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How Southern socialites rewrote Civil War history

The United Daughters of the Confederacy altered the South’s memory of the Civil War.

And they did it without the vote.
Coleman Lowndes is a lead producer who has covered history, culture, and photography since joining the Vox video team in 2017.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy, a women’s group that was formed in 1894, led the effort to revise Confederate history at the turn of the 20th century. That effort has a name: the Lost Cause. It was a campaign to portray Confederate leaders and soldiers as heroic, and it targeted the minds and identities of children growing up in the South so they would develop a personal attachment to the Confederate cause.

UDC members.
Library of Congress

Even without the right to vote, the group was extremely influential. They lobbied local governments to erect memorials to the Confederacy all over the South, including in prominent public spaces like courthouses and state capitols. They formed textbook committees and pressured school boards to ban books that the UDC deemed “unjust to the South,” which was anything that shed negative light on the Confederacy.

Their work with children went beyond the classroom as well. They formed an auxiliary group called the Children of the Confederacy, a program that sought to get kids actively involved in “Southern” history. They would recite UDC-sponsored rhetoric, visit veterans, participate in monument unveilings, and more.

Watch the video above to learn more about the UDC’s efforts to present their distorted version of history as “real history.”

The Children of the Confederacy visiting a Confederate grave.
Library of Congress

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