Deep Unreconciliation

Publication type
Working Paper

In August 2017, three people were killed and 33 were injured during a white nationalist rally that clashed with counterprotesters near a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, in Charlottesville, Virginia. More than 150 years after the formal end to hostilities, they were the latest victims of the American Civil War. The violence in Charlottesville proved to many that the issues surrounding the war remain unresolved and are part of a continuing struggle, which includes the North-South divide, debates over the reasons for the war, and the consequences of a partial reconciliation and a reunion forged at the expense of racial equality. This paper frames those disputes in a deeper unreconciliation and the unfinished business of an ongoing, albeit cold, civil war: race and the legacy of slavery in the US. Only a decade after the war ended, reconciliation policies would replace, and effectively suppress, emancipation. As Northern acquiescence set aside the issues that caused the war, the South could be reborn with a story of honor and victory in loss and fortify a Confederate culture that endures today.

About the Authors

James Gow

James Gow is Professor of International Peace and Security, codirector of the War Crimes Research Group at King’s College London, and a Non-Resident Scholar with the Liechtenstein Institute at Princeton University. From 2013 to 2016, Gow held a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship. He has served as an expert adviser and an expert witness for the Office of the Prosecutor at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (1994–2004), and as an expert adviser to UK Secretaries of State for Defence. Gow has held visiting positions at the University of Sheffield, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, D.C., Columbia University, and Princeton University. His numerous publications include: Impact in International Affairs: the Quest for World Leading Research (with Henry Redwood, 2020) War and War Crimes, Prosecuting War Crimes: Lessons and Legacies of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Security, Democracy and War Crimes (as coauthor), all in 2013, and War, Image and Legitimacy (2007), The Serbian Project and Its Adversaries: a Strategy of War Crimes (2003) and Triumph of the Lack of Will: International Diplomacy and the Yugoslav War (1997). He holds the Fellowship of King’s College London.


Rana Ibrahem

Rana Ibrahem is research specialist at the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at Princeton University, where her work focuses primarily on identity, security, and democratic governance. Ibrahem manages the institute’s Project on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which contributes to the organization’s security dialogue and frames potential policy solutions. Ibrahem has worked as a policy fellow with Endeavor, in Amman, Jordan, to analyze the efficacy of economic and social policies affecting Jordan’s growing technology sector and its young entrepreneurs, which was supported in part by the American Whig-Cliosophic Society Fellowship Award in Public Service. Ibrahem received her bachelor degree from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs in 2015, where she focused on democratic governance in the Middle East and North Africa, and completed an undergraduate research thesis, “Imagined Other or Next Great Threat: Perceptions of Muslims in the European Public Sphere” (2015), which addressed the impact of perceptions on the political and regional instabilities surrounding the migrant crisis.

Abraham Lincoln,
Black Codes,
Blue and Grey,
Charlottesville, Virginia,
Civil War,
Confederate Statues,
North and South,
Robert E. Lee