The Ideologues

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

 

Grady McWhiney
Retired history professor, University of Alabama
ABILENE, Texas

Grady McWhiney is in many ways the intellectual grandfather of the neo-Confederate movement, although officials at the foundation he established in Texas now say that he rejects the racism inherent in much of that world (see Little Men).

McWhiney served for several years on the board of the League of the South, the leading neo-Confederate organization and largely a creation of McWhiney's one-time graduate student, Michael Hill (see profile). Now reportedly in failing health, McWhiney still nominally heads up the Grady McWhiney Research Foundation, which is hosted by McMurry University in Abilene, Texas.

McWhiney headed the Southern History Institute at the University of Alabama for many years, but later became the Lyndon Baines Johnson Professor of American History at Texas Christian University, where he is now a professor emeritus.

In 1988, McWhiney, with an introduction from ua colleague Forrest McDonald, wrote Cracker Culture, a book that described North and South as being different because of their differing immigrant stocks. (Its central thesis has now been criticized by many mainstream academics.)

Another important McWhiney book was 1982's Attack and Die, which his foundation describes as examining "Confederate strategy in the War for Southern Independence and advanc[ing] the theory that Southerners were reacting to cultural forces when they continually took the costly tactical offensive in their battles with Union forces."

Senior fellows serving at his Abilene foundation include McDonald and the renowned scholar of Southern slavery Eugene Genovese.

 

Clyde Wilson
History professor, University of South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C.

Outside of Eugene Genovese (see Little Men), Clyde Wilson is certainly the biggest intellectual heavyweight associated with the neo-Confederate scene.

With a doctorate from the University of North Carolina, Wilson went on to a distinguished career as the editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun, the preeminent states' rights theorist before the Civil War, and has published 18 volumes of that series so far. He has also edited two volumes of the Dictionary of Literary Biography that deal with American historians, and written entries for several encyclopedias.

In 1994, Wilson became a founding member of the League of the South, and he has served on its national board ever since. He also teaches at the League of the South Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and History, and is an adjunct faculty member at the libertarian-minded Ludwig Von Mises Institute.

Through it all, Wilson is an unreconstructed neo-Confederate. In 1998, he told Gentleman's Quarterly that Southerners "don't want women in the armed forces. We don't want the federal government telling us what to do, pushing integration down our throats, saying we can't pray in school. We don't want abortion or gay rights. We're tired of carpetbagging professionals coming to our campuses and teaching that the South is a cultural wasteland."

In another interview, with the Houston Press, Wilson said he wished for a South where "we won't have a bit of difficulty telling the difference between a citizen and an illegal alien." Writing about "The Birth of a Nation," a 1915 film that describes the Ku Klux Klan in heroic terms, Wilson said its main problem was being too sympathetic to Lincoln.

In 2000, he led an attempt to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over the South Carolina Capitol. And in his 2002 book, From Union to Empire: Essays in the Jeffersonian Tradition, Wilson rages against what he calls "messianic democratic universalism."

 

Franklin Sanders
Free-lance writer
WESTPOINT, Tenn.

Franklin Sanders is a peculiar mix of neo-Confederate fantasist and seasoned tax protester. Boasting of the nickname of "most dangerous man in the mid-South" that he says a federal prosecutor gave him, Sanders describes his encounters with the tax authorities on his Web site.

According to the site, Sanders decided that dollars were backed by nothing at all after reading a book by current Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan, leading to his establishing a business selling gold and silver in 1980.

His site goes on to detail how state tax officials in Arkansas, where he was living at the time, found him liable for $30,000 in unpaid sales taxes, causing him to flee to Tennessee. In his new home, however, he ran afoul of both federal and state tax officials, and he eventually served time on state charges.

In 1989, Sanders published Heiland, a novel whose title means "savior" in German. It was an overheated story that sounded a lot like neo-Confederate views of the South and the North, although it takes place in the year 2020.

In it, America is divided into two: the "Insiders" are the urban, pro-federal government population, while the "Freemen" are rural folks who refuse to pay taxes and live happily off the land. In the end, the Freemen realize they cannot live with the Insiders and decide to establish "the rule of Immanuel" by, in part, destroying Nashville with a laser freeze ray.

Sanders was a charter member of the League of the South and has served on its national board for about two years. He still publishes The Moneychanger, a financial newsletter, from his Westpoint farm, and, every Labor Day, he hosts the League of the South's "Bodacious Hoedown."