‘We’re telling history now’: New Lost Cause exhibit opens at Richmond museumHistorians in the News
tags: museums, Confederacy, Richmond, Lost Cause, museum exhibits
The White House of the Confederacy, which once told racist myths about the righteousness of the rebel cause, is setting the record straight.
A new exhibit at the former Confederate shrine in downtown Richmond shows how people associated with the house helped spread a warped description of the Civil War era — a narrative called the “Lost Cause.”
“We are telling history now” and not myths, said Stephanie Arduini, education director for the American Civil War Museum, which runs the White House.
The exhibition, “House of the Lost Cause,” is scheduled to open Dec. 14.
The Lost Cause is a moonlight-and-magnolias version of the South that emerged after the war. Among other things, it claims that enslaved people were happy, Confederate leaders like Gen. Robert E. Lee were saintly exemplars of Christianity, and the war had little to do with slavery.
In truth, slavery was brutal, and children were often sold on the auction block. Lee, while a capable military man, was a white supremacist who felt blacks were better off living enslaved in the South than free in Africa.
And — despite claims to the contrary even today — the war erupted mainly over the white South’s desire to preserve slavery, experts say.
“Confederate leaders very candidly announced that they were fighting for the idea that bondage under a ‘superior’ white race was the ‘natural and normal condition’ of black people,” said Melvin Patrick Ely, a College of William & Mary history professor, by email. He is not associated with the exhibit.
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