Home » History/Preservation »Media » Currently Reading:

The Confederate States of America & Our Cities

August 31, 2006 History/Preservation, Media 3 Comments

The film, C.S.A: The Confederate States of America, is a must see! From IMDB:

Set in an contemporary alternative world where the Confederate States of America managed to win the American Civil War, a British film documentary examines the history of this nation. Beginning with its conquest of the northern states, the film covers the history of this state where racial enslavement became triumphant and the nation carried sinister designs of conquest. Interspersed throughout are various TV commercials of products of a virulent racist nature as well as public service announcements promoting this tyranny. Only at the end do you learn that there is less wholly imagined material in the film than you might suspect.

The film is the work of writer & director Kevin WIllmott, a professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. It is a joint presentation of IFC Films and Spike Lee. IThe film assumes many white abolitionists and freed slaves would have escaped to Canada. ‘m not going to give away any of the specifics as you need to see the film yourself. Suffice to say, it got me thinking.

What if America still permitted/encouraged the immoral act of slavery? Our cities would certainly look different than today. As a society we still would have fallen in love with the car and we would have had a need for housing following WWII. But would the suburban boom have been what it was without demands for civil rights? With slaves to do house and yard work the typical 1950s house may not have been the same. I would imagine houses would have remained larger and that multiple generations would have stayed together more than in our reality. Literal industrial slave labor would have kept many manufacturing jobs in America — why export to foreign slave shops. Kathy Lee could have had American-slave made shirts. Retaining a manufacturing base would have meant slave housing around factories. Whites would not have fled cities as they did when having to do sane things like share a drinking fountain or a classroom. If you are white these cities might not sound so bad but consider the many technological and cultural accomplishments that would not have happened.

But the Union did defeat the Confederates and we ended up with institutionalized segregation rather than actual freedom. Northern whites wanted no more to do with blacks than did Southern whites for many decades up to and through the Civil Rights Movement (some could argue, convincingly, this is still the case). So what I want to know is where would our cities be today had white folks, say by a generation removed from the Civil War, not really cared much about race. Yes, a big stretch of the imagination and far from reality but go with me on this.

We would not have had any white flight in this case either as we’d already be fully integrated on a race basis. Economic segregation would still be an issue but I think it would be more balanced than today as we would not have had decades of discrimination in education and employment.

– Steve


Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mike says:

    If we are to believe the analysis of Time on the Cross, a landmark work on the economics of slavery (here’s a link to a review: http://eh.net/bookreviews/library/weiss.shtml), perhaps there’s an economic argument for your point of view. But I don’t think the social analysis would hold up. No Brown v. Board of Education, which, sadly, is the proximate cause of white flight and the decline of urban school systems. And of course the outsourcing of so much of our manfacturing base to low-wage countries has also impoverished the urban economy and made it really hard for less well-educated people to make a living. Would slavery have kept the factories from moving to China?

  2. Dave Eschmann says:

    I haven’t seen this film, but my thought regarding the Confedracy winning the Civil War would be that indutrialization whould have been prevented. The nation today would be like a large agricultural country run by a planter-elite. Of course, that wouldn’t last as eventually the majority of whites would realize that they were just pawns in the system and wake up and rebel against this tyranny, joining blacks in solidarity to create a social democracy. A nation based on slavery after 1865 is as perverse a notion as Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union, neither of which lasted.

  3. Joe Frank says:

    Many vestiges of slavery in fact did persist for many decades in the South after 1875. While African-American men were enfranchised for a few years during Reconstruction, Pres. Andrew Johnson was not a big fan, and eventually the Southern whites got the troops pulled out, as part of the deal for letting the Republicans win in 1876.

    Sharecropping, tenant farming, Grandfather clauses, Jim Crow, Plessy, etc. added up to a continuation of white supremacy for decades to come, just like during slavery. The difference was African-Americans were not actually owned by whites; and sure, in some Northern cities, more organizing happened earlier as a result of the Great Migration.

    Still, I’m curious about this film, even if it sounds like utter b.s. to me.


Comment on this Article: