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The Ideologues

Read about the intellectuals and ideas that have shaped the core of the modern neo-Confederate movement.

The contemporary neo-Confederate movement grew largely out of the ideas of a very specific set of Southern intellectuals, many of them professors at Southern universities and colleges.

Even before the movement began to take organizational shape with the 1994 formation of the League of the South (LOS), several members of this group of mainly white men were well along in an attempt to dramatically revise mainstream historical thinking about the culture and politics of the South, the nature of slavery, the causes of the Civil War, and the role of the federal government.

As a general matter, most of the thinkers profiled below support the South's right to secede; believe the North started the Civil War over tariff issues or states' rights, not slavery; say that President Lincoln always secretly intended the war as a way to rob the states of their power and create a federal behemoth, and only used the slavery question as an excuse; and, in at least some cases, see the civil rights era as an evil because it had the effect of increasing federal power relative to that of the states.

The 10 people described here are key ideologues in the neo-Confederate pantheon, but they are scarcely alone.

In fact, more than 30 professors work with the Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and History run by the LOS, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed as a hate group since 2000.

Forty-one professors, many of them already teachers at the LOS institute, signed the "Statement of College and University Professors in Support of the Confederate Battle Flag Atop the South Carolina Statehouse" in 2000.

And another 30-plus professors are associated with the Georgia-based Abbeville Institute, a teaching facility very similar to the LOS institute that also shares many of its professors.

Thomas DiLorenzo
Economics professor, Loyola College // BALTIMORE, Md.

Thomas Fleming
President, Rockford Institute // ROCKFORD, Ill.

Michael Andrew Grissom
Free-lance writer // WYNNEWOOD, Okla.

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

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

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

Donald Livingston
Philosophy professor, Emory University // ATLANTA, Ga.

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

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

Franklin Sanders
Free-lance writer // WESTPOINT, Tenn.

Thomas DiLorenzo
Economics professor, Loyola College

The earliest apologists for the lost Cause of the South, writing in the first years of the 20th century, described Abraham Lincoln as a good and even great man, sorely misled by evil advisers who pushed a harsh Reconstruction policy. No more.

Thanks to Thomas DiLorenzo and others of his ilk, the 16th president is now viewed in neo-Confederate circles as a paragon of wickedness, a man secretly intent on destroying states' rights and building a massive federal government.

"It was not to end slavery that Lincoln initiated an invasion of the South," DiLorenzo writes in his 2002 attack on Lincoln, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. "A war was not necessary to free the slaves, but it was necessary to destroy the most significant check on the powers of the central government: the right of secession."

DiLorenzo is not a historian. With a doctorate from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, he has been since 1992 an economics professor at Baltimore's Loyola College. And most of his work has not been about history, focusing instead on libertarian and antigovernment themes.

His 10 books include Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us, and, with writer James T. Bennett, The Food and Drink Police: America's Nannies, Busybodies and Petty Tyrants (attacking organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth and Cancer Scam: Diversion of Federal Cancer Funds to Politics (both of which accuse nonprofits like the American Cancer Society of using public money to fund leftist "political machines").

DiLorenzo is also a senior faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a hard-right libertarian foundation in Alabama, and teaches at the League of the South Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and History, a South Carolina school established by the League of the South to teach its unusual views of history (see also Little Men).

In 2003,, a Web site run by Von Mises Institute President Llewellyn Rockwell that includes a "King Lincoln" section, hosted a "Lincoln Reconsidered" conference in Richmond, Va., starring DiLorenzo. The conference has since become a bit of a road show, reappearing around the South and headlined by DiLorenzo.

Thomas Fleming
President, Rockford Institute

Thomas Fleming came to neo-Confederate ideas early, co-founding and editing the first few issues of Southern Partisan, a hard-line "pro-South" magazine started in 1979.

Holding a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Fleming today is president of The Rockford Institute, a right-wing organization that says its aim is "the defense of fundamental institutions of our civilization" and "the renewal of Christendom."

In that post, Fleming edits the institute's Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, where he argued in a 1990 article that "government-imposed civil rights" had been "an unmitigated disaster for everyone." Elsewhere that same year, he defended arch-segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace as having been "clearly on the right track," even if he was "mean-spirited," in resisting the federal government.

In the 15 years since then, Fleming's magazine has repeatedly returned to neo-Confederate themes, including a 1991 cover story on secession that featured his interviews with leaders of the immigrant-bashing Northern League in Italy. In 1994, Fleming became a founding member, and later served on the board, of the League of the South (the name was inspired by the Northern League), which has been listed since 2000 by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

The Rockford Institute distributes "The Regnery Lectures," named in honor of the late right-wing publisher, Alfred Regnery, who sat for many years on the institute's board. As president, Fleming also emcees the institute's annual gatherings of the John Randolph Club, a highly conservative group that increasingly seems concerned with racial matters.

Michael Andrew Grissom
Free-lance writer

Although Michael Grissom holds only a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma, his books have become key texts of the neo-Confederate movement.

His first, Southern by the Grace of God, was published in 1988 and, Grissom claims, "is credited with starting the Southern resistance movement." The book actually lauds the role of Ku Klux Klan in rolling back Reconstruction, arguing, "Without it, we might never have shaken off the curse of the carpetbag/scalawag government which bound us hand and foot after the war." In a picture caption, he adds that the terrorist group "played a vital role in ridding the post-war South of brutal carpetbag rule."

In 1994, Grissom became a founding member of the neo-secessionist League of the South, and he would later become a board member of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (which has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity").

Grissom has published books including When the South Was Southern, Can the South Survive?, The Southern Book of Quotes and The Last Rebel Yell. That last, published in 1994, argued, among other things, that "cultural and physiological difference[s]" between blacks and whites are "real."

Saying he had learned much about "negro character," the book also defended the break-up of slave families: "I suspect that such family separations did not really trouble them as much as I once supposed. The old-fashioned plantation negroes did not take much trouble to themselves about anything."

Grissom has also attacked the Brown vs. Board of Education decision that ended segregated schools, complaining it "forc[ed] the white Southerner to send his children into a school, the traditional institution that produces boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, now burdened with the added complication of the black factor."

With the help of the Council of Conservative Citizens and other groups, Grissom is now raising money for a pro-Confederate statue in his hometown of Wynnewood.

J. Michael Hill
Former history professor, Stillman College

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

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

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

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.

Grady McWhiney
Retired history professor, University of Alabama

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

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

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."