The Bruised Ego of the South

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This final chapter of Inhuman Bondage went along very well with Tuesday’s reading and our class discussion. I found Davis’ treatment of the issue of Southern pride stimulating to read. I appreciated his frankness of the South’s postwar state of denial. It was interesting that he compared the defeated South to France in 1870 and Germany in 1918 due to their emphasis on wartime victories and heroism while declaring the North’s victory relatively unimportant (303).

Matt Landini’s post ( articulated some great points about the problem of Southern preoccupation of retaining a sense of pride after the Civil War. Matt mentioned that “it is surprising that we continually whitewash history, rather than accepting past mistakes” (referring to the South).

I believe that this “whitewashing” in the aftermath of the South’s defeat was largely a result of the post-war goal of achieving hasty reunion while avoiding the issue of race. Of course, this approach was taken with good intentions of returning to “normal” as quickly as possible while avoiding hostility between the North and South. However, this approach “required repression from memory of the revolutionary realities of the war” (300). As such, not much time or energy was spent on ideological reflection after the war, and more time was spent on nursing the South’s bruised ego. So, as soon after the war was over with, its racial aspects were swept under the rug and the topic of emancipation was all but unmentionable (300). This might be a questionable cause and effect relationship to consider, but I wonder whether the remnants of racism present in the South today are a result of this lack of discourse concerning slavery after the Civil War. It’s pretty interesting to wonder if more current race relations would be different had the South been urged to deal with its defeat more constructively immediately after the war.

Going back to Matt’s post and his mention of Southern pride and their refusal to accept their past mistakes, I think it’s important to realize that the South didn’t feel as though they’d made a mistake by clinging to their slave system. The Union’s victory did nothing to prove to the South that slavery was wrong, it just imposed “the necessity of slave ‘emancipation’” (303). In essence, forced emancipation proved that they would have to implement their virulent racism in a new way, which they ended up successfully accomplishing with the passing of the Black Codes (303). Although Jefferson Davis and others had claimed slavery to be merely an incident and not the cause of the civil war, Jefferson Davis’ overt lamentations about emancipation being the greatest crime of the century suggest otherwise (304). In the end it became clear to leaders on both sides that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War.