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Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Education in the 19th century relied heavily on school texts in order to teach American children the moral and civic responsibilities they must possess in order to become productive members of the American republic. After declaring secession, Confederate cultural nationalists took up the cause of educating the school children in the Confederate States of America in the moral and civic responsibilities determined important to the preservation of their new nation. Southerners had felt disenfranchised by the northern press and believed their children learning from these schoolbooks became weakened in their southern identity. Though some southerners were espousing the need for their own school presses before secession, it was not until the split between North and South was solidified that the cause for southern education began immediate. %0d%0aThis work argues that textbooks provide insight into the creation of Confederate nationalism and show how the Confederate society attempted to teach these lessons to their future generations. When writing textbooks, cultural nationalists used the models provided by their northern counterparts, but were determined to present a unique southern perspective devoid of any harmful influences from the North. While some northern lessons remained intact, Confederate textbooks preached the benevolence of slavery and the justification of this institution as instituted by God and the Bible. Confederates promoted the superiority of their cause and people and urged children to rally behind their new flag. Southern textbook authors took the North out of the American Revolution and claimed its start in the South, in attempts to relate their current struggle for independence with their forefathers. Finally, Confederates reclaimed George Washington as one of their own, a southern slave owner who remained virtuous and an inspiration to all Confederate children. These textbooks present a nationalism frozen in time. The Confederate States of America lost their country, but their attempt to create an identity remains in their textbooks and provides lessons on how education shapes students in what it means to be American.

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