Justice

5 Ways the Confederacy Lives on Today

May 20th 2016

By:
Adeshina Emmanuel

The Confederate States of America lost the Civil War, but it maintains a strong symbolic presence in the United States, especially in the South.

Confederate flags are the most visible and controversial symbol of that rebel government. But there are other surprising ways the Confederacy lives on today.

Here are five examples:

1. MLK-Lee Day

Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. — an inspiring social justice icon — and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — who likely would have preferred that King was born into and died in slavery — both have birthdays in January. You'd be hard pressed to find two historical figures less similar. Yet they share a common holiday celebrating their births in Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas.

Efforts to end the joint celebrations have repeatedly stalled or failed. In January, lawmakers in Mississippi sounded off about their state's MLK-Lee Day, which some people considered a cost-saving measure after the state voted to establish it in 1987, reported the Clarion-Ledger.

"State Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said the measure was touted as a cost-saving maneuver but also said he feels the move was made to slight King.

"'Every major issue in the state of Mississippi has the undercurrent of race to it. I wish it wasn’t the case,' Horhn said. 'The decision was made as a cost-saving measure, but many people then and now felt that it was a means to not give Dr. King his due and the singularity of recognition.'

"Democratic Second District Rep. Bennie Thompson said the combined holiday is 'offensive.'

"'Once and for all, people should know that the Confederacy lost,' Thompson said. 'And Mississippi's celebrating Robert E. Lee on the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. is just an attempt to diminish Dr. King's legacy. To celebrate a man who fought to keep people in bondage is offensive, and Robert E. Lee should not be celebrated alongside a great fighter for freedom and equality.'"

2. Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain was born about 300 million to 350 million years ago, likely when magma coursed up from inside the Earth's crust and solidified into the 1,700-foot formation. You can see the skyline of downtown Atlanta from atop the black mountain.

And on the north face of Stone Mountain you can see the giant Confederate Memorial carved into the structure depicting Confederate President Jefferson Davis and two of his generals, Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, riding their horses. It's a little smaller than two football fields in length and is essentially the Mount Rushmore of the Confederacy.

On Nov. 25, 1915, a throng of hooded figures convened at Stone Mountain. They were there to revive the Ku Klux Klan after a period of decline for the hate group, and they burned a cross to reignite a racist reign of terror originally first conceived in Reconstruction. A couple of weeks following the Stone Mountain meetup, the Klan's leader, William J. Simmons, said that the band was back together in a public announcement in the Atlanta Journal, next to an advertisement for the Klan-themed film titled “The Birth of a Nation," according to "Notes on the Writing of the History of the Ku Klux Klan."

3. Confederate Mound

Residential segregation, economic inequality, and alleged police brutality against Black and Latino residents aside, Chicago is a city with a liberal reputation that resides about 200 miles north of the Mason-Dixon line in "The Land of Lincoln."

But the city's Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood is home to the biggest Confederate soldier burial ground in the North, as well as a 46-foot-tall memorial to the soldiers. It's called Confederate Mound, and more than 6,000 soldiers are buried there in a mass grave.

Last year, the local ABC affiliate in Chicago interviewed two history buffs about the little-known piece of history located on Chicago's predominately Black South Side. Both experts, ABC reported, "said even though the Confederate flag has no place at public buildings, the monument itself should remain. The National Cemetery Administration that manages Chicago's Confederate Memorial says they've received no complaints about it." ABC added: "Ironically, not far from the Confederate monument are the graves of Chicago's first Black Mayor, Harold Washington, African-American Olympic star Jesse Owens and business magnate John Johnson."

4. Majority Black Schools Named After Confederate Leaders

Levin C. Handy - General Robert E. Lee in May 1869

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified at least 109 U.S. public schools named after Lee, Davis, and other Confederate leaders, mostly in the South. About 30 of the schools have student populations that are majority African-American, which is ironic, given there's that one time Davis, Lee, and their allies led a rebellion to preserve a system of Black slavery.

5. The Myth about States' Rights

About 48 percent of people surveyed in 2011 thought that the cause of the Civil War was "mainly about states' rights," according to a Pew Research Center Poll. Only 38 percent answered correctly that the war was "mainly about slavery."

The Civil War was certainly fought over an issue of states' rights, but that issue was slavery, and the Confederacy rebelled against the United States for the right to retain slavery as a legal institution.

Alexander H. Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, gave a speech on March 21, 1861, saying, “Our new government is founded upon ... the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

Preserving slavery and white supremacy was an existential necessity in the eyes of many in the Confederacy, something Texas clearly spelled out in a declaration when it joined the rebels in 1861, according to the Civil War Trust website.

"We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable."

"That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the 15 slave-holding states."