How is the Civil War taught in the south?

Don’t you mean victory?

I suppose this is about the War of Aggression by the North. I went to school in Maryland, we got the Fox style ‘Fair and Balanced’ treatment of the war. Things have probably changed since the 60s, but it was kind of disgusting in retrospect.

Part of my high school years were spent in South Carolina, so I have experience from both “sides” of this. My experience comes from the late 90’s, and things may have changed since.

In SC, I was taught that the Civil War was about States rights, and that it was a populist uprising against the tyranny of federal government. Slavery was absolutely in no way part of the core root of causes. We were also taught that blacks were in general supportive of the Confederacy, and that they had a worse time after Emancipation than they did as slaves, with the strongly suggested but not outright spoken implication that black people were happier and more productive as slaves. Particular attention was paid to Sherman’s campaign, and the term “war crimes” was used on more than one occasion to describe some atrocity committed by the Northern armies.

My school was about 70/25 white/black, with the remainder “other” (mostly Hispanics).

Which raises the often difficult to answer question of whether Maryland is “in the South”. However, since we are talking specifically about views by the losing side of the American Civil War, I think we ought to treat Maryland as “in the North” in this case.

I’m from MD. When I first learned about the Civil War in second grade, we very much got that it was bad and was fought over slavery. This was in the mid '90s. Whenever we learned about the Civil War it was clearly taught as the South wanting slaves, why Maryland was called the Free State, but it being more of a border state if anything. I’m from a predominantly white county in the red part of the state. And despite learning about the war this way, there are still a fair amount of those flags being flown in the area. FWIW, I grew up maybe 10 minutes from the Mason-Dixon Line.

Anecdote: My classmate’s dad was big into making those war figurines and staging them. He came in and demostrated some battles for us. We did a reenactment. Our teacher randomly put us into North and South sides. A few of us black kids were on the South and I raised as much hell about it as I could at that age. “Oh, but [piepiepie] there were plenty of black Confederates,” my teacher tried that shit on me but I wasn’t feeling it. She wouldn’t let us be Union soldiers for this one stupid exercise, and it felt pretty shitty as a 7-8 yo kid. I bought a Union cap in protest. They were really cool caps and my favorite color is blue (honestly, this was another point of contention for me), so it made sense.

One of many eyerollworthy pronouncements from that passage.

I had two classes in which it was discussed in a significant way. In AP US History in high school, we talked about it at length, but our teacher was in the “the war wasn’t really about slavery” camp. He was very, very smart, a great storyteller, and nuanced in his understanding of history. In this case, I think a desire for nuance made it difficult for him to see the plain facts.

In college, I had a class on North Carolina history, in which the Civil War was discussed. This professor was much more critical of the South; we spent awhile studying the three main excuses of descendents of slavers (“My family didn’t abuse their slaves; our slaves loved our family; Reconstruction was much more devastating to our family’s slaves than slavery ever was,” IIRC), and how they each failed in the face of facts about the system and what happened before, during, and after the war.

It’s possible Shagnasty’s teachers really were as negligent as he describes (although it’s also possible his memory is imperfect, of course :slight_smile: ). Different people have taught the war in different ways across the south.

My wife went to HS in Obion County Tennessee in the 70s, and she says they ignored the whole war completely. She only learned about it in college, and from her parents. (Her grade school years were overseas.)

The teachers also called her a “damn yankee” in class. She has not expressed any desire to go to her HS class reunions for some reason.

Texas is probably something of an outlier among southern states, in that it was only tangentially affected by the war- a handful of small battles (Galveston I and Ii, Sabine Pass I and II, and Palmito Ranch) were all that were fought in Texas.

Plus, and probably more importantly, the Texas state mythology/narrative doesn’t really include the Civil War. Texas’ mythology, at least as the 19th century is concerned, is entirely concerned with the revolution to gain independence from Mexico, and the post-Civil War cowboy period. Secession and the Civil War is viewed as a mostly regrettable episode in the state’s history, not as some kind of romantic struggle.

So with that, I think that the Texas version of Civil War history is probably less biased than that of the areas where the war was fought in the South. We weren’t taught that it was states’ rights, of which slavery was but one, but we weren’t given the rather simplistic and glib “The Civil War was about slavery.” answer either. I recall getting a pretty good lead-up to the Civil War which went from Dred Scott all the way up through the Kansas-Nebraska Act, including the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850.

It was made very clear that slavery was the issue driving much of American politics in the half-century or more leading up to the Civil War, and that while the proximate cause of the Civil War may have been questions of states’ rights, the cause of those questions was undeniably the existence and propagation of slavery.

We actually spent a lot of time on Reconstruction and its effects on our state and other Southern states. We also learned about Juneteenth, although that may be more due to the fact that it started very near to Houston in Galveston, and has been a local holiday for nearly a century among black residents.

Yes, many places and times have had slavery. Most of them didn’t choose bloody, destructive, treasonable war over their right to keep owning people as farm animals.

Is Germany considered to have won WWII because the Holocaust ended?

Germany lost. The South lost. If you’re from the Southern US, you’d say “We lost the Civil War”. Even if you’re pro-Union and anti-slavery. If you’re from Germany, you’d say “We lost WWII”. Does that make you a Nazi?

There are probably two touchstones for modern evil, the Nazi Holocaust, and slavery in the American South. And the reason is that the perpetrators of both weren’t the people of a far off time or a distant lands: they were like us, or like a lot of us reading this. They were the products of Christian and European society, they were the heirs to a couple of thousand of years of Western culture and religion and philosophy and thought and progress, they were the products of the Renaissance, the reformation, the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason. and the Industrial Revolution. The plantation owners were us, they had our standards and our values, or damn near them. And they knew as well as we do that what they was doing was wrong, that you don’t own human beings like farm animals and they did it anyway, and they came up with reasons to justify it, and they were willing to fight and kill for their right to continue using other people as cattle. That was their real evil, that they did such great wrong knowing that is was wrong. and that’s why they are still so despised.

That seems to be the current narrative but it doesn’t make a lot of sense historically. You said it is one of two examples but that isn’t true. We will forget about slavery in the North and major slave trading ports in cities like Boston and Newport, RI for now. Even if we disregard those, slavery in the American South still only constituted a fraction of the institution in the New World alone. What about European sponsored slavery in the Caribbean and South America that made up the majority of it? What about slavery in Brazil that lasted almost a quarter century longer? What about slavery in west Africa today? By many estimates, there are more slaves today than ever before. None of that fits into your convenient narrative that attempts to place all the blame on single region.

The nuance that most people miss is that the Civil War was only mainly about slavery on one side - the Southern side. Many states listed it in their declarations of war. However, that does not mean that the North was fighting directly to end slavery either. One strong piece of evidence is that some northern states also had slavery even during the Civil War. However, the strongest was that Abraham Lincoln stated so directly himself…

“I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.”

http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/greeley.htm

I am obviously not in favor of slavery nor is even the most vile racist that I have ever met. However, I do not like the South to become a scapegoat for something that was once a widespread institution facilitated even by those that would eventually go to war for it. The United States, including the North had slavery for almost 200 years before it became a widespread point of divisiveness. I don’t believe it is right to ask the South to take responsibility for all of it because it didn’t have a good way to support its agrarian economy for another 50 years after other regions built up different economies.

Yes, but, the topic of - this - thread is slavery in the South. Not, in Boston in the 1600’s or Brazil or Jamaica in the 1800’s.

That it wasn’t about slavery. It was about state’s rights.

And, unfortunately, those people who never bothered to educated themselves any further — oh, say, by reading the actual declarations the states made on why they were leaving which mention slavery prominently and frequently — are still utterly convinced that it was about state’s rights. I know. My Facebook exploded with posts by them as I had recently been friend requested by a bunch of people I went to high school with before the church shooting with subsequent Confederate flag controversy happened. So if they weren’t on tear about the Confederate flag they were on a tear about homosexual marriage.

I was educated grades 2 - 12 in the Mississippi public school system. And it wasn’t until I went to a Mississippi community college that a teacher said that the Civil War was about slavery. All the previous teachers said state’s rights.

The rest of it was mostly this or that battle. Nothing about the underlying political philosophy. But that was typical of history class. Mostly it was a recitation of dates and facts ----- not a lot of deep thinking about the events. At least not once you got past the American Revolution.

Folks who want to know how it was taught in the South would do well to read Shagnasty’s posts. I don’t know it’s fair to say his is a typical outcome of a Southern education about slavery and the Civil War, but that sort of apologetics is not uncommon.

Thank you! There is more nuance to my posts than you are reading into though. I have lived in the Northeast for over 20 years now. I also love going to historical sites in places like Newport and Boston that represent the extensive New England slave trade (they are some of the closest landing ports from Africa after all). References do exist but they are intentionally downplayed. This area used to be a major hotbed of slave importing and auctions but few people realize the scale of it.

BTW, my “Southern” education got me into the best schools and I did quite well. If you ever need somebody to edit your resume some time, I could give you a really good rate.

Yes, but, the topic of - this - thread is not Boston.

I graduated high school in the late '70’s and college in the early 80’s - both in the deep, deep south. There was no sugar coating or spin and the details were consistent with what I encountered later from other sources including slavery being the main motivator for the south.

If there was anything I could criticize it was, as lalaith mentioned, the emphasis on dates and facts rather than a deep heartfelt understanding of the horrors - but a lot of history was taught that way.

I’m both from and live in the South, and it’s never even occurred to me to say that we lost the Civil War. I can’t recall ever hearing anyone else say that either. The Confederacy lost the war. That doesn’t have anything to do with me.

How many wars did the slave owners of Maryland start to protect their right to own people? How many fellow Brazilians did the slave owners there decide to slaughter so they could keep owning people?