The Atlanta History Center has created a tool to help put Confederate monuments in historical perspective and foster dialogue about the future of these monuments. It examines the “Lost Cause,” the notion that white Southerners fought a just cause in the Civil War and won morally, even if they lost on the battle field.
While many early memorials were erected to honor Confederate dead, most monuments were created during the Jim Crow era to stand in opposition to racial equality. Veneration of Confederates symbolized white racial dominance. If the monuments are not removed, then they need to be reinterpreted in an accurate historical context which plainly states why they were erected and what they were intended to represent. Only with accurate and honest historical interpretation can we understand how the circumstances of our collective past continue to shape our present.
Slavery was the central cause of the Civil War. Emancipation of four million enslaved African Americans and the reunification of the United States were its most important outcomes. Lost Cause mythology erroneously leaves millions out of the historical memory. It ignores the agency of black Southerners in their liberation and denies the diversity of political sentiment among white Southerners. This website will help you to better understand the monuments and the context in which they were created. Tools here include evidence-driven scholarship about the Lost Cause, a template for adding detailed information relevant to specific monuments, and resources for continued research on related historical and contemporary issues. By using these tools to encourage well-informed, productive conversations, communities can decide on a case-by-case basis the best course of action for the future of Confederate monuments.
For materials, questions, or comments, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.