Looks like the Associated Press has picked up another story about the myth of black Confederates out of North Carolina. It includes what has become the standard fair:
- Black man struggles to come to terms with what he believes is the military service of one of his ancestors: “Gregory Perry of Monroe, N.C., who learned recently that an ancestor was awarded pension for Confederate service, says it’s hard to reconcile that fact with what he knows firsthand about being a black man in the South. ‘I grew up in the era of Malcolm X and militancy, and would never have considered something like this possible,’ said Perry, 46, reflecting on the life of his great-great-grandfather, Aaron Perry. ‘I wonder: If Aaron Perry knew the Union Army was coming to free him, why did he join the other side?’”
- Professor of History recounts the standard narrative: “John David Smith, professor of American history at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and a member of North Carolina’s Sesquicentennial Academic Advisory Committee, said the South’s 11th-hour effort to recruit black soldiers was ‘too little, too late.’ ‘There’s no evidence of any real mobilization of slaves,’ Smith said. At most, a company or two — including one of hospital workers — was ever organized…. Smith says he believes painting African Americans as Confederate sympathizers plays down the real causes of the Civil War. ‘What gets professional historians concerned is when certain people start calling these people soldiers. It all goes back to how you define soldier. And for me, the story of so-called black Confederates is not as important as the story of why it keeps coming back.’ He added, “I think it keeps coming up because there are certain people who resist the idea that slavery and white supremacy were the cause of the Civil War.’”
- Make sure you cite two supposed experts: “Earl Ijames, curator of African American and community history at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, helped Way with his research. Ijames, who is black, said it is unrealistic to maintain that no people of color took sides against the Union. A seventh-generation North Carolinian, Ijames said some blacks may have pledged allegiance to the Confederates as a means of self-preservation. Meanwhile, Ed Smith [and here], an American University professor who has spoken widely on the subject, says today’s audiences can’t really gauge the societal, economic and other pressures that played on blacks and whites during slavery. He said that’s why it is so hard for anyone to imagine that a slave’s Southern identity could have been at odds with his ideas about freedom. ‘In today’s world, it’s hard to look back on slavery with any kind of clarity,’ Ed Smith says. ‘Frankly, I think it’s going to be quite messy for the next four years.’”
The only thing that will remain messy is this style of reporting that gives equal weight to anyone that has an opinion about this subject. Meanwhile, Mr. Perry is left believing that his ancestor was a soldier in the Confederate army because he was awarded a pension. Apparently, no one has told him that the pension would have been awarded for his presence in the army as a slave and not as a soldier. At the same time both John Coski and John David Smith are drowned out by the vague ramblings of Ijames and Smith, neither of whom has ever done any serious research on the subject. All Renee Elder has done is give legitimacy to a story that is filled with falsehoods and numerous misconceptions about Confederate policy toward its black population.
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