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William L. Barney,
Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Even as the war disrupted Southern schools and colleges, Confederates strove to use the break from the North as a long-sought opportunity to refashion education in the service of an authentic Southern nationalism. Formerly dependent on the North for their textbooks, Southern educators now welcomed the challenge of furnishing their students with spelling bees, readers, and texts that were purged of abolitionist sentiments and any hints of condescension toward the South or its way of life.

The most important educational conference in the Confederacy met at Columbia, South Carolina, in April, 1863. Its recommendations, which can be followed in Proceedings of the Convention of Teachers of the Confederate States, called upon the South to write its own textbooks and laid out a blueprint for a comprehensive system of education that would teach youth the lessons of true Confederate citizenship.

One of the most popular of the new texts was Adelaide De Vendel Chaudron's The Third Reader for use in primary schools. Chaudron's text stressed the need for a Southern language purified of Yankee dictions and what she called "AFRICANISMS." Quoting from the Charleston Mercury, she urged all Southern whites to shun any "corrupt provincial dialect" and speak only "the noble undefiled English language." Another widely adopted text, Marinda Branson Moore's The Geographical Reader for the Dixie Children, depicted slaves as a happy, contented people living in a country of unusually pious whites. Moore included a proslavery reading of U.S. history and presented slavery as a positive good.

Confederate education was designed to produce citizens who would take pride in their new nation and taught the lesson that to be a good Confederate was to defend slavery. The rich sampling of documents in this section illustrates just how schooling was to mold model citizens for the new slave republic.