From Black Confederates to 12 Years a Slave

What happens when a black man dresses up for a Civil War reenactment in a Confederate uniform? Watch the video to find out.

In more serious news, check out this interview that David Blight recently did with NPR’s Terry Gross about 12 Years a Slave. I am hoping to see it this week.

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Will President Obama Travel To Gettysburg Next Month?

obama_lincolnThe 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is fast approaching. Click here for a rundown of events sponsored by the National Park Service in Gettysburg and various other organizations.

President Barack Obama has been invited to speak, but at this point has yet to confirm. We all know of the president’s close identification with our 16th president and for the obvious reasons his presence in Gettysburg should have been confirmed by now.

Why it hasn’t is a mystery to me, but perhaps these trips are scheduled late for security purposes. Given recent anti-NPS rhetoric, it would be nice to see the president side by side with Gettysburg Park officials.

So, do you think the president will travel to Gettysburg next month?

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“With a Rebel Yell, She Cried More, More, More…”

Maurice Bessinger, Dixie OutfittesNot even the best legal minds in the Confederate South seem to be able to stem the tide of anti-Confederate flag legislation and sentiment.

Even the flags that once adorned Maurice Bessinger’s chain of barbecue restaurants in South Carolina fly no more.

The elder Bessinger, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in the ’70s, has not been involved in running the business for several years. Most of the flags at the restaurants quietly came down more than a year ago, Lloyd Bessinger said.

The family-run operation wants to stay neutral politically, appealing to Republicans and Democrats, Bessinger said. “Dad liked politics,” he said. “That’s not something we’re interested in doing. We want to serve great barbecue. “We want to get past that.”

In honor of this move, I leave you with this classic Stephen Colbert interview with Bessinger that was done while working for Jon Stewart. Oh well, he will always have his Dixie Outfitters t-shirt.

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Former Slaves in the Spotlight, but With No Vote

black confederate, ludwell brownThis morning I was perusing some of my favorite Facebook pages when I came across this gem of a photograph. The image of three elderly black men waving Confederate flags is accompanied by the standard comments from the Southern Heritage crowd. It’s not particularly interesting given the number of photographs that clearly point to the presence of black men at Confederate veteran reunions and other public events throughout the postwar period. [click to continue…]

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Remembering Louis Martin

Louis MartinA couple of years ago Mike Musick – who as many of you know was for a long time the go-to guy for anything Civil War related at the National Archives – contacted me about a recently discovered photograph of Louis Martin of the 29th U.S.C.T. He kindly arranged to have a copy of the photograph and pension application sent to me, which eventually ended up in my Crater book.

At that point the photograph was still not available online. I remember staring at it for what seemed like hours when it first arrived. You can clearly see why. In many ways this image served as a visual reminder of why I thought it was important to use the battle of the Crater as a case study on race and historical memory in American history.

I did a bit of research into his postwar life, but found very little. I knew the year he died and that he struggled with alcohol, but I was unsure as to where he was buried. There is also a question about Martin’s necklace and whether it has an African origin. [click to continue…]

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