Today I am headed to North Carolina for three talks. Later this afternoon I will stop at North Carolina State University. Tomorrow it’s the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and on Wednesday evening I will be at FlyLeaf Books in Chapel Hill. I hope some of you can make it.
This video is as confused an interpretation of the black Confederate narrative as you will find. Barry Isenhour does his best not to mention me by name, but he eventually breaks down midway through. He is absolutely correct in noting that Confederate armies could not function without the support of African Americans.
Of course, what he fails to note is that the overwhelming majority of these men were enslaved. They were either impressed slaves or body servants – what I call camp slaves in my book. I argue in the first two chapters of my book that enslaved labor was the “cornerstone” of the Confederate military effort, which can be seen clearly in the many roles they assumed in the army itself.
Instead we get a confused discussion about so-called “body guards” and “colored Confederates.” None of it would have resonated with real Confederates between 1861 and 1865.
But the reason I am posting this video is that Isenhour offers one of the best explanations of why the black Confederate narrative is so strongly embraced by heritage advocates and organizations like the Flaggers and Sons of Confederate Veterans. Toward the end Isenhour suggests that the black Confederate narrative highlights the long history of peaceful race relations in the South. It’s liberals and other activists from outside the South that are responsible for instigating recent racial unrest.
In providing this explanation, Isenhour reminds us that this narrative has very little to do with the critical study of the past and everything to do with manipulating history to further a political agenda.