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Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


From the 1890s to the 1940s, students at southern college campuses, like most white southerners, participated in the Lost Cause movement. But these young men and women custom fitted the imagery, rhetoric, symbols, and ideals associated with the movement to better fit their campuses. These students, then, were actively participating in their own, indigenous, personalized Lost Cause rituals.

Confederate memory, and Old South mythologies permeated student publications. The pictures and stories that littered the pages of yearbooks, newspapers, and magazines took elements from the Lost Cause and customized them to reflect their own indigenous campus culture. At the University of Virginia, students composed stories that reflected the Old South Cavalier spirit that so defined the Commonwealth and its flagship institution of higher learning. At the University of Mississippi, though, the Lost Cause rituals focused on the Confederacy and the fight for the Southland.

It was in this environment, steeped in Lost Cause rituals, that these two schools adopted mascots and nicknames for their athletics’ teams, and specifically football, that were themselves rooted in these campus-specific Lost Causes. The new game appealed to southern men’s sense of honor and a new, postwar, masculine ideal. The same Cavalier themes that showed up on the pages of the UVA student publications became the symbol of the school’s football team. At the U of M, the Confederate spirit that saturated the pages Ole Miss yearbook manifested itself in the school’s nickname, the Rebels, and Colonel Reb, the school’s mascot. Thus, football games became part of the Lost Cause movement and its invented traditions.

These students, then, constitute a new, and until now, ignored aspect of the Lost Cause. This demonstrates the degree to which southern college campuses were important mechanisms in the Lost Cause movement and in the perpetuation of the southern mind. The students who populated these campuses would go on to lead southern states, counties, cities and courts. Therefore, their being educated at these decidedly Lost Cause campuses makes the influence of these schools all the more important in the creation and perpetuation of southern thought and culture.

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