The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







The neo-confederate movement is a political and cultural movement based in the U.S. Southern states that is characterized by celebration of the history of the Confederate States of America (CSA) and support for the CSA's aims. Neo-confederate issues include states rights, such as nullification (in which state laws override federal laws), the "pro-confederate" view of history, particularly regarding the American Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, and support for traditional culture, including Christianity. Some groups in the movement support outright secession, while others focus on preserving heritage. The term "neo-confederate" can be considered a perjorative political epithet and its application to specific groups and individuals has caused controversy.

The largest secessionist neo-confederate group is the League of the South (LS). It claims to seek the "well-being and independence of the Southern people." [1] A number of small political parties also call for secession, including the Southern Party and its offshoot, the Southern Independence Party.

The term is sometimes used with much controversy for groups and individuals which do not call for secession but are otherwise "pro-confederate" or alleged to be so. For example, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), both long-standing Civil War genealogical associations, have both been called "neo-confederate" groups by some critics although neither group advocates for secession.


Anti-hate statement

The Southern Independence Party has placed an anti-hate statement on their website, in which it rejects "all racist groups" including "the Ku Klux Klan, and the NAACP", and states that there is no place in the "Southern Nation" for those who "espouse hatred of others." [2]

Controversies over use of the term

Use of "Neo-Confederate" as political epithet

The term "neo-confederate" is sometimes employed as a pejorative description, or ad hominem slur, for people who take a sympathetic view of Southern history (particularly in connection with the American Civil War) and for Southerners in general, even when they do not belong to or espouse the ideas of a "neo-confederate" organization.

People and organizations that have been referred to as "neo-confederate" in a disparaging manner often dispute the propriety of the term's use. One well known incident in which the term was used with much controversy happened in 1999. During a radio interview the Civil War historian James M. McPherson offended many Southern heritage organizations when he associated the UDC with the neo-confederate movement and described board members of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia as "undoubtedly neo-confederate." He further said that the UDC and the SCV have "white supremacy" as their "thinly veiled agendas." The incident outraged members of the UDC and the SCV, who accused McPherson of unfairly attacking them. Some SCV and UDC chapters subsequently urged their members to boycott his books and engaged in letter-writing campaigns.[3]

Ed Sebesta, a self-styled "neo-confederate watchdog", frequently uses the label "neo-confederate" as a term of disparagement for organizations and political figures he opposes. Sebesta operates the Temple of Democracy website, which he styles as an "anti-Neo-Confederate movement" organization.[4] Sebesta accuses several well known figures in politics and academia of being "pro-Confederate and pro-neo-Confederate" or "opportunistically (sic) trying to get neo-confederate or racist support." Among those he has levelled accusations against are Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who he criticized for writing letters of commendation to confederate-related organizations such as the UDC, the SCV, and the Museum of The Confederacy, as well as several other members of Congress.[5][6] His tactics have been condemned by groups such as the UDC. The Virginia UDC chapter describes Sebesta as a "hater of all things Confederate" and states that his website is "especially slanderous" toward their organization [7]. Though these allegations have earned him a reputation among some for abusively using the term, Sebesta has been quoted as an "expert" or "researcher" on the neo-confederate movement by several media outlets on the political left such as Pacifica Radio and

"Neo-Confederate" myths

When asked about neo-confederate myths and the people behind them, Arizona State University professor and Civil War historian Brooks D. Simpson said that:

This is an active attempt to reshape historical memory, an effort by white Southerners to find historical justifications for present-day actions. The neo-confederate movement's ideologues have grasped that if they control how people remember the past, they'll control how people approach the present and the future. Ultimately, this is a very conscious war for memory and heritage. It's a quest for legitimacy, the eternal quest for justification. [8]

Controversy in identifying neo-confederate groups

Given that its use sometimes has a pejorative or disparaging connotation, the application of the term "neo-confederate" to groups that do not readily fit the description of a secessionist organization is controversial. The term is commonly employed by organizations on the political left, while many of the organizations it is applied to are on the political right. There is little consensus over which groups are properly termed "neo-confederate" and which are not, even among the organizations that monitor them.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a controversial anti-hate group headed by Morris Dees, is the principal group watching the "neo-confederate" movement. A special report by the SPLC's Mark Potok in their magazine, Intelligence Report, describes a number of groups as "neo-confederate" in 2000. (see #Neo-Confederate groups). The SPLC has carried subsequent articles on the neo-confederate movement. "Lincoln Reconstructed" published in 2003 in the Inteligence Report focuses on the resurgent demonization of Abraham Lincoln in the South. The article quotes the chaplain of the SCV as giving an invocation which recalled "the last real Christian civilization on Earth." The article further mentions that the website hosts a collection of anti-Lincoln articles, which led Marcus Epstein of the von Mises Institute to compare the SPLC's tactics to McCarthyism[9]. "Whitewashing the Confederacy" was a review that alleged that the movie Gods and Generals presented a false, pro-confederate view of history. [10] Myles Kantor of FrontPage Magazine described the review as a "web of falsehood."[11]

An article in the liberal Institute for Southern Studies ' magazine, Southern Exposure, uses the "neo-confederate" label for the League of the South, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), the UDC, the SCV, and the Museum of the Confederacy.[12]

Not everyone avoids the term. Al Benson Jr., officer of the Southern Independence Party declares, "I am part of what demagogue Morris Dees calls the 'Neo-Confederate Movement'". [13][14] In an article posted to the "Patriotist" weblog Benson criticizes Professor McPherson for appearing on Pacifica and for being cited repeatedly on a socialist website. Benson bemoans the bias of "social historians":

Is it any wonder that interested Americans have no real concept of what the War of Northern Aggression was all about? With 'historians' like Sandburg, Nolan, and McPherson, you are basically getting what amounts to a Marxist version of what the war was all about. [15]

Neo-Confederate groups

The following groups have been labelled "neo-confederate" or "pro-confederate" by one or more organizations or persons as designated in parenthesis.

Abbreviations Key: SPLC = Southern Poverty Law Center "Hate Group" watchlist [16]; IR = 2001 Intelligence Report feature by the SPLC's Mark Potok [17]; S = Ed Sebesta; M = James McPherson

*The SPLC "Hate Groups" watch list designates the Council of Conservative Citizens as "other" rather than "neo-confederate".

External links

Last updated: 05-07-2005 03:09:16
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04