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Sewanee Formally Repudiates “Lost Cause” Doctrine

Sewanee Formally Repudiates “Lost Cause” Doctrine

In an email sent to the Sewanee community earlier today, the Board of Regents at Sewanee announced that it formally repudiates the doctrine of the “lost cause” (the idea that the Confederate cause in the Civil War was just, and which was later used to enforce laws requiring racial segregation in the South).

The University’s history, like America’s history, is a mix of light and shadow. In this long-overdue American moment of confronting systemic racism four centuries after Jamestown, two and a half centuries after the founding of the American republic, a century and a half after the Civil War and the launching of this University, and more than half a century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the University acknowledges that a compelling task of our time is repairing the damage caused by the enslavement and exploitation of Black people by intergenerational racism, by inequality of opportunity, and by the perpetuation of the gap between America’s ideals and the undeniable inequities bound up in identity, chiefly racial identity.
The University of the South has much to be proud of. For generations it has educated people of good will to lead lives of distinction and of service. It did so yesterday, it does so today, and it will do so tomorrow. And an essential part of that education is the recognition of the true nature of the history of the nation, of the South, and of the University we value so much.
… At its best, the University has lived up to the humane values it has long professed and acted upon, including devotion to the primacy of reason and, in keeping with our Episcopal identity, to the work of reconciliation and social justice. At its worst, the University has been associated with the most repugnant aspects of our national and regional history. We are not flinching from that hard truth, for the truth, as we were assured long ago, can make us free—free from the prejudices and the passions of the past.
Therefore, the University of the South categorically rejects its past veneration of the Confederacy and of the “Lost Cause” and wholeheartedly commits itself to an urgent process of institutional reckoning in order to make Sewanee a model of diversity, of inclusion, of intellectual rigor, and of loving spirit in an America that rejects prejudice and embraces possibility.
The full text of the email, and links to the supporting documentation, is here.

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The Rev. Lathe Snyder

They just did this now? Seriously? This is seemed okay to the people who run this institution since the end of the civil War or whenever they were founded?

The Rev. Tyler C. Richards

I take great pride in Sewanee’s courage in confronting their past and denouncing it. We cannot reshape the decisions of the past, but we may learn from them and do better. We should commend institutions we move this way, not chide them.


I’d like to think this is just a formality by this point, a renunciation of something that no one at Sewanee has actually believed in for some time. I’m not terribly familiar with what they do and don’t believe over there, but that would make sense to me – similar to how the National Cathedral only removed that Confederate stained glass window a few years ago, despite that being incompatible with the beliefs of most Episcopalians for much longer.

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