Books: Non-Fiction

The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause”

Book — Non-fiction. Edited by James W. Loewen and Edward H. Sebesta. 2010. 484 pages.
Primary documents on the causes of the Civil War.

Time Periods: 19th Century, 1850
Themes: Slavery and Resistance, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

Most Americans hold basic misconceptions about the Confederacy, the Civil War, and the actions of subsequent neo-Confederates. For example, two-thirds of Americans — including most history teachers — think the Confederate States seceded for “states’ rights.” This error persists because the key documents about the Confederacy are not included in major U.S. history textbooks and therefore not widely read.

The 150th anniversary of secession and civil war provides a moment for all Americans to read these documents, properly set in context by award-winning sociologist and historian James W. Loewen and coeditor Edward H. Sebesta, to put in perspective the mythology of the Old South.

When South Carolina seceded, it published “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” The document actually opposes states’ rights. Its authors argue that Northern states were ignoring the rights of slave owners as identified by Congress and in the Constitution. Similarly, Mississippi’s “Declaration of the Immediate Causes . . .” says, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.”

Later documents in this collection show how neo-Confederates obfuscated this truth, starting around 1890.  [Adapted from publisher’s description.]

ISBN: 9781604732191 | University Press of Mississippi


“This thought-provoking tome should be required reading for all teachers of American and Civil War history. Its contents reflect a long and shameful history of racism in America — a major reason for continuing controversies about the causes, nature and impacts of the Civil War.” — Civil War News, February/March 2011

About the Editors

James W. Loewen is the author of the best-selling Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong. He is also the author of Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks; Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism; Social Science in the Classroom; and Mississippi: Conflict and Change. He is professor emeritus at the University of Vermont.

Edward H. Sebesta is co-editor of Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction. His articles have appeared in numerous journals.