A Black Confederate Flashback

Yesterday I spent some time working on the section of my black Confederate book that deals with the 2010 Virginia textbook controversy involving author Joy Masoff. I am sure most of you remember.

While doing a search for additional information about the scope of the news coverage following the publication of the initial Washington Post article I came across this local news interview with Civil War historian James I. Robertson. It’s a real gem and one that I’ve never seen. Robertson’s initial response is priceless: “I don’t even want to know his name.”

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18 comments… add one
  • Chris Wheeler Apr 1, 2014

    The subtext behind this agenda: “Slavery really wasn’t that bad.”

    • Andy Hall Apr 3, 2014

      Forgive me, Kevin, if this is off-topic, but I saw the first episode of Civil War: The Untold Story last night, and it was just superb. As a Texan, I particularly appreciated the attention given to Johnston. Kudos to Chris Wheeler and everyone who brought this series to fruition!

      • Kevin Levin Apr 3, 2014

        It is indeed well done.

      • Chris Wheeler Apr 5, 2014

        Thanks, Andy. We’re glad you are enjoying the series.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Apr 1, 2014

    Glad to hear Professor Robertson say this. It makes me wonder, then, what he thinks of that infamous scene in “Gods & Generals” where Stonewall Jackson tells his bodyservant Jim Lewis that the Confederates should have the “good sense” to be enlisting Blacks in the army.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 1, 2014

      Well, Robertson was a historical adviser for that film.

  • Buck Buchanan Apr 1, 2014

    Kevin, having served as an advisor in a military sense, I could only advise my advisee on what to do…I couldn’t make them. The only one I could order was my driver….and he would doubt that sometimes.

    I thinks perhaps too much is laid at the feet of advisors.

    And on this matter I don’t think they checked in with DR Robertson on this little tidbit. I am sure it was more on the “Lee’s Lieutenants” type views and questions and accuracy of battle instances.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 1, 2014

      Oh sure. I’ve never held film advisers responsible for the final product. I do understand the process. Sorry if it came off as if I was assuming that Robertson was responsible or agreed with that particular scene. It is a bizarre scene, but not as bad as a few of the deleted scenes involving slaves.

  • Buck Buchanan Apr 2, 2014


    My bad…as the kids say.

    When I watched that scene I almost threw up….

    Of course the entire movie is rife with treacly tripe.

    I mean the scene where ‘Lee” is singing “Bonnie Blue Flag” at a misntrel show!?!?!

    Really? Marse Robert?!?!?

    On a side note i have several friends who are reenactors who were in the film and made up the 20th Maine. They all said Jeff Daniels was a pretty decent guy an C. Thomas Howell used to buy them pizzas.

    • Rob Baker Apr 2, 2014

      I thought that same thing. Clapping his knee and stomping along….just didn’t seem wrong. I also was not in favor of the way someone changed the words to the song. The film opted for the revision, less controversial, second line of the song.

      God’s and Generals:

      We are a band of brothers and native to the soil
      Fighting for our Liberty, With treasure, blood and toil

      Original version:

      We are a band of brothers and native to the soil,
      Fighting for the property we gained by honest toil;

      • Kevin Levin Apr 2, 2014

        Historical revision and outright distortion was center stage in that movie.

      • Rob Baker Apr 2, 2014

        That was supposed to be “just didn’t seem RIGHT”

        Don’t cook and type. 🙂

  • Sinclair Barton Apr 2, 2014

    That scene was positively spectacular. The particular rendition of “Bonnie Blue Flag” in that scene was done with such genuine enthusiasm, optimism, and inspiration that by itself it made Confederates out of virtually everyone who saw the film. Absolutely splendid.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 2, 2014

      To each his own.

  • Sinclair Barton Apr 2, 2014

    I know what you guys mean about revisionism in the movies. Like that preposterous and ridiculous scene in Lincoln where the African-American private gets all up in Lincoln’s face. Imagine what would have happened in real life if a lowly private spoke in such an impudent manner to his Commander-in-Chief. That scene, and many, many others in the movie, were pure rot. I am sure you guys feel the same way, given your demonstrable intolerance for historical inaccuracies in film.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 2, 2014

      I’ve written a number of posts about this movie if you are interested.

  • Buck Buchanan Apr 3, 2014

    Kevin, he isnt.

  • Doug didier Apr 4, 2014

    In 1996 attended conference at va tech hosted by bud Robertson . Year before his book on Jackson was published. Said he had spent 7 years writing the book. Going into people’s attics up and down the valley for primary source material. Someone at the conference said that in reality, bud had spent his whole career writing the book. It’s a wonderful book. Previously kind of liked stonewall in the valley by tanner. Really captured the valley campaign. Robertson started the campaign earlier so can get a better picture of Jackson’s genius..

    So I think the news person went to the right source.

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