Setting the Record Straight on Black Confederates (sort of)

This morning I was interviewed on The Takeaway Radio Show by John Hockenberry and Celesete Headlee on the subject of black Confederates.  It was a productive interview and I am pleased that the producers decided to follow up yesterday’s show by addressing some of the more problematic claims made as well as broader misconceptions.

Unfortunately, the time went by way too fast.   I would have been happy to listen to any number of people on this issue, but of course, I am pleased that they asked me to join them this morning.  For additional reading, I highly recommend Bruce Levine’s, Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War and Stephanie McCurry’s, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South.  You may also want to take a look at my Black Confederate Resources page, which provides an overview of what I’ve written on the subject on this blog.  You will also find a great deal of commentary on this site about Earl Ijames, who was mentioned in the course of the interview.  Click here for the post on Ijames and Henry L. Gates.

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Challenging the Black Confederate Myth on the Radio

This morning The Takeaway radio show, which is a national news radio program produced by WNYC, New York Times radio and the BBC, aired a segment on the subject of black Confederates.  It was incredibly disappointing and a number of people, including Ta-Nehisi Coates, brought attention to it.  The producers decided to do a follow-up show and a number of people suggested that they get in touch with me.  Well, I just finished talking with one of the producers and we are set to do a live interview tomorrow morning at 7:20am.   We began our discussion on the issue of numbers, but I quickly moved the conversation to the more substantial issues of how African Americans were viewed by the Confederate military and government as well as slaveholders.  Hopefully, we can provide some context for this misunderstood topic and move beyond some of the more  statements of Nelson Winbush and Stan Armstrong.  I will provide a link to the interview if you don’t have a chance to listen live.

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What Would They Do Without Facebook?

There is no better place to explore the intellectual fringes of the Civil War community than Facebook.  You will find some of the most bizarre and reactionary commentary from folks who don’t seem to have any grasp of basic historical knowledge and/or analytical skill.  On my last tour of my favorite Facebook page I came across a link to a story out of South Carolina about an African American family, who claims that their ancestor fought as a soldier in the Confederate army.   The article itself is incredibly confused:

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Even the Public Historians Have Been Seduced

E. Dabney at Petersburg National Battlefield

The History News Network has just posted an editorial by Steven Conn on the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  Conn offers an overly simplistic reading of the evolution of Civil War historiography through the Civil Rights Movement before closing his essay with the following:

Sadly, 150 years after Edmund Ruffin fired on Fort Sumter, large numbers of Americans remain in the thrall of a romanticized Confederacy.  At Civil War reenactments far more people show up dressed as Johnny Reb than as Billy Yank.  The fact that it is acceptable to put a Confederate flag on a car bumper and to portray Confederates as brave and gallant defenders of states’ rights rather than as traitors and defenders of slavery is a testament to 150 years of history written by the losers.

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Black Confederates Attract Tourist Dollars

Thanks to a reader for passing along the Prince William County/Manassas, Virginia Tourism Guide for 2010-11.  I have no idea what went into the decision to feature a young black male in what appears to be a Confederate uniform.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing historically inaccurate about such a representation, though he is probably too young to be a body servant.  The more important issue has to do with the intended message behind this image.  I would love to know if anyone on the editorial team is aware of the recent textbook controversy involving claims of thousands of black Confederates serving under Stonewall Jackson’s command.

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