Southern Aggression

Confederate Reckoning by Stephanie McCrurry

The story of the Confederate States of America (CSA)—the proslavery, antidemocratic nation created by white Southern slaveholders to protect their “property”—has been told many times in heroic and military narratives.

But Stephanie McCurry, a professor of history at Penn, says there is a very different tale of the Confederate experience. When the grandiosity of Southerners’ national ambitions met the harsh realities of wartime crises, she says unintended consequences ensued. Although Southern statesmen and generals had built the most powerful slave regime in the Western world, they had excluded the majority of their own people—white women and slaves—and thereby sowed the seeds of their demise.

In her new book, “Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South,” McCurry tells the startling story of the epic political battle in which women and slaves helped to decide the fate of the Confederacy and the outcome of the Civil War.

Wartime scarcity of food, labor and soldiers tested the Confederate vision at every point. Women and slaves became critical political actors as they contested government enlistment and tax and welfare policies, and struggled for their freedom. The attempt to repress a majority of its own population backfired on the CSA as the disenfranchised demanded to be counted and considered in the great struggle over slavery, emancipation, democracy and nationhood.

McCurry discusses her book on May 10 at the Penn Bookstore. The event takes place from 6 to 7 p.m. For more information, call 215-898-7595 or visit

Originally published on May 6, 2010