Body Slamming the History of Slavery

I finally caught an episode of American Digger last night and I was appalled.  This episode focused on the history of slavery in Aiken, South Carolina.  It begins with a few rebuffs from folks who want nothing to do with this past; however, the boys finally come across a home owner who is more than happy to comply only after renegotiating the standard agreement on any profits resulting from the dig.  The worst part of this show is its star.  Former pro-wrestler Rick Savage is obnoxious and seems to know very little about the history of slavery.  These guys basically go into a site, dig up relics, and split the proceeds with the highest bidder.  The scenes where Savage gets emotional about what he uncovered are priceless.  And what does this have to do with the preservation of history?

You will need a shower after watching just 3 minutes of this episode.

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!

30 comments… add one
  • John Seabrook Nov 16, 2012 @ 1:06

    Having just watched this program here in Australia, I’m as repelled as you are Kevin. The rednecks who point blank refused the digging actually come out of this whole disgrace better than the guy who agreed to it, but only for monetary gain! What a southern gent he is! Staggering TV, for all the wrong reasons! The whole fiasco is unpardonable.

  • Jeanne May 21, 2012 @ 8:35

    There is an opportunity to share your dismay there are two petitions against the television programs – “American Diggers” and “Diggers!” – which promote irresponsible, amateur archaeological practices. The petitions can be found at asking Spike ( and National Geographic ( to re-think their commitments to these programs, which put vital heritage at risk. Please lend your support!

    • Kevin Levin May 21, 2012 @ 9:36

      Thanks, Jeanne.

  • Toby May 21, 2012 @ 6:07

    Britain’s Channel 4 has an exellent series called Time Team, fronted by an ex-comedian Tony Robinson.

    Robinson lets professional and academic archaeologists run the digs, and involves local communities in all the show does. He actually did shows from the West Indies, and one from the site of Jamestown, Virginia, the first surviving English settlement in the New World.

    It is a pity History Channel did not learn from this long-running and popular show, though Time Team is not without its critics. We get the History Channel on cable this side of the pond, and I can also say that I am profoundly unimpressed – it may have reached its nadir with “Battles B.C.” where “military historians’ discussed the strategy of King David, as told in the Bible.

  • Scott A. MacKenzie May 18, 2012 @ 2:12

    If you think this is bad, wait until Memorial Day when History Channel releases “The Hatfields and the McCoys.” This three-part miniseries has an all-star cast with Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Tom Berenger, Powers Boothe, and Mare Winningham, directed by Costner’s friend Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and, ugh, Waterworld.) These features, and fine period detail in production design, are its strengths.

    Its weaknesses are: it is set in the Civil War. They forgot that the feud actually took place more than a decade afterwards. The conflict comes from wartime allegiances, whereas in real life they came from economic and political power. From the sneak preview, this show appears to be one long shoot-out between rival families. I’ll know more when I see it. Appalachian scholars, no doubt, are already cringing at these stereotypes brought to the small screen.

    The worst part: the History Channel’s online store is selling Altina Waller’s masterful book Feud about the Hatfields and McCoys. If the screenwriters had read this book, it should have changed their views entirely. Let’s blame the producers for approving this.

    • John Buchanan May 18, 2012 @ 10:19

      Sounds like another movie where they worried more about the caliber of the weapons than the caliber of the history…

    • Rob Baker May 22, 2012 @ 10:01

      Bravo for the book reference. “Feud” changes the perspective of the Hatfield, McCoy legacy and is an incredible social history of the Appalachians.

      I was not aware of the Civil War influences you sited. I still want to see the program, but am fearful of the absurdities.

  • Will Hickox May 17, 2012 @ 19:09

    Whoops, this show is so awful and unrelated to history that I naturally assumed that it’s on the History Channel. It also suits Spike.

  • Will Hickox May 17, 2012 @ 19:06

    And the History Channel’s downward spiral continues.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro May 17, 2012 @ 10:48

    I watched the video and it was not as bad as I thought it was. But it is as bad as “reality” TV usually is.

    I don’t think there is any such thing as “reality” television. These shows are produced, scripted, REHEARSED and edited for effect. They are about entertainment and ratings first, last and always.

    I certainly understand if the people on these propereties don’t want a stranger coming along, knocking on their doors, asking to dig up their property for any reason. But I’m not impressed here because they are part of the “cast” of this show. From someone who claims to be an excavation expert, I would have been more impressed if his request had come in the form of a letter or something, and if he hadn’t shown up in a cheesey logo ballcap and shirt. Just my thoughts.

    • Andy Hall May 17, 2012 @ 12:20

      “. . . if he hadn’t shown up in a cheesey logo ballcap and shirt.”

      As an, um, gentleman of stature myself, I’m allowed to say it: that is one hell of a big-ass shirt.

    • Kevin Levin May 17, 2012 @ 12:53

      I wonder how many takes were done with the individuals who wanted nothing to do with Savage.

      • Misti Furr Feb 1, 2013 @ 6:16

        Kevin, I’m the creator of the fb group that protests the show ( I just found this article today. Well done! I had a very interesting conversation last year with someone who was on the show and he said that the people who appear as having “turned down” the offer to dig are friends with the people who did agree. So, not only are the finds salted, and the prices are set by the production crew, but the denials for digging are fake, too. Unfortunately, the producers do not care how upset people are over the show and they believe all of of the nonsense he spouts. I had a phone conversation with the producer, Shana Tepper, and told her that the claim that they dug in Jamestown were unacceptable. Her answer was that they filmed “on the outskirts” of Jamestown. I asked her if she knew how to read a map. They filmed 20 miles from the island and used footage (not permissible footage, mind you, I know that from conversations with the park’s PR officer) from the Colonial Parkway to bolster their ridiculous claim. My problem with this show lies in both their irresponsible behavior and in the outright deception that they pose.

  • Brad May 17, 2012 @ 10:20

    Never watched the show and never intend to do so. There is one show on the History Channel about a family that owns a huge consignment or pawn shop in Vegas where some interesting items are brought in and the owner brings in experts (or so called experts) to help him decide if to buy and how much to pay. Watched it once in awhile. Somewhat interesting.

    • Andy Hall May 17, 2012 @ 10:58

      I much prefer Pawn Stars to, say, Antiques Road Show on PBS. They’re both all about the cash, but only one is honest enough to admit it up front.

      • Brad May 17, 2012 @ 12:17

        Yes, that’s the one Andy. Some of the stuff they have on there has interesting histories and the personalities on the show make you laugh a little.


      • John Buchanan May 18, 2012 @ 10:17


        I was looking all over for the LIKE button to hit on your comment.


  • Keith Harris May 17, 2012 @ 7:05

    Oh my. One of the many reasons why I do not own a television.

  • Shanon Hays May 17, 2012 @ 6:51

    Eww. I don’t think I have the stomach to even watch the clip.

  • Andy Hall May 17, 2012 @ 4:10

    As you can imagine, the show is causing considerable headaches among professional archaeologists and others, not so much because of the damage Rick Savage & Co. do themselves, but because of the example they’re setting, and how they encourage others to do the same. It’s bad enough that a treasure-hunting magazine in which Savage has a regular column has cut ties with him, because he’s giving treasure hunters a bad name.

    There is also widespread belief among some archaeologists that not all his digging is on private land, as claimed, but that some of it is on public land, where there are preservation laws to prevent this sort of thing. It’s also believed that many of the more unusual artifacts they “find” are actually salted, placed at the site to make their “discovery” more successful and dramatic.

    • Richard Williams May 17, 2012 @ 5:50

      Actually, I believe you’re referring to American Digger Magazine. To classify that publication as “a treasure-hunting magazine” is inaccurate. Their mission statement reads, in part: “To promote the responsible excavation and collecting of all artifacts related to America. We strongly oppose illegal recovery and wanton destruction of artifacts. Please dig responsibly.”

      In regards to: “There is also widespread belief among some archaeologists that not all his digging is on private land, as claimed, but that some of it is on public land . . .”

      While I can’t stand the show or how it portrays metal detecting and relic hunting, I seriously doubt the validity of that charge. As bad as the show is, I just don’t think anyone associated with it would take that chance – particularly if it’s for public consumption. Moreover, that particular charge is potentially libelous. Someone better make sure of the facts before lightly throwing around charges of felonious criminal activity.

      “It’s also believed that many of the more unusual artifacts they “find” are actually salted, placed at the site to make their “discovery” more successful and dramatic.”

      That I can believe and have heard the same suspicion from credible sources. I can also tell you that the value of the first show’s “relics” were grossly inflated. Anyone who thinks they are going to start relic hunting and become wealthy is in for a huge disappointment. 99% of all relic hunters and metal detectorists do it for the sheer enjoyment of saving what would likely be a lost relic or artifact – most of which archeologists have no interest in.

      There are also a number of well known personalities within the Civil War community who are also avid relic hunters. Respected military artist and expert, Don Troiani is one. Rafael Eledge, known and respected for his Civil War and military expertise artifact expertise, as well as his association with Antiques Roadshow is another.

      Sadly, for many viewers, the take away from this really bad circus of a show will be a poor reflection on the 99% of us who simply love history, obey the law, and are preserving some of these more obscure relics.

      • Andy Hall May 17, 2012 @ 11:01

        Yes, I was referring to American Digger Magazine. Thanks for offering a corrective on my characterization of it. I come at the subject from a different perspective, and am sometimes don’t appreciate the finer points.

  • Richard Williams May 17, 2012 @ 3:35

    By the way, I’ve yet to read ONE positive review of this show from within the relic hunting community. Not one. The whole series is one huge embarrassment and no where near the “reality” it claims to portray. I watched the very first episode and found myself wincing about every 30 seconds. I’ve not watched one since.

    • Kevin Levin May 17, 2012 @ 4:35

      I assumed you would be appalled. I’ve enjoyed your relic hunting videos and I know you take it seriously

  • Richard Williams May 17, 2012 @ 3:32

    Kevin – We don’t agree on much, but on this particular “show”, we are in perfect harmony.

  • Marc Ferguson May 17, 2012 @ 3:19

    Hunter Wallace at Occidental Dissent seems to think that these men are “black Confederates.” Do you see any evidence to support such a conclusion, other than Wallace’s disordered mind?


  • Virginia S. Wood May 17, 2012 @ 3:09

    We don’t have a big enough hot water heater.

  • Emmanuel Dabney May 17, 2012 @ 2:42

    As terribly opposed as I am to this show and ideas like it, I can’t help but wonder if he proposed to Miss Prissy in South Carolina a forced relocation since the past is in the past, there is no need for her to live in a historic house. That would fly in the face of her ideology on the past.

    Still, this is not archaeology, it is relic hunting. If it were archaeology statements that appeared in the above clip would not have been made.

    • Kevin Levin May 17, 2012 @ 2:45

      Still, this is not archaeology, it is relic hunting.

      Yes, that is quite clear when they bring in the heavy equipment.

  • Scott A. MacKenzie May 17, 2012 @ 2:32

    This reminds me of Errol Morris’ documentary “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.” Ick.

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