The First Female Black Confederate?

I’ve said many times that the vast majority of people who believe or even push the black Confederate narrative do not do so for nefarious reasons. They are not promoting history in support of a Lost Cause agenda. In most cases they simply do not understand how to interpret the available evidence and/or the larger historical context.

This is another wonderful example. The South Carolina state senate has apparently seen fit to honor a supposed “female African-American Confederate veteran” by the name of Lavinia Corley Thompson. The details of the story are familiar. Local “historians” did a bit of research and discovered the name of a former slave on the state’s pension rolls. Notice that not once is Thompson referred to as a slave in this article. In fact, no one involved in this story, including the reporter, seems to understand that the pensions in question were given to former slaves and not soldiers. [click to continue…]

New to the Civil War Memory Library, 03/01

Don H. Doyle ed., American Civil Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe, and the Crisis of the 1860s (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

Paul Finkelman and Donald R. Kennon eds., Lincoln, Congress, and Emancipation (Ohio State University Press, 2016).

Judith Geisberg, Sex and the Civil War: Soldiers, Pornography, and the Making of American Morality (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

Eric Hinderaker, Boston’s Massacre (Harvard University Press, 2017).

William F. Quigley Jr., Pure Heart: The Faith of a Father and Son in the War for a More Perfect Union (Kent State University Press, 2016).

Nikki M. Taylor, Driven Toward Madness: The Fugitive Slave Margaret Garner and Tragedy on the Ohio (Ohio State University Press, 2016).

Jonathan W. White, Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams During the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

The Flag of White Supremacists Since 1861

Let’s be clear about something, Jose “Joe” Torres and Kayla Norton are not being sent to jail for waving Confederate battle flags in the face of an African-American family celebrating a birthday just weeks after the Charleston murders in the summer of 2015. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

Norton will be sentenced on one count of violating the street gang act and one count of making terroristic threats. Torres will be sentenced on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of terroristic threats and one count of violating the street gang act. The aggravated assault charges carry up to 20 years for each count and the street gang act carries between five and 20 years, said Emadi. A terroristic threat conviction is punishable by up to five years in prison.

In other words, displaying the Confederate battle flag alone would not result in the sentences handed out yesterday, but it is certainly not incidental to the story. In fact, it is central. As I suggested yesterday, it is no accident that the flag was brought along on this little joy ride intended to defend the meaning of the flag in the wake of Charleston and the debates about its display in Columbia and elsewhere. [click to continue…]

“Their Actions Were Motivated by Racial Hatred”

It was no accident that just a couple of weeks after the horrific murders committed by Dylann Roof in Charleston, a group of young whites drove up to the house of a black family that was celebrating a birthday with weapons and Confederate battle flags. Arrests were made and earlier today two of the individuals involved received lengthy prison terms. [click to continue…]

A Symposium on Confederate Monuments

You can now view the five talks and panel discussion from yesterday’s annual symposium, “Lightning Rods of Controversy: Civil War Monuments Past, Present, and Future,” sponsored by the American Civil War Museum in Richmond.

The symposium is helpful if you are looking for an introduction to the history of monuments and the more recent controversy surrounding their removal/relocation in different places. I particularly enjoyed Thomas Brown’s presentation, which explored the evolution of one type of Confederate monument.

The only disappointment was the presence of the same group of older white people that you see at all of these events. A more diverse audience would have led to a much more interesting Q&A. Some of the more uncomfortable moments between speaker and audience were predictable given the the make-up of the audience. It’s a tough nut to crack and I certainly do not fault the American Civil War Museum.

It would perhaps be more of a problem, but for the fact that Richmond has been quite good about facilitating city-wide discussions about its monument landscape.

Appointment to the NCHE’s Board of Directors

At the end of next month I will travel to Atlanta to take part in the annual meeting of the National Council for History Education. This is my first NCHE conference and first year registered as a new member, though I have been following the organization’s work and have utilized some of their teaching resources over the years.

I am very much looking forward to spending time with my fellow history teachers, so if you are planning to attend please seek me out and introduce yourself.

I am also attending having just been appointed to the organization’s board of directors. One of the things that I love about the board’s make up is that it includes a number of working history teachers. It is a huge honor and unexpected surprise. My hope is that I will be able to share and work on some of the things that I am passionate about as a result of my somewhat unusual teaching career path.

See you in Atlanta.

Did the Civil War Sesquicentennial Ever End?

I am getting ahead of myself, but over the past few days I’ve been thinking about writing a short book on the Civil War sesquicentennial once I finish my book on the Black Confederate myth. I covered so much of the sesquicentennial on my blog that it would be a shame for it to remain there without trying to work it up into a narrative that has a bit more analytical depth. It would be a concise book around 150 pages. This is not the first time that I have thought about such a book, but now seems like an opportune moment to take it on. [click to continue…]

Lincoln in the Bardo (Video)

Picked up George Saunders’s new novel Lincoln in the Bardo on Thursday and finished it yesterday. I can’t recommend it enough. It is an unconventional narrative structured around fragments from letters, histories, memoirs as well as the voices of three guides stuck between the living and the dead, who attempt to help a recently deceased Willie Lincoln and his grieving father. These three individuals, along with the other residents of the cemetery, refuse to acknowledge their predicament, but in attempting to help Willie to move beyond this state of limbo, they find the strength to confront their own personal demons.

I don’t want to give too much away. The book is about much more than the relationship between Willie and his father. In fact, I now see it as a meditation on many of the themes that Lincoln strikes in his Second Inaugural Address. Anyway, do yourself a favor and read this book You will not be disappointed.