Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Why Are There So Many Schools and Statues in the South Named After Confederate Soldiers and Politicians?

Union and Confederate-related named schools

I have often wondered why there are so many statues of Confederate soldiers in the south and schools named after Confederate soldiers and politicians.

I mean, they lost the damn war!

In a new report,What the Data Say About Civil War Monuments, Phil Magness provides some fascinating insight:
First, when we restrict our scope to physical statues and plaques, we find clear parallels between the construction patterns of Union and Confederate monuments. The peak year for the construction of both types was 1911, the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the war. Monument construction dates also clearly cluster in the years around this period...

Union monuments substantially outnumber Confederate monuments in total, although the annual number of Confederate statues briefly overtook the Union totals in the cluster of dates around the 1911 anniversary. Likely explanations include the northern states being comparatively wealthier after the war and thus able to afford commemorations at earlier points, as well as the country’s coalescing around a reconciliationist narrative of how the war was remembered in the lifetimes of its participants...

At the same time, the statistical patterns for both types of monuments likely has a deeper explanation tied to the influence of Civil War veterans as a sizable political constituency. The influx of public and private expenditures on monuments coincides with the lifespan of veterans from the conflict, as well as a pattern witnessed in other wars that commemorates major anniversaries. The 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg in 1913, for example, drew over 50,000 elderly veterans to the site. It coincided with a monument building spree across the country, including hundreds of local ceremonies and veterans reunion events.

Part of this pattern reflects the political clout of veterans themselves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Other researchers have documented the role of these same constituencies in securing pensions for Union veterans and their dependents, creating a direct precursor to the modern social safety net in the process. As Union pensions grew at the federal level, southern states followed suit and began implementing similar expenditures on behalf of Confederate veterans, their widows, and their children.

Civil War statue-building follows a nearly identical pattern on both sides, and may thus be explained in part as an overture to the same constituencies as the pension recipients...

[A] clear break emerges from naming patterns on the Union side. That break occurs around the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, ordering the desegregation of public schools.

As the chart [above] shows, schools named after Confederate figures were at best sporadic and infrequent for the first 90 years after the war. By contrast, Union-named schools happened at more or less a steady pace throughout this period. The pattern changed though in 1954 with a sudden and sharp spike in schools named after Confederate generals and politicians. This spike persisted for another 15 years, with at least 48 out of roughly 110 Confederate-named schools being built in this narrow period...

 During the aftermath of Brown v. Board, multiple southern state governments put forth an aggressive political resistance to court-ordered integration that persisted for roughly the same period.

In short, it appears that naming public schools after Confederate generals became another tool in the segregationists’ arsenal to politically signal this resistance and to further discourage African-American families from attempting to register at segregated all-white schools.

After the collapse of “Massive Resistance” in the wake of subsequent court orders and civil rights legislation, the number of new schools bearing Confederate-themed names dwindled away to a trickle.


  1. Confederate monuments are America's first attempt at participation trophies. It is ironic is it not that many of the same people who complain about little Timmy or little Susie getting a participation ribbon at school, have no problem at all with Jeff Davis participation statutes and monuments.

    1. Dammit, you beat me to it. It can't be said enough that these people are losers.

  2. There are plenty of sound arguments about why monuments of past members of the ruling class should not be erected, but I've never thought that the common refrain that "You lost!" is a cogent argument against Confederate monuments.

    First, it simply reinforces the unfortunate view of statists that "Might makes right," meaning that if you win something through violence, then that makes you a better person or provides support for your version of events.

    Second, the war was unjustly initiated by the victorious side. So not only is that side claiming that only its monuments are legitimate because "We won!", but it is also in effect arguing that if the bad guys win, then the winning cleanses them of their badness.

  3. Those of you disparaging confederate monuments are ignorant of history and most likely not Southerners. The South payed dearly in lives, economy and political influence and really didn’t recover for over 100 years. Look up the percentage of population the South lost and maybe you’ll understand why that portion of our history is so important. It was our homes and cities that were burned the ground; our women and our economy ravaged by northern invaders.

    Funny how the south is the bastion of patriotism and conservatism but you want to run our heritage through the mud. Commies would have overrun our country by now if not for the south while all you Yankees’ cities have fallen into absurd liberalism.