The Confederate States of America (CSA or C.S.) — commonly referred to as the Confederacy — was an unrecognized republic in North America that existed from 1861 to 1865. The Confederacy was originally formed by seven secessionist slave-holding states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—in the Lower South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves. Convinced that white supremacy and the institution of slavery were threatened by the November 1860 election of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln to the U.S. presidency on a platform which opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories, the Confederacy declared its secession in rebellion to the United States, with the loyal states becoming known as the Union during the ensuing American Civil War. Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens described its ideology as being centrally based "upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition".
Before Lincoln took office in March, a new Confederate government was established in February 1861 which was considered illegal by the government of the United States. States volunteered militia units, and the new government hastened to form its own Confederate States Army from nothing practically overnight. After the American Civil War began in April, four slave states of the Upper South—Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina—also seceded and joined the Confederacy. The Confederacy later accepted Missouri and Kentucky as members, although neither officially declared secession nor were they ever largely controlled by Confederate forces; Confederate shadow governments attempted to control the two states but were later exiled from them. The government of the United States (the Union) rejected the claims of secession, considering it illegitimate.
The war began April 12, 1861, when the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter, a Union fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. No foreign government ever officially recognized the Confederacy as an independent country, although Great Britain and France granted it belligerent status, which allowed Confederate agents to contract with private concerns for arms and other supplies. In early 1865, after four years of heavy fighting which led to 620,000–850,000 military deaths, all Confederate forces surrendered. The war lacked a formal end; nearly all Confederate forces had been forced into surrender or deliberately disbanded by the end of 1865, by which point the dwindling manpower and resources of the Confederacy faced overwhelming odds. Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America for the duration of the civil war, lamented that the Confederacy had "disappeared".
After the war, Confederate states were readmitted to the union under Reconstruction. "Lost Cause" ideology — a view that the Confederate cause was a just one —emerged in the decades after the war among former Confederate generals and politicians, as well as organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Particularly intense periods of Lost Cause activity came around the time of World War I, as the last Confederate veterans began to die and a push was made to preserve their memories, and during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, in reaction to growing public support for racial equality. Through activities such as building prominent Confederate monuments and writing school history textbooks, they sought to ensure future generations of Southern whites would continue to support white supremacist policies such as Jim Crow. The modern display of flags used by and associated with the Confederate States of America primarily started in the mid-20th century and has continued into the present day; their revival in the 1950s and 1960s began with Senator Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrats to show opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, among other things, in 1948.