Update: Here is another clip in which Ms. Berry shares that thousands of black men fought as soldiers with the Confederate army. The full segment can now be viewed (begin at 10:30 mark), which does a better job of handling the history of James and Charles Dearman.
We all remember the debacle that took place on The Antiques Roadshow back in 2010 when appraiser Wes Cowan attempted to interpret the famous tintype of Silas and Andrew Chandler. Thankfully, PBS corrected the problem a few years later on an episode of History Detectives.
Unfortunately, it looks like PBS has once again found a way to butcher the history of African Americans and the Confederacy in their new series, Genealogy Roadshow. In this short video Kenyatta D. Berry suggests that “many African Americans were forced into fighting for the Confederate army.” This certainly would have been news to actual Confederate soldiers and civilian leaders.
According to Berry, no one knows for sure but somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 were forced to ‘serve’ in the Confederate army “among hundreds of thousands of white Confederate soldiers.” This statement perpetuates the myth that whites and slaves fought in integrated units as opposed to the segregated Union regiments. Berry draws a clear distinction between men who fought in the army and tens of thousands of slaves who performed various supportive roles.
I have little doubt that Berry is referencing the argument made by John Stauffer in a fundamentally flawed piece that appeared last year in The Root. Needless to say, this is incredibly unfortunate. This is what happens when you allow an antiques appraiser and genealogist to interpret a subject that deserves a historian familiar with the basic facts concerning Confederate military policy and the broader subject of slavery during the Civil War.
I guess the only upside is that this kind of nonsense keeps me moving toward completing my manuscript on camp slaves and the myth of the black Confederate soldier.