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Debunking the myth of the Lost Cause: A lie embedded in American history - Karen L. Cox

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In the 1860’s, 11 southern states withdrew from the United States and formed the Confederacy. They seceded in response to the growing movement for the nationwide abolition of slavery. Yet barely a year after the Civil War ended, southern sources began claiming the conflict was about state’s rights. How did this revisionist history come about? Karen Cox examines the cultural myth of the Lost Cause.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Karen L. Cox
  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Narrator Christina Greer
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-Checker Jennifer Nam
  • See more creators
Additional Resources for you to Explore
To understand how the Lost Cause became revisionist narrative about the war and its causes, it’s useful to first look at the reasons given for leaving the Union. Begin by reading the full text of Alexander Stephens’s Cornerstone Speech. Then read the reasons southern states offered in their declarations of secession. Now contrast that with what Edward Pollard wrote in his book The Lost Cause and what Confederate descendants said decades after the Civil War during monument dedication ceremonies. See, for example, this 1933 speech by Heriot Clarkson, a former justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

To understand more about the United Daughters of the Confederacy, watch this video about how these women altered students’ understanding of history by vetting textbooks or read this op-ed about their broader work with children.

African American responses to the Lost Cause are equally important. Frederick Douglass worried that the Lost Cause narrative would erase the history of the most important outcome of the Civil War—the emancipation of slaves. He returned to this sentiment in many of his postwar speeches. See, for example, his speech in Rochester, New York, in 1882 on Decoration Day.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Karen L. Cox
  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Narrator Christina Greer
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-Checker Jennifer Nam
  • See more creators

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