1976-2000: The Conservative Ascendancy and Retrenchment from Civil Rights Movement


1976-2000: The Conservative Ascendancy and Retrenchment from Civil Rights Movement
This timeline designation enables the temporal indexing of persons and memorials, monuments, or other objects and places to persons who were active in education, politics, or other arenas of public action and who contributed through their actions to the celebration of Confederate “heritage” (including other euphemisms for the Lost Cause) in the period of the New Conservative ascendancy in American politics, society, and culture after 1976.

This period corresponds to the successful campaign, embraced by conservative Republicans and later by “New Democrats,” to eliminate or weaken instruments for redressing social inequity, such as busing to achieve racial desegregation and expanded social welfare supports to address urban and rural poverty. African Americans were disproportionately benefited by these policies. The early 1980s saw a resurgence of Klan organization and activity, and an invigoration of southern nationalist organizations, which deliberately distanced themselves and their rhetoric from racism but promoted the preservation of “southern culture” – the display of Confederate flags at public buildings, participation in Civil War battle reenactments, rallies at Confederate memorials – under the banner of “heritage not hate.” These developments were keyed to the “culture war” battles waged against supporters of the welfare state and “multiculturalism” in the 1980s and 1990s, which fed on fears of a declining birthrate of whites and the displacement of the white majority in the U.S. by Brown immigrants. They likewise drew energy from the “War on Drugs” launched by Reagan-era Republicans, which often unfairly targeted Black and Brown people, exploited the myths of “Black criminality,” and disproportionately channeled them into federal and state prisons. In the 1990s, white nationalist organizations grew in size, number, and public acceptance all across the U.S. Thanks to the successful lobbying of various state divisions of the Sons of Confederate Veterans – and indicative of the enhanced power of organizations celebrating the Confederacy and “Old South” in the 1990s – residents of states from Maryland south to Texas could purchase license plates featuring the Confederate flag in the seal of the SCV.

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