Here is another very touching and informative episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” featuring Lionel Ritchie. Ritchie searches for his great grandfather, J.L. Brown, and discovers that he applied for a pension based on his presence as a servant to Morgan W. Brown, who served in the Confederate army. Brown, it turns out, may have been his father or half brother. The historian who assists him is none other than Ervin Jordan. It is entirely possible that parts of this scene were edited, but Jordan makes no claims about this man’s loyalty to the cause or anything related to service as a soldier. It would have been helpful if they had included some kind of explanation as to why these pensions were given. What we do learn is that Brown’s relationship with his father/half brother must have been a complex one and certainly difficult for a descendant to understand and ultimately come to terms with. What we do know is that this man was not a soldier. It is just this space between master and slave that I hope to explore in my own study of black camp servants and “black Confederates.” This is an episode worth watching in its entirety.
Lionel Ritchie’s Black Confederate Ancestor
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"In this stunning and well-researched book, Kevin Levin catches the new waves of the study of memory, black soldiers, and the darker underside of the Civil War as well as anyone has... Levin is both superb scholar and public historian, showing us a piece of the real war that does now get into the books, as well as into site interpretation."
David Blight, Author of Race and Reunion