Why “Scalawag”?

In post-Civil War Reconstruction period, two pejorative slang terms were popular in the former Confederacy: carpetbagger and scalawag.

Carpetbaggers were Northerners who traveled to the Union-occupied South for economic and political gain, or to help former slaves (or both). The defeated Southerners viewed them as opportunistic leeches.


Scalawags were Southern natives who either suddenly felt free to let their anti-slavery, anti-racism opinions be known… or they were also opportunists who decided to jump ship to the victorious side. Either way, the Union occupation allowed them to advance both politically and financially. As one might imagine, this did not endear them to their former countrymen, leading to the insulting name of “scalawag”, after a term for useless livestock.

So that’s me. A Southerner (born in Virginia) who did not endear himself to his neighbors by being progressive, sometimes quite vocally. (Also an atheist who didn’t care for college football, but that’s neither here nor there.) I guess I’m also a bit of a reverse-carpetbagger, having come north for economic gain (i.e., school), but “reverse-carpetbagger” isn’t quite as catchy for my purposes.

Plus, “scalawag” is a great word.

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