From James W. Loewen’s article in the OAH Magazine of History

Working with the American public to understand the causes of the Civil War can be an exercise in frustration. Confederate leaders themselves made it plain that slavery was the key issue sparking secession. And yet, four of five Americans — including many teachers — hold basic misconceptions about the era, revolving around a vague, abstract concept of “states’ rights.” Questions about why the South seceded, what the Confederacy was about, and the nature of its symbols and ideology usually give rise to flatly wrong “answers.” Because the states’ rights perspective on the Civil War is so pervasive, it can be difficult for teachers to get beyond this framework in their classrooms. But fortunately, there is a wealth of primary Confederate documents that teachers can use. Moreover, with the arrival of the Civil War sesquicentennial, public attention will be focused on the topic for some time to come. The time is right for teachers to help students grapple with the powerful evidence that slavery was the central factor in the formation of the Confederacy.

Add a comment

Currently you have JavaScript disabled. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. Click here for instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your browser.