Update on My Black Confederates Book

Silas ChandlerI have received numerous emails over the past year inquiring as to when my book, tentatively titled, Searching For Black Confederate Soldiers, will be completed. While I greatly appreciate the interest, these messages left me feeling incredibly frustrated. To make a long story short, it has been very difficult focusing on this project over the past few years. I have experienced bursts of energy on a few occasions, but nothing sustaining. Chalk it up to being burned out and distracted by other projects.

But this past week I realized that there was another problem. I have spent so much time on this subject over the past 8 years that I lost sight of what it is I even want to say in the form of a book. Naively, I believed that my familiarity with the subject meant that I did not have to waste time outlining chapters and smaller sections. Somehow this book was going to write itself.

What ‘woke me up from my dogmatic slumbers’ was picking up a copy of Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published by Susan Rabinder and Alfred Fortunato, which was suggested to me by a friend in my book writing group last spring, but I had never bothered to read before now. This book was just the kick in the ass that I needed. Almost immediately I started sketching a proposal along the lines suggested by the authors. What question will this book pursue from beginning to end? What will the table of contents look like and what specifically will be addressed in each one. Why is this book needed and why am I the person to write it? Simple questions, yes, but framed in a way that allowed me to approach the subject with fresh eyes.

For the first time in years I am once again excited about this subject. Yesterday I completed a draft of the proposal that outlines what the book is about and its central argument. I have sample chapter that is also close to completion. Today and tomorrow I will work on two sections that focus on the books that already occupy this market and how my own research, writing, and public outreach on this subject will help to set my book apart from the field. Once it is ready I will share it with a few friends, have them tear it apart, and start all over.

Finally, I am going to pursue an agent to help with selling the proposal as a trade book. This project has all the elements of a solid history trade book and I have absolutely no doubt that it will sell well. It is definitely a step in a new direction and I am going to rely heavily on the advice of my good friends in Book Squad, but I am convinced that this is the right move and the right time to pursue it.

Not too long ago I was convinced that I had missed my window of opportunity, but the horrific events in Charleston last summer and the continued debate about Confederate iconography that ensued all but guarantees that the debate about Black Confederate soldiers will remain a popular and misunderstood subject.

Again, thanks to all of you who have expressed interest in this project. I hope you can hold out with me for just a little longer. It will hopefully be worth the wait.

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27 comments… add one
  • Brad Mar 12, 2016 @ 15:04

    Glad to hear things are going better in the writing department. Look forward to it.

  • T F Smith Mar 10, 2016 @ 21:51

    Count me on the list of preorders. In some ways, I can see this as an excellent historiographic case study to go along with Eric Foner’s Who Owns History. Good luck.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 11, 2016 @ 2:27

      Thanks. I am definitely going to touch on that question.

      • RUDOLPH YOUNG Mar 11, 2016 @ 20:31

        I just finished a book called Confederates in the Bloodline. I found documentation that the black confederates said that they were camp servants and the blacks in the union army were soldiers after 1863;

      • T F Smith Mar 12, 2016 @ 19:26

        Making the case for rational interpretation of historical evidence never gets old…

  • Kevin Dally Mar 10, 2016 @ 15:21

    I would order a copy for myself, when it comes out!

  • freedmenspatrol Mar 10, 2016 @ 10:28

    Glad to hear things are working out, Kevin.

  • Yulanda Burgess Mar 10, 2016 @ 10:04

    Your published work is very important. There continues to be so much nonsense about the mythical black confederate. I grow weary. So…you have not missed any opportunities to publish your scholarship. I wish you the power of the golden pen.

    I have sent you the US Army pension papers of John Burgess who was an enslaved servant of a confederate captain. Your input prompted me to finally send them to you.

  • M.D. Blough Mar 10, 2016 @ 10:03

    Put me down for a hard-cover and a Kindle copy!

  • grandadfromthehills Mar 10, 2016 @ 9:26

    History is history. Use solid sources and avoid conjecture. Show facts and it will certainly sell! Truth is truth whether or not it is uncomfortable or not what is expected or wanted. Rock on!

  • Christopher Coleman Mar 10, 2016 @ 7:37

    You may have already come across this source, but there is a collection of some 200 applications for pensions by Black Confederates collected, I think, in the 1930’s. I know a bound copy is in the Nashville Public Library Local History Room, probably there is a copy in the TSLA as well. I don’t remember whether they were just from Tennessee or the Army of Tennessee. If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend it, as it had their own narratives as well as testimonials by white veterans.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 10, 2016 @ 7:39

      I have heard about this source, but have not had a chance to check it out. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Jimmy Dick Mar 10, 2016 @ 6:31

    Make it happen, Kevin. A good, solid analysis of the black confederate hoax needs to be written and put out to the public.

  • Andy Hall Mar 10, 2016 @ 6:25

    Keep after it, Kevin.

  • Larry Cebula Mar 10, 2016 @ 5:46

    Wonderful news. The world needs this book.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 10, 2016 @ 5:47

      Thanks, Larry. I may have to include these comments in my proposal. 🙂

  • Douglas Egerton Mar 10, 2016 @ 5:38

    It’s a very important topic, and I’m glad to hear that you are moving ahead. (Every author gets stalled from time to time.) I’ve recently been corresponding with Mr. Venus Henry Vesey, a descendant of Denmark Vesey and the great-grandson of Randolph Vesey, who has of late been appropriated by Texas neo-Confederates who wish to argue that he was a “willing” aide de camp to a Confederate officer. It’s so important to set this record straight.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 10, 2016 @ 5:41

      Great to hear from you. This is a topic that I am going to address in the book. This happened to some of the descendants of Silas Chandler as well as a family, more recently, in North Carolina. Would love to hear more about this given the family history.

  • James F. Epperson Mar 10, 2016 @ 5:28

    Very glad to hear that this has kicked into high gear!

    • Kevin Levin Mar 10, 2016 @ 5:30

      Thanks, Jim. I have no doubt that readers like you have been with me over the long haul are sick of updates on this book project. 🙂

  • renegadesouth Mar 10, 2016 @ 5:00

    It’s such an important topic–glad you’re back on your game!

    • Kevin Levin Mar 10, 2016 @ 5:06

      Thanks so much, Vikki. It’s always nice to get positive feedback from historians who have done so much to expand my understanding of American history. Can’t wait for your movie!

  • Robert Mar 10, 2016 @ 4:25

    Ready to Pre-Order now!

    • Kevin Levin Mar 10, 2016 @ 5:06

      Thanks, Robert. I very much appreciate the positive feedback.

    • Dwayne Mar 10, 2016 @ 17:02

      Put me down for a pre-order as well.

      This is really a great subject and while some on both sides of the political spectrum will foam at the mouth or flail about feigning offended agony… If these stories are not retold then they will be lost forever.

      Better some discomfort but a clear memory of history than the real stories of real people lost forever due to historical revisionism for political expediency.

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