The Civil War was started on the basis of slavery, not states' rights. After the war, Reconstruction may not have been a great success, but it still brought unprecedented civil rights to American blacks. Yet less than half a century ago, schools were teaching students the Civil was fought over states' rights and Reconstruction was a total failure. Confederate generals were viewed as war heroes, and even today the Confederate flag is worn as a symbol of Southern pride. What factors led to the the South's version of the war and reconstruction becoming more widely accepted than the North's? My research shows that the South's version of events fell into favor due to a combination of widespread Southern propaganda (with a healthy dose of racism) and suppression of any stories that did not fit the narrative of Southern pride and states' rights.
Slavery, not Southern pride
Perhaps the greatest success of the Reconstruction era was, the thirteenth amendment of the US Constitution. The thirteenth amendment, which was ratified following the Civil War in 1865, stated that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude...shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction". Though American blacks were still heavily restricted in their rights after Reconstruction, slavery's abolition was a major and essential step towards equality, and was greeted with much enthusiasm. Not only that, but the myth of the gracious slave was one of the few myths that did not make it to the civil rights era; even the most vehement of civil rights critics would publicly condemn slavery.
The Glory of Emancipation
While human rights may have been preserved through the Reconstruction era, equal voting rights were not. The fifteenth amendment made it illegal to discriminate based on race, but the Southern states got around that provision with codes that weren't overtly racist, yet still disproportionately affected potential black voters. The Mississippi Plan of 1890 put into place a series of tests (including various ID tests and a byzantine literary test) that only allowed a small fraction of blacks to vote. The white majority then used "gerrymandering of election districts to further reduce Black voting strength and minimize the number of black elected officials". With black votes suppressed, there was really no way to prevent white political supremacy, and civil rights issues were blocked from legislation.
Of course, there were other forms of suppression as well
A telling sign of the legacy of Reconstruction comes in the form of a newspaper written the year 1920, more than half century after Reconstruction. The article talks about a black man arrested for the crime of advocating for interracial marriage, before wondering why "the sentiment against him standing on equal footing with the white man...is almost as pronounced today as it was fifty years ago and [why] this anti-black man sentiment ramifies every section of this country". This rhetorical question shows the true legacy of Reconstruction; though they were legally free, black Americans still faced heavy discrimination as white majority legislation prevented any true laws of equality from happening.
I would compare the Reconstruction era to the Civil Rights movement nearly a century later. Though the Civil Rights movement was grassroots as opposed to the government-led Reconstruction, both worked to arc the moral compass of America. Both faced a white supremacist opposition, and while the movement succeeded where Reconstruction failed, both were blocked (at least, at first) by discriminatory legislation. In conclusion, while opposition to Reconstruction caused its failure and decades of discrimination, it began the arduous journey towards equality.