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Your student echoed these thoughts:

". . .a union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare of mankind. If the union is dissolved and the government disrupted, I shall return to my native state and share the miseries of my people, and save in defence, will draw my sword on none."

--- General Robert E. Lee, CSA

Racism and Southern Heritage are severable. Racism exists everywhere, in the North and around the world, as well as in the South. Southern Heritage exists only in the South! And the heritage of the South has many redeeming qualities from honor, to a sort of bushido, to manners, etc. Actually, the North is more racist and segregated than the South, in my experience, without a lot of the redeeming qualities. I suspect that the "background radiation" of racism was no higher in the South than anywhere else.

Robert E. Lee's family owned no slaves going into the Civil War, but U.S. Grant's family owned slaves until slavery was outlawed by the XIII Amendment was adopted after the Civil War.

Blacks fought for the Confederacy, as did the Cherokee Nation.

An interesting aside, the anti-slavery movement took hold in New England primarily because it was the most sea-faring part of the country. Its population had become more aware of the evils of slavery because of the fact that so many of its mariners and occasional female passengers (see"odalisque") had been captured and enslaved by the Barbary Pirates (Moslems) in the first decades of the United States' history.

And remember this quote from an Irish born Confederate general as you sort through the generally available information on the South:

"Surrender means that the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the War; will be impressed by all the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit subjects for derision."

--- General Pat Cleburne, CSA
 

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Here is something for the mix; something the class might be interesting in discussing. Recollecting that there were a notable number of Black slave owners in the South, I googled the terms and found this interesting page:

https://americancivilwar.com/authors/black_slaveowners.htm

And, of course, in Africa during the period in question, Black on Black slavery was the norm. As far as fixating on the Confederate Flag as the symbol of the ultimate evil, it only flew over slave holding states for 4 years. The American flag flew over slavery for 76 years (1789 through 1865), and the British, Spanish, and French flags flew over slavery in North America for well over 100 years.

True, Lincoln's war ended slavery in the United States; but it did so as a byproduct of the war. It was not really the goal of the war, nor was it the triggering event. The Emancipation Proclamation was a calculated, political act announced as part of an overall war winning strategy, timed for maximum effect. And it applied only to the states that had succeeded. As I said, slavery was not officially outlawed by the Federal government until the XIII Amendment until some 9 months after the Civil War ended.

In my experience and informed opinion, Racism was not a significant component of the Confederacy or Southern Heritage. The South as Racist, or somehow more racist than anywhere else, is a convenient canard, a hot button, used to validate the actions of the Federal government from 1861 through 2008. The establishment has cultivated that misconception because it can count on a Pavlovian reaction on the part of the masses to any hint of "racism."
 
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