Update: This is what happens when you try to write a post when you are not feeling well. I called my contact again and now can confirm that the museum is 63 years old, while the exhibit was done within the last few years. Sorry about that.
Yesterday I shared photographs of an exhibit on black Confederates at the Old Courthouse Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Today I had a chance to talk with a curator at the museum about the exhibit. I appreciate his willingness to answer my questions. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to learn much about the exhibit itself given that it has been on display for 63 years. That, of course, explains the emphasis on faithful slaves. Andy Hall correctly surmises that this probably has as much to do with a limited budget as it does with a flawed interpretation of the Confederacy and slavery.
I asked about how it was possible that slaves were enlisted as soldiers given the Confederate government’s position, but all he could say was that these men were loyal to their owners and accepted by their comrades. For further reading it was suggested that I check out Holt Collier: His Life, His Roosevelt, and the Origin of the Teddy Bear by Minor Ferris Buchanan. I’ve never heard of this book before, but I will definitely take a look at it at some point. Given my initial assumption that the exhibit was much more recent, it is interesting to note that many of the most common images and accounts that can be found today Online were being used in the 1940s. That definitely changes my perspective on the history of when these accounts first surfaced. I want to know, for example, when the image of the Chandler Boys first came to be used as an example of loyal black Confederate soldiers, etc.
The problem with this exhibit can be reduced to its title. Calling it “Blacks Who Wore Gray” clouds the distinction between slave and soldier. Rather, it should be titled, “Slaves Who Wore Gray.”