This chapter provides an overview of the book’s main themes. This book revisits a set of public monuments, historic buildings, and other memorials that define the didactic landscape of a would-be nation, the Confederate States of America. The focus is on South Carolina for three sets of reasons grounded in political, social, and intellectual history. First, the state was the core of the Confederacy. The construction of modernity across South Carolina history provides a second reason to focus on the state. A third reason to focus on South Carolina is the density of the state intellectual tradition. This study also complicates the familiar narrative of white oppression and black resistance by foregrounding the instability of remembered racial identity. It explores the relationship of Confederate memory to modernity in settings ranging the cityscape of the antebellum era to the virtual reality of the digital age. It shows how commemoration repeatedly facilitated white southerners’ embrace of new ideas as well as new social structures.
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