The Ideologues

Who are the intellectuals who form the core of the modern neo-Confederate movement? And what exactly do they think?

 

J. Michael Hill
Former history professor, Stillman College
KILLEN, Ala.

A native Alabamian, Michael Hill studied under two extremely conservative history professors at the University of Alabama, Grady McWhiney (see profile) and Forrest McDonald (see Little Men).

His mentors wrote Cracker Culture, a book that argued that the South was settled primarily by "Anglo-Celts" while in the North it was British Protestants who predominated. Hill took this idea further, authoring a total of three books on the Celts.

Hill taught British history for years at historically black Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., while also teaching part-time at his alma mater. In 1994, while still at Stillman, Hill initiated the creation of the League of the South, a group that has become increasingly racist under his leadership.

Today, LOS envisions a seceded South that would be run, basically, as a theocratic state marked by medieval legal distinctions between different types of citizens.

In 1996, Hill told columnist Diane Roberts that his black students adored him; what he didn't say was that he apparently did not share their warmth. In a 2000 posting to the AlaReb e-list, Hill mocked Stillman students and workers. "A quote," he wrote, "from a recent affirmative action hire: 'Yesta-day I could not spell "secretary." Today I is one.'"

He continued: "One of few benefits I got on a regular basis from having taught for 18 years at Stillman College was reading the class rolls on the first day of class." He went on to list several "humorous" names of his black students, ending, "Where do these people get such names?" Hill had left Stillman by then, resigning in 1999.

Although school officials never said so publicly, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported that Hill had become "an embarrassment" to the administration.

 

James Everett Kibler
English professor, University of Georgia
ATHENS, Ga.

A founding member of the League of the South (LOS) and the current associate director of the League of the South Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and History, James Kibler is a kind of literary neo-Confederate, celebrating and defending Southern literature and its traditions.

His main contribution to the neo-Confederate movement, however, has been in persuading many of its leaders to adopt British orthography, or spelling, to reflect the "Anglo-Celtic" origins of white Southerners. In practice, this is seen in the way people like LOS President Michael Hill (see p. 28) spell labor as "labour," honor as "honour," and so on.

Kibler, who earned his doctorate at the University of South Carolina, has published several books on the early 19th century Southern poet William Gilmore Simms and also edits The Simms Review, an academic journal. Simms is widely admired by neo-Confederates for his staunch endorsement of Southern upper-class rule and his defense of slavery, in particular as editor of the proslavery Southern Quarterly Review.

In addition to Kibler, the editorial board of The Simms Review is filled with LOS members, including David Aiken, a teacher at the League of the South Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and History who is also a College of Charleston professor, and James Meriwether, another institute scholar who recently retired from the University of South Carolina at Columbia, where he founded that school's Institute for Southern Studies.

Kibler has published three novels, several volumes of poetry, and LOS' Knowing Who We Are: Southern Literary Tradition and the Voice in the Whirlwind. Another book, in which he recounts his restoration of a South Carolina plantation home, won the nonfiction award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers in 1999.

Like many of his friends in LOS, Kibler is fond of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Civil War general who also was the first national leader of the Ku Klux Klan (see A Different Kind of Hero). In a poem, Kibler celebrates Forrest's legendary bravery and also depicts him as a kind and idealistic man.

 

Walter Donald "Donnie" Kennedy
Free-lance writer
SIMSBORO, La.

An anesthesia nurse, Walter Kennedy has been a member of the hard core of the neo-Confederate movement for many years. In 1994, he co-authored The South Was Right!, an angry defense of the South during the Civil War, with his twin brother, James Ronald Kennedy.

The book, now ubiquitous in neo-Confederate circles, also called for a new Southern secession to escape the "overgrown and unresponsive" federal government.

For this and other books they co-authored, including Myths of American Slavery, Why Not Freedom! and Was Jefferson Davis Right?, the twins are known in the movement as the "Good Kennedys," as opposed, naturally, to the bad ones.

In 1994, Walter Kennedy became a founding member of the League of the South, and he remains on its national board today. For years, Kennedy also was the commander of the Louisiana division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a conservative Southern heritage group, as well as a member of its national executive council.

But he quit his post on the council in 1996, after the group's moderate then-commander in chief banned all discussion of secession from the SCV's main e-mail discussion list. "If it was 'Right' in 1861," Kennedy wrote of secession in his angry resignation letter, "why is it 'Wrong' today?"

Books by the Kennedys are routinely donated to libraries by members of the SCV and other Southern heritage groups.

 

Donald Livingston
Philosophy professor, Emory University
ATLANTA, Ga.

After earning his doctorate in philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Donald Livingston made his reputation as a student of 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume. Livingston wrote several books on Hume and is today a member of the editorial board of Hume Studies.

Shortly after the formation of the League of the South in 1994, Livingston became the first director of the League of the South Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and History, which was organized to further the group's revisionist takes on American history.

For the past few years, Livingston has focused on what he calls the "philosophical meaning of secession." In practice, that has meant that he has fiercely defended the right of the antebellum South to secede and has written that Lincoln started the Civil War in order to establish a centralized state.

In his forward to A Constitutional History of Secession, Livingston said "Lincoln's war" had led to "a French Revolutionary style unitary state," which he further described as always leading to a "centralizing totalitarianism."

In 2001, he told the Intelligence Report that "the North created segregation" and that Southerners fought during the Civil War only "because they were invaded." The next year, he established the Abbeville Institute, based in Atlanta, along the lines of the LOS institute.

At a 2003 "Lincoln Reconsidered" conference (see also profile of Thomas DiLorenzo), he said that "evil is habit-forming" and no habit is as evil as believing that Lincoln acted out of good motives.

Today, Livingston is also an adjunct faculty member at the libertarian Ludwig Von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala.