Hello University of Wisconsin

Update: I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that the class in question is being taught by Steve Kantrowitz. Professor Kantrowitz is the author of More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889, which was my pick as the best history book of 2012. The book is of particular interest to me given that it focuses on the black community here in Boston.

For the past few days a group of students from the University of Wisconsin has been scouring my posts on black Confederates.  I think it’s safe to say that collectively they have read every post on the subject.  I don’t know much at all about why they have been assigned my blog or what they are getting out of it beyond a few tweets from one of the students.  If I am not mistaken one of the students left a comment on an old post.

As an educator this makes my day.

Hey guys.  Please let me know if you have any questions about anything related to the relevant history, the public debate, and the role of the Internet in spreading this myth.  I am more than happy to talk with your class via Skype if interested.  As a historian, blogger, and educator I would love to know what you are getting out of this exercise.  Good luck.

9 comments… add one

  • Alex Walsdorf Apr 10, 2013

    What made you get into blogging in the first place, and what do you hope to ultimately achieve with your blog?

    • Kevin Levin Apr 10, 2013

      I started blogging in 2005. At the time I had just finished an MA in history and was looking for a way to share my interest in history and memory with a broader audience. I also was looking for a way to share what I was doing in the classroom. Much of the success that I’ve enjoyed as a result of blogging was not expected. Ultimately, I hope that I leave visitors with something something to think about. It’s been a fascinating ride. Here is a bit more about my background. Thanks for the question.

  • William Grau Apr 10, 2013

    Dear Mr. Levin,

    As a UW student who has been using this blog for our project, I would first like to thank you for highlighting the Black Confederate “controversy”. In your post “African Americans and Black Confederates (Part 2)” you referenced a petitioner who wanted there to be a reference to Black Confederates in a 4th grade history textbook. I wanted to ask whether you believe Southern history curriculums are more sympathetic to the Confederacy relative to curriculums taught in the other parts of the country. Do you know of any other pseudo-controversies that are presented as legitimate debates in southern history courses?

    • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2013

      Hi William,

      Thanks for the comment and for the kind words about the blog. I think it’s safe to say that you can still find pockets in the South where a Lost Cause version of the war is still taught. In recent years there have been a number of high profile examples in places like Texas and Mississippi where the politicization of history is all too clear. That said, we’ve come a long way in a short time. Textbooks are certainly much improved and the larger discussion has evolved to a point where some of the tougher questions of slavery and race can be addressed more openly.

      As to your last question, my biggest concern is the ease with which students can access misinformation generally on the Internet when they approach it without any understanding of how it works. That to me is the lesson of the Black Confederate narrative. There are plenty of myths out there, but it is the responsibility of history instructors to teach students how to access and assess online information responsibly.

  • Anthony Padovano Apr 10, 2013

    On, Wisconsin! I’m glad Prof. Kantrowitz is using your blog. I first started reading this blog two years ago when I was a senior at Madison taking Prof. Kantrowitz’s Civil War and Reconstruction class. One of his TAs recommended it. Makes me really wish I was still back in school. That was a great class.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2013

      Glad to hear it and I am sure Professor Kantrowitz will appreciate the kind words as well.

      • Steve Kantrowitz Apr 11, 2013

        Prof. Kantrowitz sure does. Thank you!

  • Matt Injur Apr 11, 2013

    My brother, who is a senior in high school, wants to know who freed the slaves. Do I show him Django Unchained or Lincoln?

    • Kevin Levin Apr 11, 2013

      I would say both and then have him read a good book like James McPherson’s The Negro’s Civil War.

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