Times change…. Historian’s belief in Lost Cause doesn’t

“Whatever the motive behind secession, once the war began the overwhelming number of Confederate soldiers, most of whom were non­ slaveholders, fought to defend their states, homes, and families from the invading federal armies. Such was the case with my four great uncles, poor dirt farmers who owned no slaves. Two served as privates in North Carolina infantry regiments and two carried the mail for the Confederacy. One of the former was killed in Pickett’s Charge and the other died during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862, thus becoming two of the 40,000 North Carolinians who paid the ultimate price fighting under the now much-maligned Confederate battle flag….

“I am proud of my Confederate heritage and proud to live in a state that still recognizes that heritage in its state banner.”

— From “Heritage, not hate. Let’s keep the state flag” by William K. Scarborough in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger

An 84-year-old white Mississippian defending the Confederate flag may qualify as dog-bites-man, but Bill Scarborough is also an accomplished academic whose doctorate and bachelor’s degree are from UNC Chapel Hill and whose papers occupy 27 feet of shelf space in the Southern Historical Collection. 

Scarborough’s op-ed column threw me back to 1970, when I interviewed him for the micromonthly Mississippi Freelance. 

In his Confederate-flag-draped office at the University of Southern Mississippi we talked about his recent stump speeches (“I’m a segregationist, no apologies, no denials”), his brief and unhappy tenure at Millsaps College (“It had assumed that since I was a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina that I’d be fairly liberal”) and most viscerally his fond recollection of the James Meredith crisis that wracked the state in 1962:

“The Citizens Council issued a call for men to surround the Governor’s Mansion; they had heard the federal marshals would try to arrest him [Ross Barnett]. It was great. The women brought lunches and chairs, and there was patriotic music coming over the loudspeakers…Emotionally, it was the high spot of my life. For the first time I could really see how the Civil War took place….”

So, no, I wasn’t surprised to see Scarborough’s attachment to the Confederacy undiminished by the intervening 47 years….


3 thoughts on “Times change…. Historian’s belief in Lost Cause doesn’t”

  1. The Confederate Flag was as much a part of history as the British Union Jack Flag which flew in the American Colonies in 1776. Like it or not in 1861-1865 the Confederacy was a separate country and as such had its own flag. My great great grandfather died supporting the Confederacy and its flag at Battery Wagner in 1863, never owning a slave. He was a tenant farmer in Robeson County, NC.

  2. Update: Dr. Scarborough had this to say during Sunday’s dueling state-flag demonstrations on the Southern Miss campus:
    “We’re protesting that the [USM] president took the state flag down without consulting anybody – I’m protesting more than that — this campaign to eradicate every vestige of the heritage of the Confederacy. I’m very angry about it – I’m not interested in reconciling with anybody. I’m just angry – I don’t like ‘em, I hate ‘em if you wanna know the truth. They’re very unreasonable.”


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