Atlanta Black Star Falls For Black Confederate Myth

Recently I shared a story out of Chattanooga, TN about the uncovering of what was determined by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to be the tombstone of a black Confederate soldier. As is the case with other stories, within a day the article was picked up by a local news station that basically repeated the claims made by the SCV without any further investigation.

Yesterday I came across the story of Shaderick Searcy at the Atlanta Black Star. The story pretty much repeats previous findings with a few little additions. I have to admit there is something incredibly disappointing about finding this story on a website that caters to an African-American audience.

Atlanta Black Star, Black ConfederatesThe author bounces back between referring to Searcy as a soldier and slave, clearly not understanding the difference between the two. We also see repeated the claim that Searcy received a pension for his service as a solider, which a quick glance at the file clearly shows that he did not. Even more problematic is the use of an image of black Union soldiers that at some point was intentionally altered.

But the most disturbing aspect of this article is its characterization of the Sons of Confederate Veterans:

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the oldest hereditary organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers, recognizes Searcy as a noble African-American figure in history and one of the most prominent men laid to rest at the cemetery. SCV prides itself on preserving the history and legacy of fallen heroes, so that future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.  It offers ongoing programs for members and a wide range of activities, such as  preservation work, marking Confederate soldier’s graves, historical re-enactments, scholarly publications, and regular meetings to discuss the military and political history.

Such a characterization suggests that the author of this article lacks any understanding of the history of the Civil War and slavery. That a red flag did not go up from anyone else at the Atlanta Black Star reflects poorly on their editorial staff and their understanding of this important history.

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24 comments… add one
  • Rblee22468 Apr 5, 2016

    Unfortunately in a free speech society, there are no consequences for misleading the public like this. Lack of accountability is a big problem.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2016

      Sure there are consequences. You get called out on it.

      • Rblee22468 Apr 5, 2016

        Valid point. 😉

  • woodrowfan Apr 5, 2016

    I notice they don;t allow comments. Did you email the author?

    • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2016

      I’ve been sending regular tweets since last night. They said they would look into it, but nothing yet.

      • Yulanda Burgess Apr 5, 2016

        Kevin!! Thanks for being a bulldog on this. I stalked the internet and find that this “story” is spinning in all directions and (as you’ve indicated) supplemented. I can’t leave any comments to those who have irresponsibly posted it as a “black confederate” gobstopper truth. I haven’t seen anything challenging the story. I have my own set of battles to fight trying to get the USCTs significantly recognized. So, I appreciate you sticking to this.

        It’s Tennessee. It’s my ancestral state in which I had to go to battle on having the 150th anniversary of Fort Pillow recognized. Tennessee has its hill of issues regarding preserving what African Americans did and did not do during the Civil War. There is more time spent on the black confederate myth than highlighting facts like …. enslaved men and women from the Wessyngton Plantation left in mass to work on Union fortifications and infrastructure and men enlisted in the USCTs. It’s a history that would debunk the hornet’s nest of folks who are actively advocating that Tennessee’s enslaved population were faithful servants and loyal to the Confederacy. In October 2015 there was a dedication ceremony honoring the enslaved people buried on that plantation which received little to no press coverage. And… there was no press coverage of Fort Pillow 150th anniversary memorial ceremony either. And then this misinformation about Searcy crops up and it gets a bunch of coverage.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2016

          I have been persistent on this case, especially given that it now has been embraced by a black media outlet. Confederate heritage groups love this kind of coverage because they can leverage it in ways we have seen before. It plays right into their understanding of Confederate History Month.

          • Rblee22468 Apr 5, 2016

            Another great point.

  • Andrew Raker Apr 5, 2016

    This article’s description of the cemetery is also puzzling, too. It’s not from the original news source, but I can’t even think of where they would have gotten the sentence about a municipally-owned Confederate cemetery being the “only national cemetery containing the remains of legendary heroes of war from both World War I and II.” There’s so much wrong with that I don’t even know where to start.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2016

      I wondered the same thing. The Atlanta Black Star continues to tweet it out and post it on their Facebook page.

    • Andy Hall Apr 5, 2016

      They’re conflating Chattanooga Confederate Cemetery with the Chattanooga National Cemetery, which is the one with 44,000 burials from all wars. (The National Cemetery is where the Andrews Raiders are buried.)

      The story is a pile of rubbishy nonsense, but I’m sure the True Southrons™ see it as further vindication.

      • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2016

        Good call, Andy. You are probably right about that. Ugh, just adds to the sloppiness of this piece.

        • Andy Hall Apr 5, 2016

          The black Confederate soldiers theme relies heavily on credulous folks like Ms. Ford, who likely don’t care much one way or another about the subject, but are always on the lookout for some bet-you-didn’t-know-this type story.

          So she writes up her story using a press release from the heritage folks — the sentence, “the SCV prides itself on preserving the history and legacy of fallen heroes, so that future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause. . .” is lifted almost verbatim from SCV website boilerplate — and then the heritage groups will, in turn, cite her story as further validation of black Confederates.

          • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2016

            I agree, but I also believe that a lack of knowledge regarding slavery’s relationship to the Confederacy is also a prerequisite for this kind of “journalism”.

      • Andrew Raker Apr 5, 2016

        That was my hunch, Andy, I just got so caught up in the comment about the world wars that I forgot to mention it! (I attempted to visit both while in Chattnaooga a few years back, but couldn’t find parking near the Confederate Cemetery because it’s surrounded by UTC.)

        This is the only reference I’ve found that mentions both World Wars and the National Cemetery, from the VA’s web page: “Chattanooga is the only national cemetery that has both World War I and World War II foreign POWs reinterred. There are 186 POWs from both wars.
        Seventy-eight are World War I German POWs, twenty-two part of group burials (Post C Graves 66, 67 and 68); and 108 POWs are from World War II consisting of 105 Germans, one French, one Italian and one Pole.”

  • Patrick Jennings Apr 5, 2016

    There is a nice write up about the “National” Cemetery here: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/tennessee/Chattanooga_National_Cemetery.html

    Clearly there was some confusion with Ms. Ford who did not do her homework.

    • bob carey Apr 5, 2016

      The article has more holes in it than a box of donuts.
      The comment about WW I and WW II vets is ridiculous. Has Jasmine ever heard of Arlington, Gettysburg or the Gerald Solomon National Cemeteries (the Solomon Cemetery is located near me in Saratoga) they all have vets from both the World Wars.
      What really got to me though was that the SCV identified Mr. Searcy as one of the more prominent Confederates buried in their Cemetery, if he was so important to them and so prominent why did they lose him for well over one hundred years?

  • Rblee22468 Apr 5, 2016

    A search on Google about Atlanta Black Star turns up multiple posts on other blogs which seem to be very critical of their “reporting”.

    Also, this may have been covered in an earlier thread but I was flabbergasted to read this just now:

    “History tells us that there were many African-American soldiers that fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War despite being slaves.” – See more at:

    http://www.wtva.com/news/367865231.html#sthash.RPvGrCdT.dpuf

    I wrote to the reporter. I asked if he could point me in the direction of said history, because we are obviously either reading different books or he’s just making it up as he goes.

    • Patrick Jennings Apr 6, 2016

      Well, Rblee, to be fair, there are a number of books out there that promote the idea of black confederates. Such is the nature of history. Although I agree that this story is pretty much garbage, you should not assume that if another slips the banks of your reading list they are “making it up as they go along.” My library is filled with books that hold a thesis I disagree with but they are critical to a fuller understanding of the past so I use them.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Apr 7, 2016

    The Black Confederate Myth is like the monster in a horror movie that just won’t die no matter how many times you think you’ve killed it. But what’s funny about it to me is that I think it stands as a testimony to the success of the African-American Civil Rights Movement and desegregation. In other words, when “separate but equal” was alive and well, I don’t think you could have found a significant number of people willing to believe Black men were accepted as soldiers for the White supremacist cause of the Confederacy. And you certainly would not have found people claiming Blacks and Whites served together in integrated units.

    • London John Apr 8, 2016

      A small quibble:Bruce Catton says that in the last days of the war, too late to get into action, a handful of Blacks were finally recruited into the Confederate army in Richmond. I read somewhere else, that I unfortunately can’t find, that they were put in integrated units. Probably there weren’t enough of them to make up a unit by themselves; and I imagine no Confederate officer would have fancied leading an all-Black unit from the front. But this minor fluctuation doesn’t really falsify the statement that they were no Black Confederates.

      • Andy Hall Apr 8, 2016

        Bruce Catton says that in the last days of the war, too late to get into action, a handful of Blacks were finally recruited into the Confederate army in Richmond. I read somewhere else, that I unfortunately can’t find, that they were put in integrated units.

        ____
        After the Confederate congress authorized the enlistment of black troops in mid-March 1865, there were a couple of companies raised from hospital stewards there in Richmond. What active service they saw in the week or ten days before the fall of Richmond, or another week to the surrender of Lee’s army, is somewhat unclear. They were raised as complete units of black troops, and I’ve never seen anything that suggests they were then disbanded and reassigned to theretofore white units.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 8, 2016

          I can’t add much of anything beyond what Andy writes. The historical record is incredibly thin on this brief period following authorization.

  • London John Apr 8, 2016

    Is the Atlanta Black Star of any significance? I see it describes itself as a “narrative company”, not a newspaper. If it does have any significance, is the publication of this article itself a minor historical event that historians should investigate? And is it possible that this aricle will be treated as a source by future historians?

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