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Looking for An Alternative History of the U.S.? We’re Living It

Few announcements of a projected television series lacking a rough draft of a script or even a storyline have provoked as much controversy and publicity as HBO’s “Confederate.”

The forthcoming show, according to the press release, imagines a Southern victory in the Civil War, a slave republic in the 21 st century, and “chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War,” an alternative history to be created by the show-runners of Game of Thrones, a mash-up of sci-fi medievalism, soft-core porn and gratuitous violence.

Co-producer D.B. Weiss explained, “What would the world have looked like if Lee had sacked D.C., if the South had won—that just always fascinated me.”

The literature of the Lost Cause as the winning one is a fairly extensive field of alternative history, the cousin of the Nazis winning World War II subgenre, inevitably reflecting the present-minded anxieties of the periods in which they were produced. McKinley Kantor’s “What If The South Had Won The Civil War,” published in 1961, ended with the North and South reuniting in the Cold War.

Jefferson Davis, Confederate president, 1860-1865, Brady National Photographic Art Gallery, Library of Congress, Washington DC. National Archives and Records Administration

Here’s one suggested plot and a few characters, a treatment, depicting D.C. being sacked and Confederate victory:

Prologue: Abraham Lincoln in his last speech opens the door to black citizenship. An outraged member of the crowd listening to him, a Confederate secret service agent, murders him three days later.

Lincoln’s successor vetoes the first Civil Rights Act. Reconstruction is overthrown by the Ku Klux Klan and white terrorist organizations led by Confederates. Blacks are disenfranchised, virtual slavery is imposed and Confederates rule across the South. They call it Redemption.

Cut: A presidential candidate wins his nomination…

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