Publication Date

January 2013

Abstract

People have a fundamental need to think of themselves as “good people.” To achieve this we tell each other stories – we create myths – about ourselves and our society. These myths may be true or they may be false. The more discordant a myth is with reality, the more difficult it is to convince people to embrace it. In such cases to sustain the illusion of truth it may be necessary to develop an entire mythology – an integrated web of mutually supporting stories. This paper explores the system of myths that sustained the institution of slavery in the antebellum United States.