Arts & Culture
4:29 pm
Fri March 22, 2013

Debunking The Civil War’s “Big Lie” In The New South

Author Tracy Thompson talks to KRCU's Jacob McCleland about "The New Mind of the South."

The Civil War was an issue of states rights, not slavery. That’s the “Big Lie” that Tracy Thompson targets in her new book, “The New Mind of the South.”


“Before the Civil War, southern confederate leaders were quite explicit that what they were fighting for. The issue at stake was the state of the economic system which was perpetuated by slave labor. After the war, however, they started to recast their effort as a noble attempt to defend states rights,” Thompson said on KRCU’s Going Public.

Groups worked together to change the image of the war to something that was fought on the grounds of states rights, an idea which has moved from just a southern ideal to one that is more universally accepted.

Thompson, a Georgia native, said the South must come to terms with its own history, which means knowing what this truly includes.

“Part of this effort has to do with racial reconciliation groups, which are grass roots efforts over the past 10 or 12 or  20 years, that deal with little known facts of history such as the Wilmington riots of 1898 or various lynchings that have been unrecorded by history,” Thompaid said. 

Thompson believes that with the passing of the Civil Rights generation there is a need for a summing up that says where exactly the United States stands as a nation. She emphasizes that the South is actually in a very unique spot when it comes to racial dynamics. 

“The South is one of the most racially dynamic part of the nation, not to say that racism does not exist, but in cities like Atlanta, Houston, or Memphis,” Thompson said. “Black and white people have lived and worked together for years and have achieved a way of governing cities and municipalities together in ways that you don’t see in other parts of the country.” 

A shift in the South from small family farms to large agribusiness is also a big feature in her book. “The shift from a small family farm to large agribusiness is a national trend or even international trend,” Thompson said. “However, these shifts often occur along racial lines.” 

Another factor facing the South is the issue of shifts in Evangelical Christianity. “Churches have become less denominationally identifiable and more identifiable by worship styles. You have churches that are very traditional and churches that are like rock concerts and then megachurches. There is a large variety of options,” Thompson said. 

She was surprised throughout her research by several things, such as the extent of Unionist sentiment during the Civil War

“I always knew that was a phenomenon of the border states and a couple counties in Georgia, but there were pockets of it all over. I was also surprised the extent that southern counties are becoming unpopulated, is almost apocalyptic, you go miles with not seeing anyone,” Thompson said.

Tracy Thompson’s “The New Mind of the South” is published by Simon & Schuster.