Why We Need History Education: Black Confederate Edition

It should come as no surprise that Representative Benton is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  This past weekend an SCV camp in South Carolina honored a slave for his “service” to the Confederacy.  Unfortunately, his personal history has no significance or meaning beyond the vague references that support the SCV’s narrow and self-serving slave narrative.  Henry Craig,

  • went to war with his master.
  • rescued his master on the battlefield and brought him home safely.
  • remained on the family’s property until the day he died.

Where have we heard this one before?

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

21 comments… add one
  • Keith Muchowski Feb 8, 2012 @ 12:59

    It is difficult to tell from the camera angle, but it appears that people are walking out on his talk.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 8, 2012 @ 13:06

      Definitely reflects a lack of interest.

      • Jeffry Burden Feb 8, 2012 @ 13:10

        This appears to be that time of the legislative day when a legislator can get up and read anything into the record. No one expects anyone else to pay attention, or even stop talking.

  • Bob Kerstetter Feb 8, 2012 @ 5:58

    Since your blog is about “History, Heritage, and Education” why do you take bumper sticker shots at the research of others? If you are going to make snide comments you should back them up with footnotes—every time you make them, not just in your interview with the Russians, but every reference. For example, you say “SCV’s narrow and self-serving slave narrative”. What is narrow? What is self-serving? Where is your proof and your research, pro and con? This is not about agreeing or disagreeing with you. It is about intellectual integrity and dialog. While, your observation may be true, as presented it is inflammatory, hardly historical, definitely not educational. What sort of heritage are you hoping to create?

    • Kevin Levin Feb 8, 2012 @ 6:23

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for taking the time time to comment. First off, I don’t utilize a footnote format on a blog format. I recommend that you spend some time in the blog’s archives on the subject of black Confederates. You will find a great deal on the extent to which the SCV and UDC have gone to distort this aspect of Civil War history. You are free to take issue with any claims that I make. I also recommend that you read my latest cover story essay in Civil War Times, which is devoted to Silas Chandler. Much of the mythology surrounding Silas can be found on websites authored by SCV members. I stand by my characterization of the SCV. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

    • Andy Hall Feb 8, 2012 @ 9:01

      Bob, it’s useful to keep in mind that Kevin’s post is part of a long and extensive discussion that’s been going on here and elsewhere online for years; it’s not a one-off. If Kevin comes across to the reader here as curt and inflammatory, it’s because he’s made his case thoroughly, many times before.

      Unfortunately, State Representative Benton’s brief address is a pretty classic example of how misinformation gets spread around, recorded in official governmental records (which are then, in their turn, cited as reliable sources), and just generally of the half-assed approach to the subject that the advocates for there being large numbers of African Americans enlisted as soldiers in the Confederate military.

      Benton’s address is particularly dubious, in my view, because this man spent a 30-year career teaching history. He has, in theory at least, the skills to actually dig into the source material and make some serious assessments of the evidence on his own. Instead he cribbed virtually every word of it from the website linked above — or perhaps another one, as there are lots of them — and offered in a way that made it appear as his own. I have no doubt that, had one of his students tried that on a writing assignment, Benton would have failed the kid’s paper, and rightly so. I’m sure he thinks of himself as a proud defender of Confederate Heritage, but for those of us who’ve actually looked at the sources , and recognize what he’s doing here, he just looks superficial and lazy.

      • Falcon Taylor Feb 8, 2012 @ 19:09

        I find that to be very scary – that this guy can put falsehoods into the official government record, and then, as you say, people will use that as a legitimate source. Can’t anything be done about this?

        • Andy Hall Feb 9, 2012 @ 9:08

          Can’t anything be done about this?

          Probably not. Pols of all stripes make much more ridiculous assertions all the time, that are much more damaging to real, live people living today.

          As to getting something on the official record, this happens a good bit with black Confederates. I can’t tell you how many aplay up a handful of mentions in the Official Records as being definitive, incontrovertible of their existence, apparently taking the title word Official as meaning, well, definitive and incontrovertible. Anyone who’s ever tried to reconstruct an actual historical event from the Official Records would laugh at that idea, but then the loudest dvocates for black Confederates in the online world don’t show much evidence of having actually researched anything in depth on their own — it’s a cut-and-paste universe out there.

          On another, more concrete level, even though many of us have pointed out the dubious and often deeply-flawed research that has led to the VA providing headstones for men like Richard Poplar and Richard Quarls, it then becomes a circular argument; I’ve seen people argue that these recent stones are themselves definitive proof of their status 150 years ago. I have no doubt that similar arguments will be made about the stones in that ridiculous faux cemetery in Tennessee, where the VA refused to provide headstones, so the Southron Heritage folks had them made privately, to look just like government-issued ones. It’s smoke-and-mirrors. “Look,” they’ll say, “the U.S. government recognized these men as Confederate soldiers, so it must be true.”

  • Chuck Feb 7, 2012 @ 13:10

    I was being facetious. It’s what I do best.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2012 @ 15:44

      Thanks for the follow up. I am usually pretty good at picking up the sarcasm. 🙂

  • Roger E Watson Feb 7, 2012 @ 12:42

    Just how stupid are the people that elected him to office ? Sad. Very, very sad 🙁

  • Chuck Feb 7, 2012 @ 11:20

    Tears are in my eyes even as I write. This brave human property put his love for the South and his master above any personal gain he might receive in the event of an evil Yankee victory in the war. Wow.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2012 @ 11:22

      What historical evidence do you base this judgement?

    • Chris L. Robinson Feb 7, 2012 @ 11:36

      This is sarcasm. Right? I mean, I know it is, but unfortunately, it is a sign of the times that you have to actually tell people when you’re joking. Getting pretty crazy out here.

      • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2012 @ 11:38

        I’ve heard it all so it’s impossible to tell. I hope that is the case. 🙂

  • David B. Appleton Feb 7, 2012 @ 10:27

    Well, if he read it on the internet then it _must_ be true, right?

  • Chris L. Robinson Feb 7, 2012 @ 10:15

    “Many Confederate officers did not obey the mandates of politicians. They frequently enlisted blacks with the simple criteria: will you fight?”

    Did they then pay them under that same criteria?

    Where are the payroll records?

  • Jeffry Burden Feb 7, 2012 @ 9:22

    Straight from the playbook. What a glorious hodge-podge of “facts”.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2012 @ 9:23

      He could have read that straight off of hundreds of websites.

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