life that is composed of people who are your captives, who are around you in great numbers every minute of the day, doing things against the will, for no pay. They cook your food. They work in the fields. They fix up the house. If it's a cool night, you would order one of them to lie across your feet on your bed so that you are warm.
At what point does living like that feel in any sense normal?
And it was another Scot who provided the balm that meet all the seem legitimate.
By the mid-1800s, almost every house like this would have contained some of the many romantic novels of Sir Walter Scott. Scott's stories of gallant knights and brave Highlanders, set in a golden mythical past, were wildly popular.
But according to the American writer, Mark Twain, they merely fed this fantasy lifestyle.
Twain thought the planters were modeling the lives of Scott's romantic vision of the old country, imagining themselves as lairds of their own clan.
He wrote that the civilization of the South in the 19th century is curiously confused and commingled with the Walter Scott Middle Age sham civilization. The inflated speech and the jejeune romanticism of an absurd past that is dead, and out of charity ought to be buried.
HEATHER WILLIAMS: [00:18:00] I think that for many people, it felt as though it was something they were entitled to. And I think that sense of entitlement then passed from generation to generation. You know, the sense that you are supposed to have more than other people, and that some people are supposed to serve and you are to be served.
NEIL OLIVER - DOCUMENTARIAN: [00:18:22] Twain also thought that Scott's heroic romanticism was partly responsible for a terrible war that followed.
Now, 150 years later people flock to see the civil war as entertainment, and living history groups meet regularly to replay the bottles again and again. This one is at Fort Hollingsworth in Georgia where reenactors from all over the southern states take part.
What is it important to remember by taking part in and watching or reenactment like this?
REENACTOR #1: [00:19:04] It's important to make sure that the people understand that what the history is all about. It's important that they remember that this is something that their ancestors fought for, and something that's actually a part of them. This is something that they were born ingrained with and they should remembered that.
NEIL OLIVER - DOCUMENTARIAN: [00:19:21] What does define the ancestors?
REENACTOR #1: [00:19:24] They didn't leave any of their culture behind. They just brought it here and used that culture and created something completely new. You know, even from the way we talk even down to the patterns in their clothes. I mean, when the Scots came here they brought with them the tartans.
REENACTOR #2: [00:19:41] Our way of life is probably closer to those in Scotland that are now in this part of the country. We held to a lot of their ways, I think we did. Yeah, I think we did.
NEIL OLIVER - DOCUMENTARIAN: [00:19:53] What was lost when the war was lost?
REENACTOR #3: [00:19:56] The way we live actually. They had plantations, a lot of folks have plantations and a lot of wealth. And a lot of that was lost in the south They had to go back and start life over.
NEIL OLIVER - DOCUMENTARIAN: [00:20:14] America's civil war was immensely destructive. Well over half a million soldiers died and much of the south's infrastructure was ruined.
But for many Whites the greatest fear of all had just come true the enslaved were now free Not only that, but Black man could also vote just as the vengeful North took away the right to vote for those that supported the Confederacy.
Like the Jacobites in Scotland a hundred years earlier, the Southern Whites had lost everything. But now they too had a Lost Cause to believe in.
How Southern socialites rewrote Civil War history - Vox - Air Date 10-25-17
NARRATOR: [00:21:09] Listen to how this textbook describes slavery:
ARCHIVAL AUDIO: [00:21:13] The master often had a barbecue or a picnic for his slaves. Then they had a great frolic. Even while working in the cotton fields, they sang songs. The beat of the music and the richness of their voices made work seem light.
NARRATOR: [00:21:25] Yikes. That's from History of Georgia, a textbook published in 1954, that was taught across junior high schools in Georgia for decades.
That sort of language is part of an intellectual movement called "the lost cause," a distorted version of American Civil War history that's been prevalent in the South for a long time. It took shape soon after the defeat of the Confederate States in the war. When Southern historians like Edward Pollard and former Confederate general Jubal Early started preserving the South's perspective through their writings. They framed the Confederate cause as a heroic defense of the Southern way of life against the overwhelming forces in the North. That narrative has a few basic tenets: the glorification of Confederate soldiers who died for a cause they believed in, the belief that slavery was a benevolent institution, and maybe most importantly, that slavery was not the root cause of the war. The lost cause is one of the most notoriously effective efforts to rewrite history, and it was done by the losing side.
So, how did it become so deeply rooted in Southern memory? Blame the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The UDC was founded in Nashville in 1894 to preserve Confederate culture for generations to come. The women who made up the group descended from elite antebellum families, and they used their social and political clout to spread the pro-Southern version of the war as "real history."
You've probably seen their efforts to honor the Confederacy, but maybe you didn't know it was the UDC. They're the ones who covered the Southern landscape with memorials for Confederate leaders and soldiers. They used their fundraising and lobbying skills to pressure local governments into erecting monuments in prominent public spaces like courthouses and state capitals.
REPORTER #1: [00:23:02] Installed here next to the state capitol by the United Daughters of the Confederacy . . ..
REPORTER #2: [00:23:06] The United Daughters of the Confederacy donated this memorial to the city back in the thirties.
NARRATOR: [00:23:11] They put them along roadsides and in parks, any place that was remotely relevant to the Confederacy was memorialized. By the early 20th century, the UDC had a hundred thousand members, and chapters spread all over the country but mostly in former Confederate States. And there's a reason they grew so quickly during that time.
KEVIN LEVIN: [00:23:28] So we're talking about roughly three decades after the end of the war and the Confederate veterans themselves are beginning to die off. So, there is this push to find ways to commemorate it because the big challenge by 1900 was there's a new generation of White southerners being born, and they never experienced the war years.
NARRATOR: [00:23:46] That push is visible. Most of the Confederate monuments were erected during the UDC's height of influence.
KAREN L. COX: [00:23:52] There's a rhetoric around monuments that we want to get this thing built before all of that generation has died off, and the reason we want it is to teach future generations about those men.
NARRATOR: [00:24:03] Dr. Karen Cox wrote the book on the UDC, and I asked her if it was fair to say the group established the lost cause as historical fact in the South.
KAREN L. COX: [00:24:11] Oh, my God! Yeah, they were the leaders of the lost cause into the 20th century, and they made it a movement about vindication.
NARRATOR: [00:24:19] Just to give you an idea of how effective they were, they successfully lobbied for a Confederate memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, which US President Woodrow Wilson proudly unveiled to a cheering crowd. Now that's influence, right.
KAREN L. COX: [00:24:31] Monuments are the least of what they did. I mean they are the most visible and tangible, but the work with children was far more influential.
NARRATOR: [00:24:41] It turns out a central UDC objective is shaping how children think about the war and their Southern heritage. One of their most powerful tools? Textbooks. Take a look at this pamphlet called a Measuring Rod for Textbooks. It was written by the illustrious Southern historian Ms. Mildred Rutherford, an educator, orator and author of Southern history textbooks. She's also a very pro-slavery.
The pamphlet announced the formation of a textbook review committee featuring prominent southerners, like five former Confederate generals. This group was committed to spreading the truths of Confederate history. So they instructed school boards to reject any textbooks that did not accord full justice to the South. And they urged libraries to deface every book in their collection that didn't measure up by writing the words "unjust to the South" clearly on its cover. This pamphlet was shared widely with school boards throughout the South, and UDC-backed committees closely monitored history books to make sure Northern influence never reached classrooms. So, the core language of an approved textbook aligned precisely with that of the lost cause. You know, stuff like:
NARRATOR #2: [00:25:39] The Confederacy lost in the War between the States, but Georgia never forgot to honor her Confederate soldiers.
NARRATOR: [00:25:46] History of Georgia was on the UDC's approved list. It was also written by E. Merton Coulter, a self-described Southern historian and historian-described White supremacist.
KEVIN LEVIN: [00:25:56] They understand that how you educate, who wins the writing game, who wins the battle over history, ultimately wins the war. That's the big fight for the UDC.
NARRATOR: [00:26:06] But their work with children went further than the classrooms. The UDC formed an auxiliary group called the Children of the Confederacy, which was designed to get kids born in former Confederate States to actively participate in their version of history.
Group leaders had kids recite call-and-response truths from something called the "Confederate catechism." Children up to the age of 18 would compete and be rewarded for memorizing long passages of lost cause rhetoric.
KAREN L. COX: [00:26:30] So, it would be like an afterschool thing. You know, like, that was your club. You would go after school to the meeting of the Children of the Confederacy, and your leader might teach you songs of the South, like Dixie or other songs that were considered Southern patriotic songs. They would have them write essays, go visit the veterans and learn this catechism.
NARRATOR: [00:26:51] Children were also the centerpiece of their community's monument unveilings, like this living flag at the dedication of the Stonewall Jackson monument in Richmond.
Yes, those are school children. The UDC's efforts shaped the identities of children who grew up with the lost cause. They made history personal, and that made their story last longer.
Generations of generations of children learning that narrative in a variety of ways grow up to be, you know, segregationists in the 50s and 60s because that's been drilled into them since they were children.
After World War I, the UDC started losing steam, but the damage was done. The monuments were in place, and the textbooks they wrote remained in Southern classrooms until the late 70s, and the women's group did it all without the right to vote or participate in politics.
KEVIN LEVIN: [00:27:32] You can still get glimmers of this lost cause memory of the war from people who will always choose to see it through the personal, and I think the UDC, to a great extent, was, that was their goal.
NARRATOR: [00:27:44] So, the next time someone says the Confederate monuments are about remembering our history, just know that that's exactly what the United Daughters of the Confederacy wants you to think.
ARCHIVAL AUDIO: [00:27:52] [singing] In Dixieland, I'll take my stand to live and die in Dixie. Away, away, oh, way down south in Dixie.
How the 'Lost Cause' narrative became American history - Washington Post - Air Date 3-5-20
S. WAITE RAWLS: [00:28:05] The day after Richmond fell, Abraham Lincoln came to Richmond. He came to this house. General Weitzel says, Mr. President, how should we treat these people? And Lincoln says, let 'em up easy.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:28:27] Virginia was the Capitol of the Confederacy and that's kind of hard to miss considering all of the monuments to Confederate war heroes throughout the city.
It is very rare for the losing side of a war to have monuments.
S. WAITE RAWLS: [00:28:44] Guess what else is real rare in world history? The whole way we ended the Civil War.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:28:49] But those statues take on a really charged feeling for people.
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:28:55] We have a clash around memory and heritage and what it means with regard to the American Civil War.
S. WAITE RAWLS: [00:29:02] Civil wars usually end with the losers going to the hangman's noose, the guillotine, to prison, to exile or something. And in this case, they just went home.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:29:21] In America today, almost half the country believes that the Civil War was about states' rights, but the historical record shows that the Civil War was about slavery. I talked to Wait s the former president of the Museum of the Confederacy to get some answers.
S. WAITE RAWLS: [00:29:36] Was slavery the principle cause of that political dispute? Yeah. Yeah. There's no way to deny that. But to say Confederacy is synonymous with racist is to connote -- and nobody else was, and they were all by themselves in that -- 99% of the White people living in the United States in 1860 were racist, including Abraham Lincoln.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:30:03] Initially, Lincoln was not in favor of giving Blacks voting rights or allowing them to hold office or even intermarry with Whites. Eventually, he did make incredible steps forward in terms of equal rights, like the 13th Amendment and the Freedmen's Bureau Bill, but his main priority at the time was keeping the Union together. So, he also pardoned all the Confederates and vetoed legislation banning slavery altogether. Back then, White supremacy was the nation's prevailing social order throughout all of the Union.
S. WAITE RAWLS: [00:30:36] Another side of reconciling is we've got to push those African-Americans out of the way. They're in the way to the national reconciliation of the White North and the White South. That gives ground for the "lost cause" politically which was, we couldn't have been wrong. We simply must have been outnumbered.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:30:59] The lost cause was a national propaganda campaign to misrepresent what the Civil War was actually about. The main tenets of the lost cause are that the Confederacy was fighting for states' rights not slavery, that slaves had great working conditions, were loyal to their masters and often fought for the Confederacy, portraying slave owners as kind and Southerners in general as more steeped in Christian values in order to make the case that they were fighting for a just cause and only lost because they were outnumbered.
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:31:31] It is a reflection of a need for Southerners to reconcile their grief over significant losses. The total disruption initially of their social order of White supremacy, whether you were slaveholding or not.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:31:51] But how did we get to a point where a propaganda campaign became American history?
ARCHIVAL AUDIO: [00:31:56] General Moore, at 99, follows the heroic debt of the South to a soldier's grave in Selma, Alabama as the last tiny handful of the boys in gray prepares for the final Confederate reunion in Norfolk, Virginia.
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:32:10] The women who are most responsible for this did an extraordinary job..
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:32:16] lot of the lost cause narratives can be traced back to funerals for Confederate soldiers and the women they left behind after the war. Women all over the South started creating memorial associations to collect the bodies of Confederate soldiers, properly bury them and create monuments to their fallen heroes. One of the most prominent groups was the Confederate Memorial Literary Society.
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:32:39] They send out a call to prominent White women throughout the South and say, we have to preserve the legacy of our loved ones and they open up what they call the Confederate Museum. And it is a hit.
S. WAITE RAWLS: [00:32:53] It was a shrine. It was a shrine to the Confederacy.
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:32:58] Each year room of the house was set up with these artifacts from each of the Confederate states. But it's only their story. If Black folk are represented, it's because they are the loyal, loving slave, supposedly.
S. WAITE RAWLS: [00:33:13] One of the underrepresented stories of the American Civil War is the US colored troops. At the end of the war, there were more Black men in blue uniforms than White men in a gray uniform. People need to know that.
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:33:27] We have completely removed Black people from the narrative when they were central to it.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:33:34] The lost cause made its way into popular culture through films like Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind:
ARCHIVAL AUDIO: [00:33:40] the Confederate needs it. So, we is gonna dig for the South. Don't worry! We'll stop them Yankees.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:33:48] and eventually found its way into school textbooks and even legislation.
ARCHIVAL AUDIO: [00:33:53] This group has nothing to do with discrimination that Congress prohibits. Nor do they advocate for radical . . .
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:34:00] In 1910, they make the decision that, Hey, no more textbooks that speak ill of the Confederacy. And that persists until today in some places!
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:34:13] In 2018, Christy and Waite decided to merge their museums to provide a more accurate picture of the Civil War from multiple perspectives.
S. WAITE RAWLS: [00:34:21] What you want is for people to form their own perspective, fully informed.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:34:33] What's the harm in people not knowing the lost cause?
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:34:37] The harm comes when there is a disrespect for dignity of life that becomes sort of generational, because it's grounded in a series of lies. The history has never been about the dead people, really. It's always about us and the moment that we're in and the issues we're trying to contemplate and wanting to understand sort of this connective tissue. It's always been that.
NICOLE ELLIS - HOST, WASHINGTON POST: [00:35:04] I feel like Richmond is going through its own sort of truth in reconciliation process through these challenging discourses, disagreements and representations of the city.
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:35:19] I think Richmond is going through a period of awakening. The only way that you really can come to some form of conciliatory behavior is when everybody finally understands it and has a desire to move forward in a more equitable way. This is what we do in museums. The challenge is helping people build new memories so they can create a more accurate heritage.
S. WAITE RAWLS: [00:35:49] The American experiment was a huge advance into something very, very new, and they called it an experiment all the time. We need to continue calling it an experiment, which means that it can get better if we keep working at it.,
Monumental Lies - Reveal - Air Date 12-8-18
BRIAN PALMER: [00:36:17] We wanted to know why history was still being erased and distorted here. These are the questions we had for Beauvoir then Executive Director Thomas Payne.
THOMAS PAYNE: [00:36:27] I do think we need to talk more about slavery. The reason I got that was not from the kids. We have a lot of our young kids who come here, and they want to know where the whipping post was at? The way we handle that since they're young kids, we don't have a whipping post.
BRIAN PALMER: [00:36:46] What I hear him saying is that we can't talk about slavery at all because kids can't handle it, but what about those Civil War battles? We watched a lot of people fall down playing dead in a field. That kind of violence that glorified the Confederacy is A okay here, but the violence of slavery, Beauvoir steers clear of that.
THOMAS PAYNE: [00:37:05] We're judging a lot of what happened in the 19th century with our 20 and 21st century glasses, so to speak. We're looking through lens of the 20 and 21st century and saying, oh that's terrible.
BRIAN PALMER: [00:37:17] We heard this before. You can't judge slavery by today's standards, but we don't need to. Abolitionists, including the formerly enslaved, argued against the system while it was happening for the same reason we argue against it today, it was wrong. And yet, Payne defends Davis.
THOMAS PAYNE: [00:37:34] I think that would be an honest perception that he was a benevolent slave holder.
BRIAN PALMER: [00:37:38] There is no way to benevolently own another person's body, another person's life, another person's future. That phrase benevolent slave holder is straight up lost cause language.
SETH FREED: [00:37:52] Here is a term we need to understand, lost cause. Confederates who lost the war devised this idea of the lost cause. It's a whole false interpretation of history designed to justify their defeat, to absolve themselves of any guilt for starting the war, and to vindicate their pre-war way of life. This story is still being told at Beauvoir.
BRIAN PALMER: [00:38:17] The larger goal of these once powerful men was to end the process that was reordering Southern society, reconstruction. They wanted to redeem their status, their power, and their control over Black lives and labor.
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:38:29] These fantasies persist because people have to believe. They have to believe that they fought for something greater than the continued subjugation of another human being.
BRIAN PALMER: [00:38:40] Kristy Coleman is a long time administrator of historic sites. She's currently the CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia. She's an African American woman. The center she runs tells a story of the Civil War that's complicated, at times ugly, and it includes the perspectives of African Americans free and enslaved, and of Union, and Confederate soldiers. In other words, the full story.
CHRISTY COLEMAN: [00:39:04] Its almost laughable when I read some of these diary entries about these owners and these and these slave holders who are just so mortified that, "Well, if Jenny's been with me since she was six years old, and the fact that she ran off with those Yankees," and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. "I'm just sure that they overwhelmed her little fragile mind.
But this is the same woman that you've had whipped several times because she has run away on her own long before the war. There was just this cognitive dissonance related to it. That is really stunning. You have a narrative that makes people comfortable for the spaces that they're in.
Kevin Levin Exposes the Lie and Whitewashed History of So-Called "Black Confederate Soldiers" and the American Civil War - The Chauncey DeVega Show - Air Date 10-18-20
CHAUNCEY DeVEGA - HOST, THE CHAUNCEY DeVEGA SHOW: [00:39:44] Who owns history? How do you answer?
KEVIN LEVIN: [00:39:47] One of the things that was clarified for me in writing the book and certainly having spent time researching this topic over the years: no one does. And I think that is something that has been reinforced by just the emergence of the internet, especially social media. There are no gatekeepers. As much as academic historians still want to claim some -- I don't want to say ownership -- but at least wanting to set the standard for what counts as historical inquiry. I think those days are long over in large part because, as you know, anyone can post anything on the internet, can create social media pages. And you have people who flock to them who have their own prior assumptions reinforced. Much of that, of course, is wrapped up in current politics.
The Black Confederate narrative, it reinforces still that white Americans are still for any number of reasons, they gravitate toward mythology about slavery, whether it's to whitewash the past, to just remove the issue of race and slavery. It is a Wild West show. From my perspective, you know, I've been engaged in blogging and I've been on social media since 2005, and I've seen it gradually deteriorate further.
As widespread as this narrative is on the internet it never quite took hold as the mainstream view of the Confederacy. The original intent behind this narrative in the late 1970s, at least as far as the sons of Confederate veterans was concerned was to replace this growing -- what David Blight would call this emancipationist narrative that emphasized emancipation, this service of black union soldiers and slavery generally -- goal was to replace that, to push it back, if you will, coming out of the civil rights movement.
And although it took hold in a number of places, it never quite maintained any mainstream hold. You know, anyone can go on the internet and find, once you buy into it, it exposes you to the broader myth, which is that slavery is irrelevant to American history, and more specifically to understanding the Civil War and the Confederacy
CHAUNCEY DeVEGA - HOST, THE CHAUNCEY DeVEGA SHOW: [00:41:43] Why do folks want to believe in this black Confederate myth? Or more generally, what's going on in terms of the political work and the emotional work in terms of these mythologies about the Confederacy?
KEVIN LEVIN: [00:41:52] Going to 1861 to look at what Confederates themselves had to say in terms of what they thought they were fighting for is one way to go about it. And as you mentioned, [Confederate Vice President] Stevens's Cornerstone speech is central. It just clarifies things in ways that few other speeches did at that time. But I think actually it's even more clarifying to look at what Confederates are saying about slavery when they had the opportunity in 1864-65 to enlist slaves as soldier. So up until that point of tens of thousand impressed slaves serving throughout the Confederates as body servants or what I call camp slaves, they're also very clear at this point. There's no shortage of Confederates in the army, in the Confederate government, in Richmond, or generally on the home front who are scared out of their minds over the implications of even talking about whether or not slaves will make good soldiers. They understood that it would undercut everything they were fighting for. And even people who were for it weren't for it because they thought it would lead to a general emancipation. They thought that they could engage in some kind of limited policy, if you will, that they could actually salvage slavery as a result of enlistment.
So they were very clear during the war that this was going to be a white man's war. I mean, what I find so interesting about the black Confederate narrative is it's really just an extension of the loyal slave narrative. It actually, in my mind, it's very consistent over time because in the years after the war, as the lost cause narrative takes hold among the defeated Confederates, the memory of the loyal slave is central because they want to push back against Reconstruction, they want to push back against a military occupation of the South, and they also want to justify for themselves that their cause remained righteous, that God remained on their side, and in the end it was only the military might of the North that led to defeat.
But it's really at the turn of the 20th century, where you really begin to see the politics in a clear light. The former camp slave, you know, when he attended Confederate veterans reunions, when he was written about, served as, in the eyes of white southerners, the model black citizen: elderly black men who were loyal to the Confederacy, loyal to their former masters and remain loyal to that memory and the racial status quo of what's now the Jim Crow South.
CHAUNCEY DeVEGA - HOST, THE CHAUNCEY DeVEGA SHOW: [00:44:08] Coincidence of dates. So we have the New York Times' 1619 Project. Then we have the bloody red summer of 1919. Why are we still having these arguments in terms of America's public imagination about self-evident facts?
KEVIN LEVIN: [00:44:20] There is that very strong strain of American exceptionalism that, whether you acknowledge it or not, it just shapes our collective memory.
And certainly the fact that history for white Americans, especially functions is a glue. That's the intention, you know, when it's first taught to us growing up -- fourth grade, fifth grade or whatever -- that there's a nationalism that's baked into it, right? That this is what unites us.
And so the founding myths -- think of the number of generations that come up with any number of these myths about our founding and the virtues of the founding fathers and all of that. Slavery may have been alluded to, but it's something that would have been dealt with if you subscribed to American nationalism or some version thereof, eventually Americans are going to handle their problems. They're going to deal with these issues.
And it's inevitable, of course, that specifically the issue of slavery will be somehow successfully dealt with. And, you know, once you get into the history of the Civil War, come to realize that there was nothing inevitable about anything. Without a war, slavery could have continued for decades to come, perhaps into the early 20th century. It was certainly not dying any kind of slow death as some Confederate apologists would have us believe. And even during the war -- I mean, this is one of the more difficult things I find when it comes to teaching my students -- that even through the middle of the Civil War, the war could have ended with the Union intact and slavery still intact.
You know, if it had ended before the end of 1862, before the Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect on January 1st. So there is this sort of mythology that, again, I think is baked in and that's always been baked in, at least going back through the 20th century and perhaps even earlier: the United States is always improving, freedom is always expanding. And I think the 1619 Project is a wonderful example where claiming that slavery is as foundational as perhaps self-government, which also of course begins in Virginia in 1619, for many people is just too much to take. And the reaction to the 1619 Project, as you mentioned from conservative circles, I think revealed that in the clearest possible terms.
CHAUNCEY DeVEGA - HOST, THE CHAUNCEY DeVEGA SHOW: [00:46:24] But if we're going to do the 101 version, where does this myth of the black Confederate soldier come from and who is advancing it?
KEVIN LEVIN: [00:46:30] First sightings are the late 1970s, specifically coming out of the success of the television miniseries Roots. If I remember correctly, aired in 1977. And you begin to hear representatives members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sort of chatting amongst themselves, and they're very concerned about the success of this miniseries and the book, because it's really one of the first times that a large viewing public, white viewing public, is exposed to a darker history of slavery and the Civil War, certainly much different from what many people would have remembered in Gone With the Wind in 1939, which of course was still widely popular, and that might be the most popular movie about the Civil War and slavery of the entire 20th century. Sons of Confederate Veterans are worried about having to apologize for defending their Confederate ancestors. So for the longest period of time, there was no concern about having to defend their Confederate ancestors because no one was really focused, at least white Americans were focused, on the issue of slavery and race during the war. The dominant narrative of the Civil War throughout much of the 20th century was a reunion narrative. In other words, the white Americans on both sides could celebrate there. The veterans, the soldiers themselves honor their bravery, honor the cause for which they fought, but we're not going to talk much about what those causes were and how they contrasted from one another.
Coming out of the civil rights movement, that's becoming more and more difficult as historic sites begin to focus more on slavery, as museums begin to focus more on this issue, as textbooks begin to adopt some of the scholarship that's coming out in the post-World War II period.
And so the SCV along with other veteran heritage types, they use the Black Confederate narrative to defend their ancestors -- that you had your Black US soldiers, we had ours as well. And they'll go on to argue that ours actually fought in integrated regiments as opposed to United States colored troops, who of course fought in segregated units.
Early on, this narrative really didn't take hold beyond the community itself, the SCV and Confederate heritage community. But it wasn't until the advent of the internet that things really picked up speed for the obvious reasons that it was so much easier to cut and paste from one website to another. The Black Confederate narrative became a way to push the issue of race and slavery aside, to sort of fantasize, if you will, about a time in American history where white and Black people got along peacefully, whether it was during the war or during the Jim Crow era. By extension that the race problems that we currently are experiencing are entirely self-contained. In other words, they don't have a historical root, so you can blame things, affirmative action, or other political agenda, if you will, on the racial front. You don't have to worry about addressing bigger historical roots of racism in America if you believe in the Black Confederate narratives.
MAGA, the New Confederate Lost Cause Part 2 - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 11-16-20
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [00:49:27] When I heard Pompeo say that the other day I laughed. And then I thought, did he chuckle when he said that?
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:49:36] Right. 'Cause he did.
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [00:49:37] I got a bit worried. The seventy percent figure about Republicans, I mean, that's another reminder that we live in decidedly different information universes.
But I've been trying to keep my feet on the ground, not only by looking back to history and knowing that we've been in massive crises like these before, but that I really do believe the Trump presidency with all of its horrors and all of its lying and all of its misadventures with policy, has been essentially a TV show. It is still a TV show. And when his press secretary gets up and says what she said, I mean, we can't help laughing at that.
On the other hand, the test here is going to be, if there is a Trump lost cause, and there's already one being fashioned in narrative and in stories and in conspiracy theories and on right-wing media sources. But if there is to be a Trump lost cause, it has to be sustained for what it already was, and that is essentially a television show. Or maybe it'll be a radio show, or maybe it'll be a theme park as an article in Politico suggested the other day. And that is possible, it certainly is possible. But we shall see --
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:51:10] Meaning that it needs a vehicle for delivering the idea. He's got to have a medium for this performance.
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [00:51:16] He has the audience. The question will be, how does he create a medium in which to keep that audience?
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:51:23] Well, so you recently wrote in the New York Review of Books, you said that today's Republican party is best understood as a modern version of the Confederacy. And you wrote the sentence, you said, "They are secessionist without taking the revolutionary step of seceding." So what do you mean by that?
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [00:51:39] Well, I basically mean that ever since Reaganism, the Republican party has tried to convince this country to not believe in government, that government is essentially a conspiracy against your liberty and not that which will sustain your liberty or sustain your life or your pursuit of happiness. They have rendered as many institutions within the government weak or as weak as possible. This is in effect, perhaps you could say from a right wing point of view, the great triumph of the Trump presidency. It has strangled the Environmental Protection Agency. It has all but destroyed our foreign alliances in the interest of this kind of isolationist vision of the world. They have rendered numerous other institutions moot or weak. And that's what I mean by it. That in effect the Republicans want to own the government that they do not want to actually function for the vast body of the American politic. They want it to function for their own interest. And that I think at the end of the day explains this perverse loyalty of Republicans to Donald Trump, because he did at least help them deliver what they most wanted, which was tax cuts and judges.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:53:08] And how does that sort of, that perversity, how does that relate to then the Confederacy and that history? Is that a similar -- is that how you understand the Confederacy as well?
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [00:53:18] Well, the leaders of the old South and then the leaders of the Southern secession movement have been arguing for years and years and years that they had to sustain their primary interest, which was a slave society -- make no mistake, that's what they were working to defend -- they had to sustain it within this American republic, as it was designed and as it was functioning. But the secession movement of 1860 and 61 was essentially their belief that they could no longer live within the structures of the federal government, because they had become a minority interest -- a decided minority interest.
The Republican party today also is aware that it is risking becoming, if it isn't already, a numerical minority interest in the United States. The more and more it identifies as the white people's party, it is becoming a minority political force. How do you sustain a minority political force in our system? Well, we have institutions that allow you to do it, like the US Senate and like the electoral college. And this begins to help explain the vast array of methods of voter suppression that the Republicans have enacted over the past 20 years or so. That analogy to the Confederacy is simply trying to say that we have a political party today -- Lindsey Graham, what did he call it? a movement -- that is trying to strangle the function of federal power in their own interest.
I don't know that the Republicans will ever try to secede, although there are secessionist efforts and committees and groups all over the country, especially in Texas, there's even one in California for other reasons.
But they're not yet secessionist, but they're sort of secessionist from within. They didn't let the impeachment power play out as it was designed. They stymied any attempt at further aid to the American people in this pandemic crisis. Mitch McConnell has sort of locked down the United States Senate, except for the few things that Republicans actually want it to do. That's a sort of secessionist from within.
MAGA, the New Confederate Lost Cause Part 3 - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 11-16-20
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:55:42] So I want to now talk about then, you know, if that's the sort of modern Republican party and its relationship to the Confederacy in your mind, I do want to talk about the lost cause, this idea and how it came about, and just sort of the real "how to" on how this ideology became such a deep part of our culture.
And so first off, for those who haven't heard the term or who haven't really taken in, what it means, can you just summarize when we say "the lost cause of the Confederacy", what is that?
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [00:56:14] Well, it took root in the physical destruction of the South. It took root in the terrible psychological trauma of defeat for white southerners -- big time defeat, let's remember that. It took root in the revival of the Democratic party, the Southern Democratic party's resistance to Reconstruction. It took root in a tremendous sense of loss of people, but also of a society. It became a kind of religious cult as well. And then it became, perhaps above all, a version of history. It became what I like to call a set of beliefs, searching for a history. And those beliefs were essentially that they believed that southerners had never really fought for slavery, that they were only defeated by overwhelming industrial might, and never really on the battlefield; they came to believe in this idea that the most noble or righteous of causes can lose and nevertheless never loses its nobility. They had a martyr's cult, which was of course the hundreds of thousands of Confederate dead. And they had this leader, Robert E. Lee, that they fashioned, one could say invented, into this sort of perfect Christian soldier, who also said never fought for slavery.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:57:52] Let me linger on that part of it. So first off, you know, what you're describing is there's this sort of set of beliefs that are facially untrue to everybody before their eyes at the time. And yet, we're being stated again in public. And somehow it got routed and passed on. And as you were about to say, as I gather a big part of that is about creating sort of heroic characters out of failed leaders. And so Robert E. Lee being the key one, can you sort of take us to Memorial Day, 1890, in Richmond, Virginia. I understand this is kind of the end of the story for the lost cause in some ways, but like, let's start there. Can you describe the scene on that day and like what was happening and why that was important to this story?
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [00:58:36] Well, it's a sort of an ending, but then it's a new beginning. It becomes a new stage of the lost cause. I think you're referring to the unveiling of the huge Lee equestrian statue in Richmond in 1890, which was the first of the eventual five major monuments put up on what is called Monument Avenue in Richmond. They would all go up over a period of about 15 years: Lee; Jackson; Jeb Stuart; Maori, the head of the Confederate Navy; and last but not least, Jefferson Davis. That Lee statue that is now of course still there, but it has become an object of artistic and aesthetic counter memory, in the wake of, the George Floyd rebellions or resistance and protests.
But that monument of Lee, with hundreds of thousands of people who had turned out for its unveiling, covered by the national press, and by then 1890, the Confederate veterans organizations had fully organized and fully come into their own and were out in huge, huge numbers to honor their great captain.
But that monument is only one of course, as everyone knows now, of hundreds and hundreds of Confederate monuments that that soon would dot every town and village and city all across the South and even some in the North. But I should say here, these monuments had already started earlier. The first major monument in Richmond had been put up in 1874 of Stonewall Jackson on the grounds of the state Capitol of Virginia.
But what now these monuments became is part of a whole set of rituals. And every loss cause, every great sort of cultural or ideological movement like that -- and there've been many other loss causes around the world -- can only be sustained eventually by intergenerational rituals. The story has to be carried on and it now is going to be carried on deep into American culture, including among northerners, by parades, by the use of cemeteries, the use of monuments by the United Confederate Veterans organization and especially by women. And what was known as the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [01:01:18] Why, especially by women, why is that important?
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [01:01:20] Well, they took over, in some ways; southern women, southern white women took over the Memorial cultural process much more than the male veterans did. They raised money for these monuments. They organize parades. They created youth groups, to which the story was passed on.
And the United Daughters of the Confederacy also became a quite powerful lobbying group. They had numerous southern congressmen and senators wrapped around their fingers to get the money to build all these monuments. Their heyday comes about in the 1890s and especially in the first decade or two of the 20th century in all those towns where a Confederate monument, large or small, would be unveiled.
Women were the organizers. There was always a women's memorial committee, a women's memorial organization. And this also was one of those beliefs, one of those deep, deep myths at the heart of the lost cause. And that is that Confederate men, the Confederate soldier, had fought for southern womanhood. I mean, this is a very gendered sort of story.
And, at every unveiling of a Confederate monument, by and large, there had to be this nod to the southern women. They were always honored as the women who had defended the home front, who had stood by their men and who had revived the spirits of the surviving soldiers.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [01:02:57] I wonder, as I heard you describe sort of the parades and the monuments and the gatherings, I'm thinking about what you said at the beginning of our conversation about Donald Trump and his lost cause, that he requires a vehicle. I mean, am I doing too much to compare those two, this would be TV or radio or theme park that Donald Trump will have to go looking for?
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [01:03:21] Well, it's a leap. I mean, we've got to be careful with these analogies. On the other hand, if it's to become a true lost cause ideology, it's going to need vehicles. And now, I mean the possible media vehicles are many, aren't they? But let's remember too here the potency of the lost cause ideology was in race, was in white supremacy.
And eventually, especially by the 1890s, the lost cause was no longer about loss at all. 1890s into the early 20th century., It became a victory narrative. The lost cause ideology now was the story also of the revival of the South and of the resistance to, and defeat of Reconstruction. And that they portrayed as a victory for the entire country -- a victory over the radical attempt to equalize the races, a victory over the worst idea of all which they believed was a black sufferage, the right to vote being given to black men.
And I should say here, and I'm so grateful to have the time to say as much about the lost cause ideology. Usually I don't get this much time. But eventually a core element of lost cause ideology became the image of the faithful slave, the contented faithful slave, who were often trotted out -- old black men or old black women were trotted out at Confederate reunions to be the sample loyal ex-slave. And in fact, if anyone ever bothers to go look in the library or even online at the Confederate Veteran magazine, which was published for about 45 years from about 1890 way into the 1930s, in almost every issue of that monthly, after the turn of the century in particular, they would have an article by an old Confederate veteran remembering his favorite loyal slave.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [01:05:28] Wow.
DR. DAVID BLIGHT: [01:05:29] It became part and parcel of lost cause remembrance and lost cause ideology. They even held so-called reunions or picnic events for "mammies". These were old black women who had served white families ,had been their cooks and had been their nurses and so on and so forth, they would honor them, so that they were essentially saying a great and benevolent noble civilization had been defeated in that war, but its essential ingredients have carried on.
It goes without saying here, but it can't be said loudly enough, that the lost cause ideology was essentially a racial ideology and eventually it was about the victory they had won over Reconstruction.
Jay's Comments - a few final connections
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:06:22] Now that you're well acquainted with the connection between the Jacobite uprising of Scotland and the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, I just wanted to make two more connections for you, though there are more than two worth learning. The first may be obvious, but I just want to confirm that yes, the Ku Klux Klan is explicitly taking inspiration from the traditional Highland clans of Scotland—that is not a coincidence.
The second is less obvious, so you can really impress during your next conversation about random trivia. In old Scotland when the clan leaders wished to call upon their neighboring clans to come together to fight a common enemy, the traditional symbol was to carry a burning cross. As Wikipedia puts it, in Scotland the fiery cross known as the Crann Tara, was used as a declaration of war. The sight of it commanded all clan members to rally to the defense of the area. On other occasions, a small burning cross would be carried from town to town.
And now just one last connection for you between the old world and the new, though this one has no meaning beyond pure coincidence, but I think it's fun. Trump, as we know is the 45th president of the United States and so the number 45 is a prominent part of his marketing material, right alongside MAGA. Many liberals also despise Trump so thoroughly, and don't want to give his name brand anymore promotion than necessary that they actually will only refer to him by his number, as 45. So if Trump is ousted from office and Joe Biden is sworn in as our 46th president, we should fully expect for Trump's Lost Cause to seize on this as a sort of shorthand for referring to their cause.
The idea, this lost cause, the noble battle for the rightful president who was wrongly and deviously pushed from power by fraud and the deep state, all while discrediting Joe Biden's place in the hall of presidents as the 46th president, all of this can be summed up with a simple 45.
Well, in the years following the Jacobite uprising, which was of course fighting for the rightful place of a leader to lead the nations of England and Scotland, supporters of that Lost Cause took to referring to that failed campaign by the year it began, 1745. Sometimes calling it the 45 rebellion or simply "The 45."
Thanks for listening everyone. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Dan and Ken for their volunteer work, helping to put our transcripts together. They're going to have their hands full with the automatic transcriptions of the Scottish accents. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets and activism segments, plus frankly, a whole bunch of other stuff. And thanks to all those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at (202) 999-3991 or write me a message to Jay[email protected]
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But the most exciting new feature we have is our referral program, the Refer-O-Matic, because the thing about the kind of financial troubles we're having right now, and for a show like ours in general, is that if we just had a bigger audience than the money would just start to take care of itself, we wouldn't have to worry about it so much. So our referral program, lovingly dubbed the Refer-O-Matic, is the fun and exciting way for you to get rewarded for helping to share the show.
And we're already off to a good start. We've got about 20 sign-ups in the first day or so. And I, I'm not saying it's a competition, but I do already have some people to thank for succeeding in making their first referrals. Jeff D., David F., And Shane K., have all made referrals within mere hours of signing up and are on their way to fabulous prizes and acclaim. So huge, thanks to the three of them.
But finally, here's what I want to emphasize about the referral program. Yes, most of the prizes are free merch, and yes, you could just go and pay cold, hard cash and get the items you want, but the reward for referring just five new listeners is something that you can't get anywhere else, for any price. Custom artwork designed by collaboration between myself and Amanda for your phone or tablet. And listen, I usually do not like to hype things up, I hate for people to be disappointed, I like to downplay stuff if anything, but I'm making an exception in this case because these images are so bad ass. That every time you look at your device, you're going to do a fist pump and say like, "Yeah, come on, let's do this!" before checking your email or text message or whatever.
Now I can't tell you any more about them because finding out, out as part of the reward, so sign up now at bestofleft.com/refer. And of course all the links to membership merch and the Refer-O-Matic are all in the show notes, but seriously, you're not going to want to miss out on that.
That is going to be it for today. So as always keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991 or by emailing me to [email protected] Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support. That is absolutely how the program survives, now more than ever. For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on the blog and likely right on the device or using the lesson. So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left Podcast coming to twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.