At some point the staff at The Root must acknowledge the fact their own website is responsible for advancing the myth of the black Confederate soldier. Their own staff writers appear to be completely unaware of this fact. Yesterday Michael Harriot took the time to respond to reader emails, specifically those written by “white people” who he believes “are born with an extra gland that secretes the ‘let me speak to your manager’ hormone.”
Harriot was clearly upset with one particular reader, who reminded a fellow staff writer in response to a piece on the Confederate battle flag that, “There were black soldiers that fought for the north AND the south. Would you topple a monument to black confederate soldiers?” He prefaced his response with the following: “First I’d like to thank you for writing the letter that served as the inspiration for my short, one-act play, The Caucasity of Dopes. I am currently working on finishing the final draft, but because you have unwittingly become my muse, I would like to offer you a sneak preview[.]”
Please allow me to explain the Civil War and the Confederate flag with an explanation that goes against every historical document, including the fact that there were no black Confederate soldiers[.]
Included in this response is a link to a recent piece by Ben Alpers that briefly explores the subject. This is all fine and good. I am always encouraged when I see this myth called out for what it is, but there is one small problem here.
Despite Harriot’s attempt to frame the black Confederate narrative as something embraced by stupid white people, he seems completely unaware that his own publication is responsible for advancing this myth.
John Stauffer’s 2015 essay, “Yes, There Were Black Confederate Soldiers. Here’s Why” continues to be cited within the neo-Confederate community and beyond by people who are sincerely interested in this subject. And why wouldn’t they cite it. After all, it was authored by a well-respected Harvard scholar.
In it, Stauffer argues “that between 3,000 and 6,000 served as Confederate soldiers” without offering any evidence substantiating this claim. There are numerous problems with this essay beyond this specific claim, including his interpretation of specific sources and overall understanding of how the Confederate government utilized slave labor and free blacks over the course of the war.
It’s time for The Root to take a stand and issue a correction to Stuaffer’s essay. Regardless of their best intentions, writers like Michael Harriot look silly and even hypocritical when they accuse others of stupidity and yet are unaware that their own publication is responsible for fueling these very same misconceptions about the Civil War.