Byron Thomas made a name for himself not too long ago by hanging a Confederate flag in his dorm window at the University of South Carolina – Beaufort. Since then he has utilized YouTube to promote his own vision of a post-racial society. Some of it is worth watching and some of it is not. Today Byron discusses the discovery of an ancestor, who he believes fought as a soldier in the Confederate army.
I really want to join the Sons of Confederate Veterans because Benjamin Thomas a Black Confederate just might be my ancestor and I want to honor him. Benjamin Thomas got a state pension from the state of South Carolina, so he definitely isn’t no make believe character. I really want to join, because I’ve been to some SCV meetings and I love what they stand for. They DON”T SUPPORT/STAND FOR any form of racism. They are no where near a racist group.I just want to honor my past ancestor that fought for the south, that’s all. America I want to join, but I’m not sure my family will like it, so can yall help me out!!! Kill People with Kindness and May God Bless America.
You get the sense that Byron hasn’t done much research at all on his ancestor. The direct answer to his question is obviously, yes, he should honor his ancestor. The only question that remains – assuming the relation is substantiated – is whether Benjamin Thomas will be honored for who and what he was during the Civil War.
My advice to Byron, assuming he is reading, is to hold off on joining the SCV. I have no doubt that they will welcome him with open arms and with a minimum of research into his ancestor. Their standards for membership within the black community are notoriously lax since the SCV’s understanding of African Americans and the Confederate army is fraught with problems that have been explored time and again on this site. The first thing he should do is stop by the history department on campus and talk with Professor Stephen Wise, who is an expert on South Carolina and Civil War history.
Given that Benjamin received a pension it sounds like he was either a camp servant or impressed slave assigned to work on Confederate military infrastructure. Pensions were given in just about every former Confederate state to former slaves and not to black soldiers [here and here]. These are not facts that are disputed by historians.
Byron’s interest in his family history is sincere. It’s a breadth of fresh air to see someone his age so passionate about his family history. Further research has the potential to lead to a life long love of history. I look forward to following Byron on his journey.