Strangely, that clear delineation got erased in the years after the United States defeated the pro-slavery rebels of the Confederacy. By the time the 20th century dawned, the dominant narrative had been skewed by Southern historians. Grant was falsely maligned. States rights, rather than preserving slavery, was put forward as the primary impetus for the rebellion. And the myth of the Lost Cause turned traitors into heroes, even outside the South.

Statues were erected in nearly every town square and city park in the southern states memorializing Confederate generals and slave-owning politicians. Military bases were named for rebel military leaders who fought against Grant and Lincoln and emancipation of the enslaved. The Confederate battle flag flew proudly over state capitols and at public events, from college football games to NASCAR races.

Generation after generation, the descendants of enslaved people and the victims of Jim Crow had to live alongside all these symbols that glorified a traitorous and cruel cause; symbols that also gave justification to many more decades of racial discrimination and savage violence against African Americans.

Now, finally, that is going away. Demonstrators are tearing down Confederate monuments, Congress is talking seriously about renaming military bases and NASCAR — the auto racing sport long associated with a redneck ethic — is banning Confederate flags from being displayed at races.

And, 155 years after the end of the war to preserve the United States, Confederates are being called what they always were. Yes, they may have been heroic, yes they may have sacrificed, yes they may have been devoted to their home states and their way of life, but their heroism, sacrifice and devotion was spent in a traitorous attempt to keep human beings in bondage.

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