E.J. Dionne: Getting the Civil War Story Right Matters

A stereoscopic view: The Ladd and Whitney Monument and burial site in Lowell Massachusetts decorated in remembrance.

As the nation is about to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War, E. J. Dionne, Jr. sounds a warning in his Washington Post column. Don’t spin the story – get it right!

The Civil War is about to loom very large in the popular memory. We would do well to be candid about its causes and not allow the distortions of contemporary politics or long-standing myths to cloud our understanding of why the nation fell apart…

Why does getting the story right matter? As Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s recent difficulty with the history of the civil rights years demonstrates, there is to this day too much evasion of how integral race, racism and racial conflict are to our national story. We can take pride in our struggles to overcome the legacies of slavery and segregation. But we should not sanitize how contested and bloody the road to justice has been. We will dishonor the Civil War if we refuse to face up to the reason it was fought.

Read Dionne’s full Washington Post column here.

3 Responses to E.J. Dionne: Getting the Civil War Story Right Matters

  1. PaulM says:

    This column should be distributed in every high school and college American history class. As we get closer to April 2011 and into the 2012 year Civil War anniversary dates, I think the presence of President Obama and his family in the White House will become a more and more profound factor in people’s consciousness and intensify the response to the sesquicentennial activities.

    Next year is also the 175th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Lowell.

  2. C R Krieger says:

    Does this mean that E J’s statement, “the central cause of the [Civil] war was our national disagreement over race and slavery, not states’ rights or anything else,” (which a fully agree with) means that if I talk about states rights that people will stop suggesting that I am a racist or that I still, secretly, support slavery?

    Put another way, can we now have a discussion of the proper balance of state and federal powers without it being seen as a rehash of the Civil War or the sordid aftermath thereof?


    Regards  —  Cliff

  3. Dean says:

    It has been over 100 years after the Civil War. Afican- Americans have been terrorized in some southern and border states . Vis-a-vis the K.K.K.