Category Archives: Civil War

White Supremacist Groups Are Thriving on Facebook

White Supremacist Groups Are Thriving on Facebook
https://www.techtransparencyproject.org/articles/white-supremacist-groups-are-thriving-on-facebook

Facebook says hate groups aren’t allowed on the platform. But white supremacists are using the social network to build their movement.

Click here to download the full report »

Click here to download data on the hate group websites »

Dozens of white supremacist groups are operating freely on Facebook, allowing them to spread their message and recruit new members, according to a Tech Transparency Project (TTP) investigation, which found the activity is continuing despite years of promises by the social network that it bans hate organizations.

TTP recently documented how online extremists, including many with white supremacist views, are using Facebook to plan for a militant uprising dubbed the “boogaloo,” as they stoke fears that coronavirus lockdowns are a sign of rising government repression. But TTP’s latest investigation reveals Facebook’s broader problems with white supremacist groups, which are using the social network’s unmatched reach to build their movement.

The findings, more than two years after Facebook hosted an event page for the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, cast doubt on the company’s claims that it’s effectively monitoring and dealing with hate groups. What’s more, Facebook’s algorithms create an echo chamber that reinforces the views of white supremacists and helps them connect with each other.

With millions of people now quarantining at home and vulnerable to ideologies that seek to exploit people’s fears and resentments about Covid-19, Facebook’s failure to remove white supremacist groups could give these organizations fertile new ground to attract followers.

Facebook’s Community Standards prohibit hate speech based on race, ethnicity, and other factors because it “creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.” The company also bans hate organizations. Since the Charlottesville violence, Facebook has announced the removal of specific hate groups and tightened restrictions on white extremist content on the platform.

“We do not allow hate groups on Facebook, overall,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress in April 2018. “So, if — if there’s a group that — their primary purpose or — or a large part of what they do is spreading hate, we will ban them from the platform, overall.”

To test those claims, TTP conducted searches on Facebook for the names of 221 white supremacist organizations that have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), two leading anti-hate organizations.

The analysis found:

  • Of the 221 designated white supremacist organizations, more than half—51%, or 113 groups—had a presence on Facebook.
  • Those organizations are associated with a total of 153 Facebook Pages and four Facebook Groups. Roughly one third of the organizations (34) had two or more Pages or Groups on Facebook. Some had Pages that have been active on the platform for a decade.
  • Many of the white supremacist Pages identified by TTP were created by Facebook itself. Facebook auto-generated them as business pages when someone listed a white supremacist or neo-Nazi organization as their employer.
  • Facebook’s “Related Pages” feature often directed users visiting white supremacist Pages to other extremist or far-right content, raising concerns that the platform is contributing to radicalization.
  • One of Facebook’s strategies for combatting extremism—redirecting users who search for terms associated with white supremacy or hate groups to the Page for “Life After Hate,” an organization that promotes tolerance—only worked in 6% (14) of the 221 searches for white supremacist organizations.
  • In addition to the hate groups designated by SPLC and ADL, TTP found white supremacist organizations that Facebook had explicitly banned in the past. One known as “Right Wing Death Squad” had at least three Pages on Facebook, all created prior to Facebook’s ban.


TTP created a visualization to illustrate how Facebook’s Related Pages connect white supremacist groups with each other and with other hateful content. To view this interactive feature, click here.

Facebook is Creating Pages for Hate Groups

TTP examined the Facebook presence of 221 hate groups affiliated with white supremacy. The groups were identified via the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Hate Symbols Database and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) 2019 Hate Map, an annual census of hate groups operating in the U.S.

TTP used ADL’s glossary of white supremacist terms and movements to identify relevant groups in the Hate Symbols Database. With the SPLC Hate Map, TTP used the 2019 map categories of Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, neo-völkisch, racist skinhead, and white nationalist to identify relevant groups. Of the 221 groups identified by TTP, 21 were listed in both the ADL and SPLC databases.

TTP found that 51% (113) of the organizations examined had a presence on Facebook in the form of Pages or Groups. Of the 113 hate groups with a presence, 34 had two or more associated Pages on Facebook, resulting in a total of 153 individual Pages and four individual Groups.

Roughly 36% (52 Facebook Pages and four Facebook Groups) of the content identified was created by users. One user-generated Page for a group designated as white nationalist by SPLC had more than 42,000 “likes” on Facebook and has been active since 2010.

The remaining 64% of the white supremacy content identified by TTP involved Pages that had been auto-generated by Facebook. These Pages are automatically created by Facebook when a user lists a job in their profile that does not have an existing Page. When a user lists their work position as “Universal Aryan Brotherhood Movement,” for instance, Facebook generates a business page for that group.

Facebook removed at least 55 of the white supremacist Pages identified by TTP after the publication of this report. Of those, 49 were auto-generated by Facebook.

The auto-generation problem has existed for some time. In April 2019, an anonymous whistleblower filed a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) petition regarding extremism on the platform and Facebook’s practice of auto-generating business pages for terrorist and white supremacist groups. Some of these Facebook-generated Pages gained thousands of “likes,” giving a way for the groups to identify potential recruits, according to the whistleblower.

One of the auto-generated hate group Pages with the most “likes” in TTP’s analysis was for the Council of Conservative Citizens, an SPLC-designated white nationalist group. The group made headlines in 2015 after an online manifesto linked to white supremacist Dylann Roof referenced the organization; Roof opened fire at a historically black church in South Carolina, killing nine people. Facebook’s auto-generated Page for the Council of Conservative Citizens included a description of the group’s white supremacist affiliations, complete with a direct link to their website.

Facebook’s role creating Pages for organizations like these undermines claims by the company that it bars hate groups.

“Our rules have always been clear that white supremacists are not allowed on our platform under any circumstances.”
— Neil Potts, Facebook public policy director

Related Pages: Facebook’s Extremist Echo Chamber

The TTP review highlights flaws in Facebook’s content moderation system, which relies heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and Facebook users to report problematic content to human moderators for review.

Relying on users to identify objectionable material doesn’t work well when the platform is designed to connect users with shared ideologies, experts have noted, since white supremacists are unlikely to object to racist content they see on Facebook. “A lot of Facebook’s moderation revolves around users flagging content. When you have this kind of vetting process, you don’t run the risk of getting thrown off Facebook,” according to SPLC research analyst Keegan Hankes.

Artificial intelligence, which Facebook has touted for years as the solution to identifying and removing bad content, also has limitations when it comes to hate speech. AI can miss deliberate misspellings; manipulation of words to include numbers, symbols, and emojis; and missing spaces in sentences. Neo-Nazis, for example, have managed to avoid detection through simple measures like replacing “S” with “$.”

At the same time, Facebook’s algorithms can create an echo chamber of white supremacism through its “Related Pages” feature, which suggests similar Pages to keep users engaged on a certain topic. TTP’s investigation found that among the 113 hate groups that had a Facebook presence, 77 of them had Pages that displayed Related Pages, often pointing people to other extremist or right-wing content. In some cases, the Related Pages directed users to additional SPLC- or ADL-designated hate groups.

For example, TTP found that the user-generated Page for Nazi Low Riders, an ADL-listed hate group, showed Related Pages for other groups associated with white supremacy. The top recommendation was another user-generated Page called “Aryanbrotherhood.” (By omitting the space between the two words, the Page may have been trying to evade Facebook’s AI systems, as discussed above.) The Aryan Brotherhood is “the oldest and most notorious racist prison gang in the United States,” according to ADL.

The Aryanbrotherhood Facebook Page in turn displayed Related Pages for more white supremacist ideologies, some of them making reference to “peckerwoods,” a term associated with racist prison and street gangs.

The Related Pages listed on the user-generated Page of American Freedom Union, an SPLC-designated white nationalist group, included a link to a Page for the book “White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century.” The book was authored by Jared Taylor, who runs the website for American Renaissance, another SPLC-designated white nationalist group.

Facebook’s algorithms even pick up on links between organizations that may not be obvious to others. For example, the auto-generated Page for Sacto Skins, a short form of the SPLC-designated racist hate group Sacto Skinheads, included a Related Page recommendation for Embassy of Russia in the United States. A recent investigation by The New York Times found that Russian intelligence services are using Facebook and other social media to try to incite white supremacists ahead of the 2020 election.

This web of white supremacist Pages surfaced by Facebook’s algorithms is not new. The non-profit Counter Extremism Project, in a 2018 report about far-right groups on Facebook, identified multiple white supremacist and far-right Pages by following the Related Pages feature.

Banned Groups Persist

Facebook’s Community Standards have included rules against hate speech for years, but in the past three years the company has expanded its efforts.

One significant change came quietly in 2017, following mounting reports about white supremacist activity on Facebook. The company didn’t publicly announce a policy change, but the Internet Archive shows that in mid-July, it added “organized hate groups” to the “Dangerous Organizations” section of its Community Standards. (The change can be seen from here to here.) The company did not, however, specify how it would define such hate groups.

Unite the Right rally participants preparing to enter Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017. Photo by Anthony Crider.

Despite the policy update, Facebook didn’t immediately take down an event page for the “Unite the Right” rally, which SPLC had tied to neo-Nazis. According to one media report, Facebook only pulled the listing the day before the rally, in which one woman was killed and more than a dozen others injured when a white supremacist drove into a crowd of counter-protestors in Charlottesville.

Amid the ensuing public outcry, Facebook announced removals of a number of hate groups including White Nationalists United and Right Wing Death Squad.

Facebook scrambled again in early 2019 following the Christchurch attack, in which a gunman used Facebook to stream the massacre of 51 people at a pair of mosques in New Zealand. As the killings made headlines around the world, the company said it would ban “white nationalist” content along with the previously banned category of white supremacism. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also said a handful of hate groups in Australia and New Zealand would be banned

Two months after the New Zealand attack, however, BuzzFeed News found that extremist groups Facebook claimed to have banned were still on the platform. Later that year, The Guardian identified multiple white nationalist Pages on Facebook but said the company “declined to take action against any of the pages identified.” Online extremism expert Megan Squire told BuzzFeed, “Facebook likes to make a PR move and say that they’re doing something but they don’t always follow up on that.”

Research suggests there continues to be a gap between Facebook’s public relations responses and the company’s enforcement of its own policies. A recent report by TTP found that videos of the Christchurch attack continued to circulate on the platform a year later, despite Facebook’s vow to remove them. 

Since 2017, Facebook announced removals of at least 14 white supremacist and white nationalist groups in the U.S. and Canada, according to media reports tallied by TTP. (Only one of these groups, Vanguard America, is included in the TTP’s review of 221 white supremacist groups named by the SPLC and ADL.) Of the 14 groups, four continue to have an active presence on Facebook: Awakening Red Pill, Wolves of Odin, Right Wing Death Squad, and Physical Removal.

TTP identified three user-generated Pages for Right Wing Death Squad that are currently active on Facebook. All three Pages identified by TTP were created before the Unite the Right rally and were never removed by Facebook.

The Right Wing Death Squad Pages include extremist language as well as references to the “boogaloo,” the term used by extremists to reference a coming civil war. Some of the Right Wing Death Squad Pages brand themselves as anti-globalist, a term often considered a dog whistle for anti-Semitism.

In March 2020, Facebook announced the removal of a network of white supremacists linked to the Northwest Front, an SPLC-designated hate group that has been called “the worst racists” in America. Facebook’s director of counterterrorism Brian Fishman said the action came after the group, which had been banned for years, tried to “reestablish a presence” on the platform. TTP, however, found that the auto-generated Page for Northwest Front was not removed and that searches for the group’s name on Facebook still fail to trigger the company’s re-direct effort to Life After Hate.

Facebook also said it removed a network of accounts linked to the VDARE, an SPLC-designated white nationalist group, and individuals associated with a similar website called The Unz Review, in April 2020. Facebook said the group had engaged in “suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of the 2020 election,” and described VDARE’s anti-immigrant focus without mentioning its link to white nationalism. According to Facebook, the network spent a total of $114,000 on advertising through the platform.

As with the action against the Northwest Front, Facebook failed to remove the auto-generated VDARE Page. Clicking on the Page’s link to the VDARE website generates a notice that states, “The link you tried to visit goes against our Community Standards.” Still, it is unclear why Facebook allows the auto-generated Page to stay up when it acknowledges the group violates its Community Standards.

Failing to Direct Away from Hate

As part of Facebook’s expanded efforts to combat white supremacy on the platform following the Christchurch attack, the company said in March 2019 that it would re-direct users who search for terms related to hate.

“Searches for terms associated with white supremacy will surface a link to Life After Hate’s Page, where people can find support in the form of education, interventions, academic research and outreach,” the company announced.

TTP found that not only did Facebook’s anti-hate link fail to surface in the majority of hate group searches, but in some cases, the platform directed users to other white supremacist Pages.

TTP conducted a search for each of the 221 hate groups associated with white supremacy and white nationalism listed by SPLC and ADL. Only 6% of the searches (14 groups) surfaced the link to Life After Hate.

One factor may be that not all of the hate groups listed by SPLC and ADL make their ideologies obvious in their names. But even organizations that have “Nazi” or “Ku Klux Klan” in their names escaped the redirect effort. Of 25 groups with “Ku Klux Klan” in their official name, only one triggered the link to anti-hate resources.

The redirect tool even failed to work on groups that Facebook has explicitly banned. TTP used Facebook’s search function to search the names of the 14 white supremacist groups in North America that Facebook said it had banned. The Proud Boys were the only one of the groups to trigger the platform’s Life After Hate link.

Facebook began removing accounts and pages linked to the far-right Proud Boys in October 2018 after members of the group clashed with anti-fascist protestors. Searches for the group today generate Facebook’s Life After Hate link, and TTP did not find any official Proud Boys Pages on the platform.

But the Facebook search for Proud Boys did bring up a Page for “Proud to be a White American,” which describes itself as being for “The promotion of white initiatives and white causes.” (Notably, the “Proud to be a White American” Page is listed above a Page called “Proud Boys” that does not appear to be affiliated with the far-right group.)

Note: Updated to reflect that Facebook took down some of the Pages identified by TTP following publication of this report.

No ‘good people’ at armed protest inside Michigan capitol — THE SHINBONE STAR

Watching ignorant gun owners — all male — armed with semi-automatic rifles and pistols, storm a state capitol, sticking their ugly faces inches away from very tolerant state police, it makes one want to scream loudly. Donald Trump, you ignorant asshole, there “are no good people here.” Period. Seeing these low IQ creatures wave their […]

No ‘good people’ at armed protest inside Michigan capitol — THE SHINBONE STAR

First off I want to clue these mental midget moron, white supremacist Trumpturd terrorist a few things. Then I will get onto the response to this story by Shinebone Star

Attention all Tyrant Terrorist Trumpturds. Such big and bad people you are huh? Well let me clue you in on something. Your Kevlar vests? ONLY protect your chest area. Now? As a true warrior and studier of battlefield techniques? I would not waste my time shooting you where you are taught typically, center mass. Oh heck no. First? I would use the AR-15? To take all of you out at your knee caps. Hard for you morons to advance if you cannot walk right? Then? Kill shot to each and every one of your unprotected heads.

You fools could not handle a True Warrior on a real battlefield. So grow the fuck up and put your penis substitutes away and go pick some crops in the fields.

Oh and you all believe we libertards are all latte drinking pussies who do not believe in the 2nd Amendment or owning and possessing guns. You idiots keep thinking that way. But we do not need an arsenal to take out a bunch of you freakshow shitstains on the underwear of humanity Fascist Trumpturds. Oh hell no. And we also know many other tactics to take out large numbers of you mental midget moron, deluxe outhouse dwelling, generational inbred, farm animal fucking, red hat wearing Trumpanzees.

And since President Barack Obama sat in office? You little Can’t Understand Normal Thinking punks been spouting off how you twatwaffles are going to drop your micro-nuts and start a Civil War and take over. That is now going on almost 12 years of you cunts running your motor mouths about how fucking tough you are. And? YOU STILL haven’t dropped your micro-nuts. Yeah, you are all just like your Commander Bone Spurs, fucking all talk and no action. Sure, some of your mental midget morons have popped off and they then punked out and committed suicide either by their own hands or by having law enforcement do it for them.

So come on you punks. Really set off. So we the True Patriots of the United States can show you how much of a bunch of losers you are again, just like we showed you generational inbreds during the first Civil War, and WWI and WWII. Oh that is right. Most of you never learned fucking history, because you dropped out of second grade home schooling cause either you knocked up your teacher or got knocked up by your teacher and had to fucking marry them. But hey, if you want to truly repeat history and lose again? Let’s fucking rock and roll.

Response to Shinebone Star posting

It’s a game with the NRA and gun manufacturers and sellers. Ever notice when the NRA goes nuts and say that they are coming to take your guns, gun sales go through the roof? And? If you see the stocks of gun companies? The “their coming to take your guns” spiels typically come when their sales go down? Then the fools of Faux and Right Wing “News” are told hey, they are coming to take your guns, so they then get all scared and go to a gun store and buy, buy, buy, even though they already are armed to the teeth. What are they going to do with all those guns? They think they are Rambo’s and can carry two or three assault weapons, a couple of shotguns and a few side arms and fight in a real firefight? Most of these fools never were on a real battlefield. Sure, some were, but the majority would drop a deuce in their diapers if they were on a real battlefield with people shooting back at them with real bullets.

These losers speak about their rights? What about the rights of the others? What about the right for us to decide whether we want to stick to rules such as social distancing, wearing masks, etc? WTH right do these mental midget morons have in telling us what to do especially when they are the minority? You are correct, these are basically punk wanna-be terrorists. Well if they want to be such tough guys and gals? Here is a clue. Sign up for the Army or the Marines. Then after you EARN your SEAL, or Airborne, or Ranger patches on your arms, AND served at least two tours of duty on the front lines? Then you got a right to carry what these fools are carrying.

Most of these idiots think they are “warriors” because they play video games, but like I said, let them try being on a real battlefield, with bullets flying around you, bombs going off around you, etc…then let’s see how tough these idiots truly are.

Lynching the Past

Lynching the Past
By Chris Hedges
https://www.truthdig.com/articles/lynching-the-past/

JONESBORO, Ga.—I boarded the Gone With the Wind Tour bus outside the train depot built in 1867 to replace the depot burned during the Civil War. The building now houses the Road to Tara Museum. It has displays of “Gone With the Wind” movie memorabilia including dolls of Mammy, played in the film by Hattie McDaniel, and the pantalettes and green hat worn by Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlett O’Hara.

Rick, the bus driver, switched on the audio track, written and narrated by a local historian, Peter Bonner. We listened to the familiar story of the noble South and its “Lost Cause.” We heard about the courage of the Confederate soldiers in Jonesboro who fought gallantly on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 1864, in a failed effort to block the Union Army from entering Atlanta. We were told of the gentility and charm of the Southern belles. We learned that the war was fought not to protect the institution of slavery but the sanctity of states’ rights. Finally, we were assured that the faithful slaves, the “mammies,” “aunties” and “uncles,” loved their white owners, were loved in return and did not welcome emancipation.

That this myth persists and perhaps has grown as the country polarizes, often along racial lines, means that whole segments of the American population can no longer communicate. Once myth replaces history there is no way to have a rational discussion rooted in verifiable fact. Myth allows people to deny who they are and the crimes they committed and continue to commit. It is only by confronting the past that we can end the perpetuation of these crimes in other forms.

When loyalty to the tribe is more important that truth, fact or justice—a tribalism on display in the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh—an open society is extinguished. Reparations for African-Americans are not only just, they are the only way we as a nation, as with Germany’s reparations to the Jews, can build a shared history based on truth, atone for the crimes of the nation and reverse the legacies of white supremacy. The Southern cause, as Ulysses S. Grant wrote in his laconic memoirs, was “one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

David Blight in “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory” documents that in the decades after the war whites in the South and the North furiously rewrote the history of the conflict. “As long as we have a politics of race in America, we will have a politics of Civil War memory,” Blight notes. The root cause of the war, the need to emancipate 4 million people held in slavery, was erased, he said, and replaced with the “denigration of black dignity and the attempted erasure of emancipation from the national narrative of what the war was about.” As W.E.B. Du Bois lamented in his book “Black Reconstruction,” which looked at the brief postwar period, from 1865 to 1877, when African-Americans were given some political space in the South to resurrect their lives, “little effort [was] made to preserve the records of Negro effort and speeches, action, work and wages, homes and families. Nearly all of this has gone down beneath a mass of ridicule and caricature, deliberate omission and misstatement.”

The Civil War, as portrayed in novels and films such as “Gone With the Wind,” histories such as “The Civil War” by Shelby Foote and television programs such as Ken Burns’ documentary series on the conflict, is usually reduced to stories about the heroic self-sacrifice and courage exhibited by the soldiers from the North and the South who fought as brother against brother. The gruesome suffering, widespread looting and rape and senseless slaughter are romanticized. (For every three soldiers who died on a battlefield, five more died of disease, and, overall, 620,000 Americans, 2 percent of the country’s population, perished in the war.) Meanwhile, the far more important struggle, the struggle of black people to rise from bondage to be free, is effectively eclipsed in these narratives of white self-pity and self-exaltation.

“Gone With the Wind,” the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell, has sold over 30 million copies worldwide and, according to one survey, is the second favorite book among Americans, after the Bible. The 1939 film version of the book is the highest-grossing movie ever, in inflation-adjusted dollars. The book and film are unapologetic celebrations of historical myth, historical erasure and white supremacy.

The Lost Cause romance and veneration of Confederate military leaders have a powerful hold on white imaginations, especially among those for whom economic and political marginalization is becoming more pronounced. The myth of the Confederacy resembles the retreat into a fictional past I saw in Yugoslavia during the Bosnian War, an ethnic conflict that lasted from 1992 to 1995. That retreat gave Yugoslavs—whether Serb, Muslim or Croat—who had been cast aside by economic collapse and a failed political system manufactured identities that were rooted in a mythologized past of glory, moral superiority and nobility. It allowed them to worship their own supposedly unique and innate virtues. These fantasies of an idealized past were accompanied by the demonization of opposing ethnicities, a demonization used by demagogues to fuel the hatred and violence that led to a savage war.

“He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country,” White House chief of staff and former Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly said last year of the Confederate military commander, Robert E. Lee, a slave owner. “It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today.” Kelly blamed the Civil War on “the lack of an ability to compromise,” adding that “men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

During my bus ride in Georgia, a woman on the audio guide impersonated Scarlett O’Hara as music from the 1939 movie played in the background: “Now y’all sit back and enjoy this journey back into a time of cavaliers, ladies fair, and cotton fields—called the Old South.”

The theme of the tour could be summed up as “ ‘Gone With the Wind’ accurately portrays life in the South during and after the Civil War.” Over and over, incidents and characters in the novel and film were related to actual events and people. Nowhere was this more pernicious than in the portrayals of black men and women who were enslaved.

“I learned that a black servant 144 years ago so loved her ‘masters’ that she requested to be buried in their family plot. … And when I learned that her masters willingly allowed such a burial request, I had to conclude that there must have been a greater bond, perhaps a loving bond of slave for master, and master for slave,” Bonner writes in his thin book “Lost in Yesterday,” which is sold in the Road to Tara Museum. “The unique and often misunderstood relationship has been presented throughout fiction and the entertainment media, in my opinion, in a multitude of unfair portrayals.”

Bonner goes on to argue that the slaves in the book and the film—Mammy, Pork, Prissy and Big Sam—all supporters of the Confederacy and loyal to the O’Hara family, represent a true picture of many, maybe most, blacks in the antebellum South. He cites the small headstone at the feet of Philip and Eleanor Fitzgerald in the local cemetery that reads “Grace, Negro servant of the Fitzgeralds” and insists “that Grace was honored as a family member.”

That Grace was given no last name on the stone and was buried, like a pet, at the feet of those who owned her seems to escape Bonner. Did Grace have a family? A mother? A father? Brothers? Sisters? Grandparents? Aunts? Uncles? Cousins? A husband? Children of her own? Or had they been sold by her beloved owners?

We stopped outside the 1839 Stately Oaks plantation house, which originally sat on 404 acres before being moved into the city. It is now part of the Margaret Mitchell Memorial Park. The mansion hosts white re-enactors in period costumes, including Confederate uniforms, the equivalent of re-enactors dressed in SS uniforms giving cheery tours of Auschwitz.

In squalid, overcrowded shacks outside Stately Oaks, children were born, lived and died enslaved. They spent a lifetime engaged in hard labor, misery and poverty. They watched in agony as mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers were sold off, never to be seen again. They lived in constant fear and humiliation. They were beaten, chained, whipped, castrated and sometimes shot or hanged. The male slave masters routinely raped black girls and women, sometimes in front of their families, and often sold their mixed-race children.

“Like the patriarchs of old,” Mary Chesnut, a white South Carolinian, confided in her diary in March 1861, “our men live all in one house with their wives and concubines; and the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children. Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody’s household but her own. Those, she seems to think, drop from the clouds.”

The Southern tradition, as James Baldwin pointed out, “is not a tradition at all.” It is “a legend which contains an accusation. And that accusation, stated far more simply than it should be, is that the North, in winning the war, left the South only one means of asserting its identity and that means was the Negro.”

The ability to disregard the horror of slavery, to physically erase its reality, and to build in its place a white fantasy of goodness, courage and virtue speaks to the deep sickness within American society. Most Confederate monuments were erected under the leadership of the Daughters of the Confederacy from 1890 to 1920, a time when the terror of lynching by the Ku Klux Klan was at its peak. These statues were designed to romanticize white supremacy and divide blacks into good and bad “negros.” There are no statues to Reconstruction governors and senators or black political leaders, not to mention the leaders of slave revolts such as Nat Turner or Denmark Vesey. The few Confederate generals, such as James Longstreet, who supported black rights after the war are not memorialized, nor are the 186,000 black soldiers—134,111 conscripted from slave states—who served in the Union Army. The historian James Loewen calls the South “a landscape of denial.”

“Public monuments,” the historian Eric Foner writes, “are built by those with sufficient power to determine which parts of history are worth commemorating and what vision of history ought to be conveyed.”

One of the most outrageous public celebrations of white supremacy is Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta. Carved in the gray stone are massive figures of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The Confederate leaders, all mounted on horses, hold their hats over their hearts. The carving covers more than 1.5 acres of rock face and rises 400 feet. It is the largest bas-relief in the world. It is also the most visited site in Georgia.

William Faulkner published “Absalom, Absalom,” his searing condemnation of slavery and the Old South the same year Mitchell published “Gone With the Wind.” The hate-filled slave owner and Confederate veteran Thomas Sutpen in Faulkner’s novel, unlike the characters in “Gone With the Wind,” is “demonic evil.” Sutpen, who engages in miscegenation, buys his slaves “with the same care and shrewdness with which he chose the other livestock—the horses and mules and cattle.” Faulkner understood “the past is never dead. It’s not even past,” that it is subject to constant revision by those seeking to justify and hide their crimes. He warned that the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves lead to moral squalor and self-destruction.

The tour bus stopped at Patrick Cleburne Memorial Cemetery, which holds the remains of some 1,000 Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Jonesboro. Most are unidentified. The walkway is laid out in the shape of a Confederate flag. A Confederate flag flies at the entrance.

“In 1872, the state of Georgia pays Stephen Cars, a local cabinetmaker, to rebury the Southern soldiers’ remains and place them in the Patrick Cleburne Memorial Cemetery here,” the audio recording said. “Mr. Cars did not bury over a thousand soldiers by himself. Mr. Cars had a slave named Tom who left with a Yankee captain after the Battle of Jonesboro. When the war was over, Tom returned to Mr. Cars’ house asking for his job back. It was in 1872 that Tom and Mr. Stephen Cars reburied the Confederate soldiers in this cemetery. I told this story to the state of Georgia building authority years ago, they oversee the cemetery, and they remarked that Tom was very similar to the O’Hara slave Big Sam.”

The bus paused in front of a 10-room green house built in 1880 that once belonged to the president of Middle Georgia College.

“Under Reconstruction, five Southerners were not allowed to meet together without a federal marshal present,” Bonner said on the audio guide. “In ‘Gone With the Wind,’ meetings were held in secret. In Jonesboro, there were those secret meetings that dealt with the issues the town had to deal with, including the violence in shantytown. Shantytown was a real location in Jonesboro and many other cities that had a large population of former slaves who are without a job or a home. When this house was being restored in 1995, it was found to have a secret room in the attic, believed to have been used for those secret meetings. There was also a ladder in the wall leading to the cellar. In the cellar, people believed they had found a tunnel. However, upon further research, they found out it was not a tunnel but a bomb shelter where the city fathers planned to store the county records if and when they got back to war” (meaning if and when they resumed the fight against the Union).

It is a safe bet that this house was also a meeting place for the heavily armed goons of the Ku Klux Klan, who rode four abreast at night through the Jonesboro streets to terrorize the blacks in “shantytown.” Over 4,000 people were lynched between the end of the Civil War and World War II in the United States. Georgia had the second highest number of lynchings, with 589. Only Mississippi, with 654 murders, had more.

Lynching was a popular public spectacle in Georgia that could last for hours and included sadistic torture and mutilation. Children were let out of school and workers were given the day off to witness the events. When Sam Hose, who had thrown his ax at a white man and killed him after the man pulled a gun on him, was lynched on April 23, 1899, near Newman, Ga., 1,000 people attended. Many arrived on a special excursion train from Atlanta. Hose was stripped and chained to a tree. His executioners stacked kerosene-soaked logs around him. They cut off Hose’s ears, fingers and genitals. They flayed his face. Members of the crowd thrust knives into him. The logs were lit.

“The only sounds that came from the victim’s lips, even as his blood sizzled in the fire, were ‘Oh, my God! Oh, Jesus,’ ” writes Leon Litwack in “Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow.” “Before Hose’s body had even cooled, his heart and liver were removed and cut into several pieces and his bones were crushed into small particles. The crowd fought over these souvenirs, and the ‘more fortunate possessors’ made some handsome profits on the sales. (Small pieces of bone went for 25 cents, a piece of liver ‘crisply cooked’ sold for 10 cents.) Shortly after the lynching, one of the participants reportedly left for the state capital, hoping to deliver to the governor of Georgia a slice of Sam Hose’s heart.”

On the trunk of a tree near the lynching, a placard read: “We Must Protect Our Southern Women.”

In May of 1918, Mary Turner, eight months pregnant, publicly denounced the lynching of her husband, Hazel “Hayes” Turner, who had been murdered the day before. She threatened to take those who lynched him to court. A mob of several hundred in Valdosta, Ga., hunted her down. They tied the pregnant woman’s ankles together and hung her upside down from a tree. They doused her clothes with gasoline and set her on fire. Someone used a hog-butchering knife to rip open her womb. Her baby fell the ground and cried briefly. A member of the mob crushed the infant’s head under the heel of his boot. Hundreds of rounds were shot into her body. The Associated Press reported that Mary Turner had made “unwise remarks” about the lynching of her husband “and the people, in their indignation, took exceptions to her remarks, as well as her attitude.”

In commenting in 1894 on lynchings, the crusading editor and activist Ida B. Wells said, “[O]ur American Christians are too busy saving the souls of white Christians from burning in hell-fire to save the lives of black ones from present burning in fires kindled by white Christians.”

James Baldwin, in the second half of the 20th century, repeatedly warned white Americans that their relentless refusal to honestly confront their past, and themselves, would lead to grotesque distortions of the sort that decades later we see embodied in Donald Trump. There is a severe cost, he wrote, for a life lived as a lie.

“People pay for what they do, and, still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become,” Baldwin wrote. “And they pay for it very simply by the lives they lead. The crucial thing, here, is that the sum of these individual abdications menaces life all over the world. For, in the generality, as social and moral and political and sexual entities, white Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any color, to be found in the world today.”

The first recorded lynching in Georgia took place near Jonesboro in 1880. We have only the name of the victim, Milly Thompson. No one knows if Thompson was male or female. There is no record of Thompson committing a crime. But I suspect that, as in the cases of most lynching victims, the crime Thompson committed was the crime of freedom. If you were black, in this land of gallant cavaliers and Southern belles, and you objected to being human chattel and to enforced deference and submission to whites, they killed you.