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Popular culture, especially views of Southern history, played a major role in propping up Jim Crow. The Lost Cause, a set of popular myths that emphasized the heroism of southern whites in the Civil War and the the virtues of the antebellum society that preceded it, also portrayed the events of Reconstruction as a tragedy. In particular, they suggested that by allowing African-Americans to gain access to political rights, including positions of political leadership, they opened the door for corruption and abuses. This view was based on the belief that blacks were inherently inferior, and as historian David Blight argues in his book Race and Reunion, it became central to sectional reconciliation. Many Americans came to agree that racial issues were best handled by Southern whites, and that the events of Reconstruction were evidence of this fact. The Lost Cause became a major trope of historical memory (witness The Birth of a Nation as a prominent example.) In addition, African-Americans were often portrayed as stupid and almost animalistic in popular culture, with the "Sambo," the "pickaninny," and the "mammy" becoming archetypical. These images were degrading to African-Americans, and reflected the same sets of prejudice upon which Jim Crow was based.
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