Focus Statement: First Attempt

I am researching Confederate memory in Virginia during the World War I period, circa 1914-1920. Focusing on public memory, especially the erection of Confederate monuments during those years, I want to examine the effects of international conflict on Civil War memorialization. America entered WWI only 52 years after the end of the Civil War, during a period when, according to some scholars, the importance of the Southern tradition or Lost Cause mentality was waning. I would like to argue that although many factors added to the decline of monument building in the South, US involvement in Europe played an important role in North-South reconciliation. Monument builders helped to strengthen a united American identity in the South by applying Confederate symbolism and rhetoric to WWI. This is significant because the reconciliation of white Northerners and Southerners by the 1920s shaped the next 50 years of policies and practices in the South, including the government’s complicity in racial segregation and the stymied progress of black civil rights. Understanding more about the Lost Cause will help us understand the racial issues still affecting America today.

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