Stonewall Jackson is Still the ‘Black Man’s Friend’

In the proposal for my book on the myth of black Confederates, I suggested that the final chapter will likely remind some readers of Tony Horwitz’s wonderful travel narrative, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. There are a number of interesting and complex individuals that for one reason or another have fallen for this myth, which will be explored in my book’s final chapter. They include African Americans like H.K. Edgerton, Karen Cooper, and the late Anthony Hervey. Add to that list one Gregory Newson, who is both an artist and a writer. Here is an interview with Newson. He is currently promoting his new book, Uncle T and the Uppity Spy, which essentially pushes the ‘Stonewall Jackson: Black Man’s Friend’ narrative.

Below are a few photographs taken recently of Newson and his booth at a fair in Canisteo, New York.

Gregory NewsonNotice the books from Lochlainn Seabrook publishing.

Gregory NewsonNow that would certainly make for some attractive book cover art.

Gregory NewsonAny thoughts about this one in particular?

38 thoughts on “Stonewall Jackson is Still the ‘Black Man’s Friend’

  1. Ken Noe

    When I was a kid in the 1960s, I also had a tiny little toy musket and a dime store kepi with a flag on top.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Ken,

      This is all very interesting, but I don’t think it fits with this current project. Right now I am only interested in African Americans who run around with toy muskets, kepis, and Confederate flags.

      Reply
  2. Rblee22468

    The banner on the table reads “Believe it or not. But it’s true. Africa once processed 1.5 million whites slaves”. Appears to be attributed to Lochlain Seabrook.

    Out of curiousity, have you read any of those books? I must admit I’m curious, but I’m not sure if I want to give them any of my money to find out what is in them.

    Re: the painting

    I’m perplexed. Not knowing the artists intent, is the black slave in what appears to be war paint the father of the little boy picking the cotton? The kepi has a CBF on it, which isn’t historically accurate. The slaves are trailing the white soldiers. The painting is titled “Karo Man as Guardian”. Is the slave guarding the child, the soldiers, or both? Is he protecting slavery?

    More on the Karo/Bari people:

    “Diaries of European missionaries[which?] in the region, indicate that in the market of Cairo (Egypt), the number of slaves to be sold to Europe from the White Nile area increased from 6,000 between 1858 and 1862, to approximately 12,000-15,000 per annum. These numbers reflected mostly, Bari, Dinka, and Mundari; but also included people of other ethnic groups neighboring the Bari, and beyond were hunting for elephant tusks was intense during that time. By 1863 when Sir Samuel White Baker arrived at Gondokoro, also on an expedition to discover the sources of the Nile, boats of buccaneers (even one flying an American flag) were anchoring at Gondokoro, with the sole purpose of picking up slaves to the new world. By 1865 about 3000 slaves at any one time could be found waiting at Gondokoro to be carried down the Nile.”

    Source:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bari_people

    Too much to consider here.

    I’ve never heard of this guy before, but I note these passages from his bio on his webpage:

    “For the first twenty years of my life, unknown to me, I was trying to make a name for myself as an artist with an borrowed last name: Goodwin. “Goodwin” was not on my birth certificate as my last name, but rather “Newson,” a small error my parents failed to let me know about. I had already used “Goodwin” in a few newspaper articles about my art shows and awards I was winning as an artist, and I don’t know if anyone can imagine how devastated I felt trying to get a marriage license and then suddenly finding out I was not the person I had been trying to be. I thought fame was on its way, but instead I ran into a brick wall of reality. This struggle with my identity has followed me for many years.”

    And

    “My Goal: My goal is to earn some appreciation from the die-hard Dixie Sotherners who relish the Confederate cause, from those who feel it’s about time we pay tribute to the Black Confederates, and maybe from others who keenly see that the Civil War is still not over in some American communities.”

    I note that a common theme with modern “black Confederates” is that they appear to be trying to make a profit in a lot of cases. Whether it be the SCV speaking circuit, books, t-shirts, etc..

    Reply
    1. Andy Hall

      The banner on the table reads “Believe it or not. But it’s true. Africa once processed 1.5 million whites slaves”. Appears to be attributed to Lochlain Seabrook.

      Out of curiosity, have you read any of those books? I must admit I’m curious, but I’m not sure if I want to give them any of my money to find out what is in them.

      __

      I think the “1.5 million whites slaves” is a reference to Europeans who were captured and put into slavery by the various Barbary States of North Africa. But that was over a period of several centuries, and geographically and culturally distinct from those parts of sub-Saharan Africa where the transatlantic slave trade set off. It’s a deflection.

      Reply
      1. London John

        I’m sure you’re right that this refers to North African pirates, and that they have nothing in common with sub-Saharan (or “Black”) Africa. Some of the pirates were themselves White Europeans. In the 17thC Algiers was to piracy on this side of the Atlantic what London is now to financial operators, or Silicon Valley to tech entrepreneurs – it attracted the cream of European piratry. There’s a story of an Irish village whose whole population was kidnapped by Algerine pirates. The pirate captain in this case was originally Dutch, as were many of his crew.

        Reply
        1. Cecil

          What exactly is Black Africa?

          How does North Africa have nothing in common with this so called Black Africa?

          Reply
      2. TFSmith

        “Processed” 1.5 million white slaves?

        “Hummus Green … It’s people. Hummus Green is made of PEE-PUL”…

        Best,

        Reply
  3. Andy Hall

    I’ve read the book. Newson’s artwork is beautiful and compelling, even if it’s difficult to fathom. The book is quite an odd ramble, closing with an image of the dying Stonewall Jackson being lofted to Heaven by an African American angel. From Newson’s conclusion:
    __

    Jim Lewis [the brother who remained loyal to he Confederacy and to Jackson] represent two of the most prevalent characteristics of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 protagonist uncle Tom, namely inherent goodness and a deeply ingrain piety. Jim Lewis was a passive, Christ-like figure who consistently forgave the wrongs committed against him and leaned on his faith in God in times of crisis and upheaval. . . .

    It was a stark contrast to Tyler Lewis’s [Jim’s brother, who ran away to Union lines and became a spy] haughty and superior attitude which created a deadly atmosphere of resentment and contempt among his fellow intelligence officers.

    Tyler Lewis could well be considered the embodiment of the “Uppity Negro.” Historically, the pejorative term has been used to describe a black person who has been reprimanded or persecuted for voicing dissatisfaction with, or rejection of the substandard treatment of themselves and/or other blacks.

    ___

    To recap, the “Uncle Tom” character is “Christ-like” and the hero of Newson’s book, while the “Uppity Negro” dies a sudden, violent, and vividly-depicted death as a result of his actions.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Thanks for the additional information, Andy. I get the sense that Newson is interested in characters that somehow promote peaceful race relations, but at what expense?

      Reply
      1. Bryan Cheeseboro

        “I get the sense that Newson is interested in characters that somehow promote peaceful race relations, but at what expense?”

        This has been my question all along and I think it’s a motivation for many Blacks who sympathize with Confederate “heritage” today. That and a desire to be different than the African-American mainstream of thought and political action.

        Reply
    2. Bryan Cheeseboro

      “Jim Lewis was a passive, Christ-like figure who consistently forgave the wrongs committed against him and leaned on his faith in God in times of crisis and upheaval. . . .”

      I’ve never met Gregory Newson (he was at the Cedar Creek reenactment last year but I missed him) but reading this passage, I feel like he’s talking about himself.

      Reply
  4. Michael Aubrecht

    As one who discusses this similar subject in three of my books Jackson did in fact establish a Sunday school for enslaved blacks in Lexington. He also supported the school financially throughout the war. That however is where this gentlemen’s story ends. None of the members of Jackson’s church became black Confederates and all of them must surely anticipated their freedom once the war started. Jackson’s steadfast faith drove him to support his fellow Christians spiritual education regardless of their race but it was that same tenacity that drove him to participate in a fight that stood for maintaining the enslavement of the very same people he supported back home. – Michael Aubrecht

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Jackson’s religious beliefs about slavery ought to be understood in the context of post-Nat Turner Virginia. A good deal is made of Jackson’s Sunday school, but what is conveniently ignored is that the religious texts that were emphasized certainly did not encourage slaves to embrace their freedom and disobey authority. In other words, Jackson’s school reinforced the slave system.

      Reply
      1. Al Mackey

        Lest your comment be misunderstood, Kevin, I think we have to clarify that you didn’t mean Jackson set up the Sunday School specifically to reinforce the slave system. His primary object was certainly to see to the souls of enslaved people as he saw it, and in doing so what he taught reinforced the slave system. I hope I’ve captured your meaning correctly.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          Thanks Al, but I don’t think my response suggests that Jackson established the school specifically to reinforce the slave system. No doubt his goal was to nurture obedient souls.

          Reply
  5. Patrick Jennings

    Mr. Newson had this same stand set up at Cedar Creek last October. I poked around and was fascinated by his approach, finding it hard to capture in the overall scheme of American history. what I found most bizarre was the occasional pause by some Confederate reenactors who would salute the whole tableau!

    Now, I don’t buy into the idea that “black Confederates” served in any voluntary capacity with the CSA although I am certain there were hundreds, if not thousands of slaves detailed to forced labor – but – even if there were one single, solitary black soldier in the CSA I am quite sure he never once got a salute from a white soldier of any American army in that time!

    Now, as for Jackson and his school…I bet it taught only one lesson, that of Ephesians 6:5-8. The rest of the Bible is pretty much an anti-slavery tome.

    Reply
  6. Phil Ross

    My thoughts? That this isn’t that much more fanciful than a Mort Kunstler fever dream, in a quaint little village warmly lit by a Thomas Kinkade glow from each window. It’s that mythic Home and Hearth where Confederate naval jacks fly from every cupola, all the ladies wear their Sunday-best Gone With The Wind gowns every day, and every other gentleman is a Confederate officer on leave who at any moment might spontaneously kneel and pray with the nearest available child. Is this really any less realistic a depiction of the Lost Cause?

    Reply
    1. TFSmith

      Brings a tear to my eye jes’ imagin’ et, suh…

      You forgot the British Guards officer in scarlet “just as an observer” along for the ride, however; have to get the Canadian and trans-Atlantic Lost Causer market as well. If there was only some way to get Elvis in there as well …

      😉

      Reply
  7. Shoshana Bee

    More often than not: I tend to over analyze things. Somewhere around minute 4:30 of the video interview, I heard Newson say:

    “The minute he (Jackson) said he was against slavery, he was accidentally killed”

    Did I hear correctly? I played it again, and yup, this is what I heard. The first thing that crossed my mind was a crazy conspiracy theory: Is Newson suggesting that Jackson was fragged by his own troops, because he said that he was against slavery?? Off I went to find where Jackson said that he was against slavery. I found nothing. Considering that Newson’s whole narrative is based on a myth, I guess that I should not be surprised.

    Reply
      1. Shoshana Bee

        I know that this is stating the obvious: Regarding the contents of the interview, the last chapter of your book, and the modern embrace of the Confederacy by blacks….it’s bewildering to me. I know that people have been deluding themselves since time eternal, but this is such a sideways backslide that I can only turn to that oft misused word: Inconceivable. There has to be some sort of mental illness involved to convolute the facts so thoroughly that probable descendants of slaves find themselves embracing the entity that fought for slavery.

        Reply
        1. Erick Hare

          The heritage crowd is in extreme denial about what their ancestors truly fought for during the Civil War. Despite irrefutable evidence that the Confederacy was founded to preserve slavery and upon the principles of white supremacy.

          In most of the instances where they try to prove blacks fought for the Confederacy there are no substantiated claims to prove blacks fought in the war for the Confederacy.

          When it comes to African Americans who make the same claims with the heritage folks it seems they are either financially motivated or they have similar ideology to the heritage crowd and choose to voice their opinionsto create shock value and a presence for themselves in a unique position within this debate. It seems to be largely ego-driven to me. Just my perception on the issue.

          Reply
            1. Erick Hare

              I understand that that is most likely the case, as with most things, I was commenting from a bit of a limited perspective.

              The entire understanding about the war, it’s meaning, and legacy are very complicated. There are so many perspectives and beliefs to account for and understand to really have a grasp of what was really happening at the time.

              I’m sorry if I denigrated this too much in my earlier comment.

              Reply
          1. Shoshana Bee

            Erick,
            I gave this conundrum a little thought later in the day, and found what I considered to be a comparison of sorts. Half of my genetic make-up is American Indian (the other half has been equally challenged, genocidally speaking) I noticed in recent years, when comparing what role “our ancestors” had during the Indian Wars, several of my friends began boasting that their ancestor was most likely a scout, and that there was a good probability that he was a close advisor to this-or-that general. Suddenly everyone’s relative had to have been a scout, whilst mine were just hapless victims — nothing to boast about. I got a sense of empowerment by these statements (even though if one thinks about it: Your “scout” was hunting our people…never mind, let’s not confuse ourselves with fact) Shortly after, I lost interest in ancestry conversations, as they seemed to reflect more about the present than exploring the past. Anyhow, I especially look forward to this last chapter of Mr. Levin’s book.

            Reply
  8. Andy Hall

    I noticed in recent years, when comparing what role “our ancestors” had during the Indian Wars, several of my friends began boasting that their ancestor was most likely a scout, and that there was a good probability that he was a close advisor to this-or-that general. Suddenly everyone’s relative had to have been a scout, whilst mine were just hapless victims — nothing to boast about. I got a sense of empowerment by these statements (even though if one thinks about it: Your “scout” was hunting our people…never mind, let’s not confuse ourselves with fact).

    ____

    That’s an interesting observation. Seems to me there’s a parallel phenomenon with both men like William Mack Lee and Turner Hall, Jr., who pop up decades after the war claiming close, personal affiliation with famous generals, without any evidence other than their own stories, as well as present-day African Americans who get pulled into the “black Confederate” by heritage groups touting their ancestors’ supposed military service and patriotism. In both cases, it’s an effort to find something positive and empowering in an otherwise terrible time.

    Reply
    1. Erick Hare

      That makes some more sense. People trying to find ways, in both instances, to find the positive in their ancestral past, grasping for anything as a coping mechanism to deal with the harsh realities of what actually happened in the past.

      Reply
      1. Shoshana Bee

        Push it to the next level: take PRIDE in what has been a revised version of what one’s ancestors did.

        Reply
  9. David Doggett

    What better way for a lonely, poorly educated, contrarian crank to repress a major negative aspect of his past (slavery) and to get attention, especially attention from the dominant white culture he is surrounded by.

    Reply
  10. Gregory Newson

    This is Gregory Newson; I’m accused of making a profit for telling the story of the Black Confederates if I am, apparently the subject cannot be avoided. But wait, you armchair participants til you see my next book; The true story about Nathan Bedford Forrest, and his 45+ black Confederates named “Get Forrest” but my hidden agenda is to compel Afro-Americans to stop thinking that their victims. Because what the comes after that thought will stipend your self-confidence and your profit margin.

    Reply
  11. Gregory Newson

    I hope to make a statement to help all understand my motivation behind telling the story about the black Confederates, which did exist and many of my community members find it a bit embarrassing. And those who are embarrassed probably would never acknowledged that their parents scrub white people floors and cleaning their mess to send them to college. They will strut around like its all their doing and thinking they are so much better than their parents.

    I recognized early that the black artists is/are looked over and under appreciated in assignments projects, and times the are designed to help you lose your soul.

    I’m not a historian and i do not want to be no types of civil rights leader either; My books are researched extensively, but my primary goal is to draw attention to my artistic abilities to sell art prints and self-publish my products because i don’t appreciate a daddy. And I have chosen a subject that provokes thought and when this is done, I have a “us/them” market in front of my artwork. I cannot wait to leave this blank Confederacy platform and do a mainstream product, and give up trying to draw attention to “historical vandalism” is wrong. I’ve been threatened on 42th St. in New York City Manhattan, I’ve also had a bomb placed 50 feet from me at Cedar Creek. And the profit is not so great, thank God I have a legitimate business that affords on the weekend to run away to the circus, but make no mistake the more threats I get, the more passionate I’m getting; I feel like that “God Father” when Al Pacino said “I trying to get out and they keep drawing me in”

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      You have yet to say anything substantial about the relevant history. While I am curious about what motivates you to promote the myth of the black Confederate soldier, you are certainly correct in sharing that you do not consider yourself to be a historian.

      Reply
  12. Gregory Newson

    I’m not here to convert you about Civil War history, I’m sure
    my community views never concerned you in the first place, I’m hoping to get my community to revisit what they thought they were taught in high school and grammar school. So many are stuck in the past they cannot move forward.

    Reply

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