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Rachel Huffman, "Plagued by Misinterpretation," May 10, 2012


Rachel Huffman, "Plagued by Misinterpretation," May 10, 2012


I am currently finishing up my Junior year at NC State University. I am double majoring in History and Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. I am interested in pursuing a future in either Public History or Public Relations. Aside from my schoolwork, I spend my time running, working at the NC State library, swimming, working as an NC State Alumni Association Ambassador, cooking and practicing yoga.


Rachel Huffman




Raleigh, North Carolina


The Civil War has been so plagued by misinterpretation that it has made the period an arduous time to study for historians. The first and most obvious way is how the causes of the Civil War have changed depending on the interpreter. For example, during the years after the war, the South began to attempt to come to grips with the loss they experienced and inadequacies of the Reconstruction period. In attempting to lick their wounds, they found that the most effective method would to be reframe history by deemphasizing the prevalence of slavery as their cause for secession. Southerners began to regard states rights as their primary cause for secession with slavery coming in as a miniscule aspect of their need to assert supremacy over the national government. While this occurred in history, other views of the Civil War sprung up which were more forgiving to the South and their institution of slavery. This viewpoint became incredibly popular in the South where it was taught. Often students learned that it was states’ rights, NOT slavery, that spurred the onset of the Civil War. Even the U.S. citizenship exam takes either answer as correct. This clearly describes a type of intentional misinterpretation for the purpose of healing the wounds of the South. Yet it is an interesting historiographical lesson because it indicates the ways in which historians can alter their conclusions based upon the sources they use and those that they ignore. In ignoring these documents which actually prove states’ rights was a smokescreen for the topic of slavery, these historians have changed the mindset of many Southerners and spurred incomplete Civil War knowledge for students.


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Rachel Huffman, Rachel Huffman, "Plagued by Misinterpretation," May 10, 2012, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 21, 2024,