More than 600,000 soldiers died during the American Civil War. Keith Lance/Digital Vision Vectors via Getty Images

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What really started the Civil War? – Abbey, age 7, Stone Ridge, New York

The U.S. citizenship test – which immigrants must pass before becoming citizens of the United States – has this question: “Name one problem that led to the Civil War.” It lists three possible correct answers: “slavery,” “economic reasons” and “states’ rights.”

But as a historian and professor who studies slavery, Southern history and the American Civil War, I know there’s really only one correct answer: slavery.

Enslaved people and soldiers on a South Carolina plantation in 1862.
Henry P. Moore/LOC/Archive Photos via Getty Images

White Southerners left

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