Book Review: No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice

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by Karen L. Cox

Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2021. Pp. xii, 206+. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $24.00. ISBN: 1469662671

Confederate Memorialization and Racial Justice

The author of the award winning Dixie’s Daughters, in No Common Ground, Prof. Cox (North Carolina) gives us a detailed, interesting account of the history of Civil War monuments from the postwar period through the era of Jim Crow and on into the 21st Century.

Cox looks at how the rise of the “Lost Cause” ideology influences monuments and memorials across several distinct periods, the 1880’s -1900, the post-world war era, the 1950’s-1960’s and on to 2020. She concludes that in all periods racism, white supremacy, and the Lost Cause myth were common to the narrative presents by these monuments. Groups such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), provided white Southerners with reasons to take pride in their heritage and the motives of their ancestors in fighting the Civil War, for the defense of their beliefs and traditions, while ignoring racism and slavery.

Cox argues that the importance of Confederate monuments is not limited to the groups which erected them or to those who espouse the “Lost Cause”, representing “Southern heritage”. She makes the case that the monuments were also – perhaps primarily – intended to emphasize to African Americans that they were second-class citizens throughout the Jim Crow era, while promoting white supremacy, preventing black suffrage, and promoting a “state’s rights” agenda in opposition possible Federal efforts to secure Black civil rights, even to condoning continuing racial violence. Cox notes that the influence of the UDC continues to the present.

Cox raises important questions that many Americans find difficult to cope with, such as the many protests and demonstrations beginning in 2020, in part sparked by the death of George Floyd, have raised awareness of the extent and purpose of Confederate memorialization.

that have at times led to the defacement or violent demolition of monuments, the many communities that have removed monuments, and the many state governments contemplating legislation to determine what happens to such monuments. She reminds us that there are Confederate monuments in virtually every state, including those never a party to Secession.

In No Common Ground Cox has provided a thought-provoking, rich, compelling, and well-timed look at a very timely public debate.

 

Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His previous reviews here include, Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg, Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War, The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma, Crosshairs on the Capital: Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington, Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee's Army after Appomattox, Voices of the Army of the Potomac, The Record of Murders and Outrages, and Gettysburg 1963.

 

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Note: No Common Ground is also available in audio- and e-editions.

 

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

www.nymas.org and https://www.nymas2.org/

Reviewer: David Marshall   


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