Descendants of Alexander Stephens Speak Out

Over the past few weeks I’ve written a couple of posts concerning the issue of Confederate monuments. Two of those posts dealt with the perspectives of Robert E. Lee and the descendants of a few prominent Confederates. Well, I can add one more to the list: the descendants of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.

For those of you who do not know much about Alexander Stephens (CSA), I recommend reading this biography of him on the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Of course, no reading on Alexander Stephens (CSA) would be complete without a brief view of the “Cornerstone Speech,” which he delivered in Savannah, GA on March 21, 1861. It’s a good idea to form an decent understanding of Stephens and his views before diving into the statement below. I feel like the context adds a certain gravitas to their letter.

Yesterday the AJC published a story about two brothers, Alexander and Brendan Stephens. The two brothers claim to be great, great, great grand-nephews of A. Stephens (CSA). According to them, they are the most direct descendants of A. Stephens who never had children. Please click on the link above to read the story but I’ll recycle of few of the quotes below.

The brothers stated this about the monuments in an open letter to Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assesmbly:

Confederate monuments need to come down. Put them in museums where people will learn about the context of their creation, but remove them from public spaces so that the descendants of enslaved people no longer walk beneath them at work and on campus.

… Some of our relatives may disagree with our proposal, but they instilled values in us that made it possible for us to write these words: remove the statue of Alexander H. Stephens from the U.S. Capitol. (my emphasis)


In regards to growing up in the South and hearing the stories and myths that helped form their heritage, the brothers had this to say.

We both grew up with a deep appreciation of our family history. We independently had experiences that led us to a process of unlearning the history growing up. What we were learning didn’t fit with the stories that we learned when we were children. As we became more dedicated to unraveling this myth, we learned the reality…

It is not as if we grew up idolizing the Confederacy, but it was state of cognitive dissonance…Slavery was wrong, but maybe some of the people who supported it were not so bad. We were taught to look away from it. It was a family tradition that was passed along. (my emphasis) 

I really enjoy the self analysis included as well as the references to growing up under the Lost Cause fable.

11 thoughts on “Descendants of Alexander Stephens Speak Out

  1. The Stephens’ comment “Slavery was wrong, but maybe some of the people who supported it were not so bad” struck me. I often hear neo-Confederates argue the second half: not all Confederate soldiers were bad and most did not think they were fighting in defense of slavery. Usually the individual is talking about his ancestors; rarely does he mention the first half of the Stephens’ comment: slavery was wrong. I wonder how many neo-Confederates feel that cognitive dissonance the Stephens brothers describe. The Stephens brothers show how this attitude is sown at an early age and becomes a grounding assumption in a worldview. Hopefully more people are willing to examine that assumption critically.

    1. I thought that was an interesting statement as well. The two brothers prefaced the comment by suggesting cognitive dissonance took place. It made me wonder if the statement you refer to is speaking on that.
      I wonder how many neo-Confederates feel that cognitive dissonance the Stephens brothers describe.

      I’d argue many – it’s evident on this blog as well as many others.

  2. Is George still lying his [bleep] off with that pathetic propaganda site of misinformation after getting exposed as a chump so many times over the years? I am not surprised he would be in favor of keeping monuments to traitors standing in communities that don’t want them. He wants the lie to live.

    Wave at the monuments while you still have the chance, George. The lost cause lie is dead and is disappearing like those monuments from America. That’s what happens when facts are used to explain history.

    1. In honesty I sort of forgot about him. I usually ignore his comments and pingbacks. This is what happens when you hit approve without checking the comment.

        1. There is no point to his comment, Rob. It’s just him running his mouth as usual. It’s all he ever does. He is incapable of learning because he would have to admit his beliefs are based on lies. He rejects facts that do not support his ideology.

          It is sort of funny because I was discussing student beliefs about the past when they arrive in my classroom with someone last night. I have to compliment the local high school teachers on what the students do know about the Civil War. They know it wasn’t about state’s rights. They know it was about slavery before they even set foot in my classroom. This semester we were able to focus on Reconstruction. It was wonderful.

          The shrill voices of the neo-confederates are fading away. The younger generations know the history about the Civil War for the most part and they are rejecting the lies of the lost cause perpetuated by an older generation. They see what the Confederacy stood for and they are rejecting it completely. It also doesn’t help the neo-confederates when people see the CBF and Nazi swastika waved together at the various hate rallies like in Charlottesville and in Georgia recently.

          The lost cause is dying away like those that believe in it.

      1. George, we are still waiting for you to use facts. So far you’ve managed to state your opinion an awful lot, but when it came to defending those opinions using primary sources you failed every time. You do not have anything new to offer about the Civil War. All you have is your loud opinion which really fails to deliver what you promise.

        If all you plan to do is lie about the past like you did previously, then there is no point in wasting time with you. I have students that want to learn actual history and not the lost cause lies you and the other neo-confederates trot out to support your modern political ideology.

        Have a nice day.

  3. i was always told that my grandmother’s father dexter stephens was a distant nephew of alexander stephens.

    there is very little info on dexter other than born in 1875 illinois. he was married to ruth balsey stephens of chicago, and they then lived in san diego.

    if anyone has any advanced knowledge of stephens family tree i am trying to figure out the exact connection.

    for the record, we were always extremely ashamed about this connection to the confederacy, keeping it secret.

    we were raised to be anti-racist in every way, and the views embodied in the confederate mentality are abhorrent.

    please consider, adding my voice to the chorus of stephens relatives seeking the removal of this sad emblem of racism and oppression at the capitol.

    thank you for addressing this issue sensitively, and giving voice to the sentiments of the stephens family, who seek to disassociate themselves from the horrid, embarrassing, painful legacy of slavery.

    mary eng, grand-daughter of helen stephens eng.

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