Former Slave and Soldier Shake Hands

Here is a wonderful image of a Confederate veteran shaking hands with what is very likely a former camp slave. I have never seen this particular image before and I don’t believe I have ever seen an image like it. It’s also a great example of how “research” is often carried out on social media.

It reminds me of the photograph of Union and Confederate veterans shaking hands over the stone wall at Gettysburg in 1913 and Fitz Guerin’s “Cuba Libre.” All of these images ‘speak volumes’ though, of course, there is much more going on here than a simple handshake.

Neither individual is identified. There is also no indication of a date or place, though it is very likely that the photograph was taken at a Confederate veterans reunion. The individual who posted this image – who also happens to manage this specific Facebook page – believes that the image speaks for itself. Of course, that tells us more about the agenda of this group and nothing about the photograph.

It is also telling that these images are now routinely watermarked so “Getty images or some such outfit does not make money off our people” – an attempt to claim ownership of the past. If only it were that simple.

I went to the website referenced in the post, but could not find any additional information about this photograph. Will keep hunting and may even try to use it in the book. Please let me know if you have seen it before and where I might find additional information.

20 thoughts on “Former Slave and Soldier Shake Hands

  1. Rob Baker

    I did a quick reverse image lookup on Google. Only two websites came up, both of them in reference to a Confederate museum in South Carolina. The picture on those websites don’t have any water marks or anything like that. There is absolutely zero context about the images on either website.

    Reply
    1. Codie Eash

      Just a couple of observations: It appears as though there may be another African American standing (and smiling) over the right shoulder of the man in question. Also, if you look at the photo directly beneath it on the museum’s page, there appears to be a black man sitting alone at center-right.

      Reply
  2. Mike Furlan

    Also from the Confederate Museum site: “Over 65,000 black Confederates served in uniform during the War for Southern Independence.”

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I think it is clear based on the absence of any reference to the image that this is not a professional museum.

      Reply
  3. Christopher

    Looks as though the unknown African American’s hat band might say “Alabama.” Not saying this gives any more context to the image except referencing the state from whence he came…a fellow Alabamian. What I find interesting is that people believe that a mere handshake really indicates the implications these groups try to preach, that enslaved people really were okay with their stations in life and were really treated “like family.”

    Reply
  4. Topher Kersting

    If I had to guess, this is a photo of Jefferson Shields, who was reportedly Stonewall Jackson’s cook.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      That’s very possible. I just wish the photograph was taken at a different angle. Good call.

      One thing that is clear to me is that this individual was likely a regular at veterans reunion. I’ve found a few cases of this and it tells us a great deal about how African Americans took advantage of the Lost Cause as much as they may have used these events to reinforce their own understanding of the meaning of the war.

      Reply
      1. Topher Kersting

        Looking at Photo 4 on Find A Grave, it looks like he’s wearing the same style of glasses as in the photo above. (Also, searching for “Jeff Shields” instead of “Jefferson Shields” gives a few more images–it looks like he got around on the UCV circuit.) I’d be happier if I could track down some more reliable sources, but it certainly looks to me like using him as an example of a black Confederate soldier is busted.

        Reply
  5. MARGARET D BLOUGH

    Kevin- I was with Unemployment Compensation (UC) in Pennsylvania when the UC claim process first became computerized (not the claimant’s end of it but the agency’s). It had many advantages. Reading a printout of a claim history beat the crap out of trying to decipher a card with various individual’s handwriting and assorted corrections. You could also obtain a claim history remotely if you had authorized access to that part of the systerm. What we found we needed to remind people that ease of access doesn’t affect the significance of the contents (including authorization on sharing the information) All that really has happened is a change in the medium.

    What I have seen on the internet is exactly that. Too many people believe that information is reliable BECAUSE it is found on the internet which is absolutely NOT the case. It’s more like a public square where anybody can put anything up. It’s sort of like a global version of Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park. That means that any material has to be verifiedd if you want to rely on it.

    Reply
  6. Andy Hall

    The Facebook comments are telling. A posted image of (1) unknown source, (2) unknown dates, (3) unknown location, and (4) unknown parties, is “great research!”

    I had no idea it was so easy.

    Reply

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