Things Worth Reading
The books in this list are a great place to learn about demystifying Robert E. Lee and gaining a deeper understanding of the insidiousness of systemic racism and white privilege. These aren’t required reading, but they are deeply informative and can help equip you for hard conversations with friends who may be persuaded to join us.
The books in this list are sourced from members’ suggestions. Variously, these books will give you the information you need to demystify Robert E. Lee and understand the insidiousness of systemic racism and white privilege.
Books on the Lost Cause/Civil War Memory in America
A Defense of Virginia and the South, by R. L. Dabney. 1867.
The very foundation and beginning of the lost cause mythology that still grips the south and its veneration of confederate symbols. This is the source. Read expecting to be enraged.
Lee and his Generals in War and Memory, by Gary W. Gallagher. 1998
A timely reexamination of the career of Robert E. Lee and his relations with his subordinates includes a study of Lost Cause interpretations of the war that argue that Lee and Stonewall Jackson were flawless warriors hurt by inept generals. (Source: Amazon review)
The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History, edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Alan T. Nolan. 2000.
A collection of essays examining the myth of the lost cause. The first essay in this book is a short summary and take down of the major tenets of the Lost Cause.
Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, by David W. Blight. 2001.
Probably the most influential book written in recent history about the Lost Cause and how American’s remembered the Civil War. Argues that white Americans reunified and reconciled by downplaying the importance of emancipation and the experience of African Americans during the Civil War.
The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture, edited by Alice Fahs and John Waugh. 2004.
A collection of essays that may be the best one stop shop for quick but deep dives into a wide variety of controversies about how Americans remembered the Civil War.
The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory, by Fitzhugh W. Brundage. 2005
Since the Civil War whites and blacks have struggled over the meanings and uses of the Southern past. Indeed, today’s controversies over flying the Confederate flag, renaming schools and streets, and commemorating the Civil War and the civil rights movement are only the latest examples of this ongoing divisive contest over issues of regional identity and heritage. The Southern Past argues that these battles are ultimately about who has the power to determine what we remember of the past, and whether that remembrance will honor all Southerners or only select groups. (Source: Amazon review)
Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconstruction, by Caroline E. Janney. 2013.
Like David Blight’s book–this book provides an overview of how Americans remembered the Civil War in the decades following its conclusion.
Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause, by Ty Seidele. 2021 (Available in January 2021)
Ty Seidule grew up revering Robert E. Lee. From his southern childhood to his service in the U.S. Army, every part of his life reinforced the Lost Cause myth: that Lee was the greatest man who ever lived, and that the Confederates were underdogs who lost the Civil War with honor. Now, as a retired brigadier general and Professor Emeritus of History at West Point, his view has radically changed. From a soldier, a scholar, and a Southerner, American history demands a reckoning. (Source: Amazon description)
Books on Robert E. Lee
Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, by Elizabeth Brown Pryor. 2008.
Using dozens of previously unpublished letters as departure points, Pryor produces a stunning personal account of Lee’s military ability, shedding new light on every aspect of the complex and contradictory general’s life story. (Source: Amazon review)
The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee: The Forgotten Case against an American Icon, by John Reeves. 2018.
In this book, Civil War historian John Reeves illuminates the incredible turnaround in attitudes towards the defeated general by examining the evolving case against him from 1865 to 1870 and beyond. (Source Amazon)