Ever since the United States was reconstituted after the Civil War, a Confederate narrative of states’ rights has undermined the Reconstruction Amendments’ design for the protection of civil rights. The Confederate narrative’s diminishment of civil rights has been regularly challenged, but it stubbornly persists. Today the narrative survives in imprecise and unquestioning odes to state sovereignty. We analyze the relationship, over time, between assertions of civil rights and calls for the protection of local autonomy and control. This analysis reveals a troubling sequence: the Confederate narrative was shamefully intertwined with the defense of American chattel slavery. It survived profound challenges raised by post-Reconstruction civil rights claimants and by mid-twentieth century civil rights movements. It reemerges regularly to pose questionable but unanswered challenges to calls for national protection of civil rights. Our examination of the Confederate narrative’s jurisprudential effects exposes an urgent need to address the consequential but under-recognized tension between human and civil rights in the United States on the one hand and local autonomy on the other.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/colin-starger/18/