Where Historians Stand on Black Confederates
One of the points that I tried to make in my radio interview yesterday morning was that while there is a vibrant and often heated discussion about the existence and loyalty of black Confederates this is simply not true within the scholarly community. Academic historians have studied this issue closely and have done extensive work on how the Confederate government and military attempted to utilize its slave population. There is a rich literature on various aspects of this subject that can be accessed by those, who are sincerely interested in learning more.
If you want a thorough summary of where historians stand on this issue I highly recommend Jaime Amanda Martinez’s recent entry on the subject at Encyclopedia Virginia – part of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Martinez teaches at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and is currently working on a book-length manuscript on slave impressment, which is crucial to understanding this subject. At the bottom of the entry you will find a short list of essential readings. I would only add Stephanie McCurry’s, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South, which includes a though-provoking chapter on the steps that slaveholders took to resist impressment of their property for wartime purposes.
We have a choice. We can remain preoccupied with questions of numbers and emotional pleas that slaves wished to remain enslaved or we can set aside these simplistic assumptions that tell us more about our own values and look for more interesting questions and analysis.