James W. Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me (1996), is never afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. In his essay, “Using Confederate Documents to Teach About Secession, Slavery, and the Origins of the Civil War,” Loewen makes a series of claims about how the conventional wisdom in classrooms and textbooks remains frighteningly disconnected from the truth apparent in the primary source documents of the period. Loewen states flatly that the Civil War was about slavery and that the documents leave no doubt about that point, but that most teachers still believe it was about states’ rights. You can read Loewen’s full essay inside the print edition of Volume 25 of the OAH Magazine of History (April 2011) or online via Oxford Journals. But since Loewen’s essay is really a series of combative and thought-provoking arguments, we have excerpted some of the most important claims here as a series of blog posts and invite teachers, students and all visitors to this site respond to each claim with their own comments and impressions.

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