Black Confederates in the Attic

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by an editor at one of the Civil War journals to write an essay on the black Confederate controversy.  I decided to reflect a bit on what the controversy tells us about the differences between academic and popular history as well as the rise of the Internet as a place where history is both consumed and created.  While I am close to finishing I thought I would ask for your assistance with the title.  I want to play off of Tony Horowitz’s classic, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War.  Here is a suggestion from one of my friends on Twitter: “Black Confederates: Out of the Attic and into the Mainstream.”  Not bad.

Let’s hear it.

28 comments… add one

  • James F. Epperson Jan 23, 2012

    The problem I have w/ that title is it seems to validate the BCM by saying it is a “mainstream”idea.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 23, 2012

      Agreed. Need something that gets at its popularity.

      • Jeffry Burden Jan 23, 2012

        We wouldn’t want people to think there were, say, 100,000 Black Confederate Soldiers…rather than the 30,000 there actually were. :-)

        • Kate Halleron Jan 23, 2012

          May I throw down the same challenge I issue to anyone who makes that claim when I’m around? Show me – all the Confederate Soldier’s records are available at fold3.com. I personally have sifted through more than 500 records looking for BCSs for a book I’m working on, and I have found not a single one.

          I found a woman soldier by chance – not statistically significant, but the fact that I found one but not a single black soldier – free or slave – is fairly telling, IMHO.

          No one denies there were some (my gg-grandfather was one) but the claim that there were tens of thousands is subject to proof that no one has offered yet.

          • Kevin Levin Jan 23, 2012

            Hi Kate,

            I believe Jeffry is just kidding.

            • Jeffry Burden Jan 23, 2012

              Indeed. Just throwing around two of the commonly-used BCS numbers, for comic effect (hence the smiley face). But your points are excellent, Kate.

              • Kate Halleron Jan 23, 2012

                Okey – dokey. But I have heard that claim made so many times it’s hard to tell.

          • Vicki Betts Jan 24, 2012

            Out of curiosity, who was the woman? What unit?

  • Andy Hall Jan 23, 2012

    How about playing off cotton, and in cotton candy — impressive to look at, sweet to consume, but ultimately with little substance or nutritional/educational value?

    • Andy Hall Jan 23, 2012

      Meh, forget that. Simpler is better. “Out of the Attic,” period, full stop.

      • Kevin Levin Jan 23, 2012

        Short and sweet. Well done.

  • Clark Chapin Jan 23, 2012

    Did you ever play the memory game, popular in my family on roadtrips, called (among other things) “I looked inside Grandmother’s Trunk”? The game begins with one person stating “I looked inside Grandmother’s trunk and there I found…” and here they would insert something mundane, outrageous or highly forgettable. The next person would make the same opening statement, name their chosen thing and repeat all that had been previously named. Thus it would proceed. I almost feel that the black Confederate ‘controversy” more closely resembles such a game about what might be found in a trunk in the attic than what is claimed to been uncovered in some ancestral attics. The claims may or may not be seen as outrageous and often may be invented histories or embellished tales. It is nearly a Schrödinger’s Cat scenario at times, where the truth of the matter may be yea or nay depending on who opens the box, at what moment and before what audience. It will never do though to view it as the magician’s magic trunk – the one in which the subject is sawn in two. This is a controversy that will and should defy compromise. Let it be Grandmother’s trunk then. “I looked inside Grandmother’s trunk and there I found… Robert E. Lee & 3 Black Confederates.”

    I’m sure you can vastly improve upon this.

    Cheers!
    Clark

  • Mike R Jan 23, 2012

    Confederates Clean the Attic: Dispatches from the Search for the Southern Black Volunteer.
    or
    Confederates Search the Attic: Dispatches from the Hunt for “Silas Chandlers”.

  • Roger E. Watson Jan 23, 2012

    Black Confederate Soldiers – Fact vs Fantasy !

  • Mary Ellen Maatman Jan 23, 2012

    I’m thinking something along the lines of “Confabulations in the Attic.” The idea of a nod to the Horwitz book is a terrific idea, whatever you end up choosing.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 23, 2012

      I love it. :-)

  • Mark Dunkelman Jan 23, 2012

    Out of the Woodpile and Into the Attic: The Progression of An Ahistorical Conceit.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 23, 2012

      Hi Mark,

      I think you picked just the right time to leave your first comment on this blog. Nice to hear from you and I hope all is well.

  • Sean Dail Jan 23, 2012

    Another suggestion:

    Concoctions in the Attic: Dispatches from the Black Confederate Factories

  • Dan M. Jan 23, 2012

    Hi Kevin,

    How about a straightforward “Out of the attic and onto the battlefield ” . Or “Out of the shadows and out in the open”

    • Ray O'Hara Jan 23, 2012

      I think a more factual title would be better.
      Out of the Slave quarters and into a Myth.
      might be better

  • Matt McKeon Jan 23, 2012

    What about “Blackwashing the Confederacy: Faithful slave to Black Confederate”

    Or

    “Making Whitey feel better: faithful slave to black confederate.”

    • Kevin Levin Jan 23, 2012

      “Making Whitey Feel Better”? Now that is hilarious.

  • Lyle Smith Jan 23, 2012

    Chattel in the Confederate Armies: From Servants to Soldiers

  • Alan Skerrett Jan 25, 2012

    Mythical Relics: Searching for Black Confederates in the Attic

    or

    The Search for Mythical Relics: Black Confederates in the Attic

    or simply

    Mythical Relics: Black Confederates in the Attic

    • Tom Thompson Jan 25, 2012

      Convenient Fabrications: Black Confederates

  • Doug didier Jan 30, 2012

    Black confederates gone with the wind…

  • Doug didier Jan 30, 2012

    Black confederates revisited..

    Black confederates into the light..

    Black confederates exposed..

    Reconsidered..

    Revealed..

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