Much like the Ask A Slave series, it is very clear that the Confederate States of America was also produced partially for its entertainment and comedic values. This “mockumentary” plays up the stereotype of the South as being a wholly racist region of the country, and depicts the way our country would have turned out today had the Confederacy won the Civil War. Despite its partly humorous intention, one aspect of the film that was particularly shocking to me was the series of commercials for extremely racist products that were advertised. While some of the products were simply made up, the end credits of the film note that some of the more racist ones had actual historical origins, giving their inclusion an overall sense of meaning.
An example of such a product that was advertised in the film was for Gold Dust Washing Powder, a cleaning aid sold in the United States from the 1880s to the 1930s. In the film, the product was advertised with two African American babies coming through and cleaning a household. Additionally, the commercial’s narrator used phrases like, “Are you a slave to housework? Let the Gold Dust twins emancipate you from the burdens of cleaning.” The implied image of two African American children coming to clean your house is an overt example of the racism inherent in the advertisement. Additionally, the use of the words “slave” and “emancipate” suggest a further connection between the product and the institution of slavery.
While I was initially appalled by advertisements like this one, I was even more shocked to learn at the end of the film that “both black children and whites in blackface were cast as Goldie and Dustie in popular Gold Dust Washing Powder advertisements.” The inclusion of these facts at the end of the film serve to justify the ridiculous claims the film makes about life in the U.S. after a Confederate victory. Moreover, it shows that we should not think of the Civil War as the end of racism and prejudice in the U.S., as these advertisements exhibit the many forms of discrimination that have endured over time. Additionally, as Emma highlighted in her blog post, the film notes some of the other historical accuracies of the Confederacy’s post Civil War plans. One example of these was the idea to expand the Confederacy’s influence into the Caribbean and South America to create a tropical empire to fuel the South’s plantation-based economy. The racist advertisements and historically accurate plans for the Confederacy’s victory suggest that despite some of the film’s ridiculous claims, it is a valuable narrative in that it brings to light some important facts about the Civil War era and complicates the history that many Americans take for granted.