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Why UVA’s New Center For Civil War History Matters

The University of Virginia has announced that it will establish a new Center for Civil War History made possible by John Nau III, who is a UVA alumnus and an outgoing member of the school’s Board of Visitors.

The $13 million will support the center as well as “an endowed professorship, an endowed graduate fellowship, a postdoctoral fellowship, scholarship funds, a book prize and travel funds for research, as well as other means to support faculty and students.” Many of you know that Nau established an endowed chair in UVA’s history department that is currently filled by Gary Gallagher. Continue reading “Why UVA’s New Center For Civil War History Matters”

“The People Were Not Prepared For It”

I’ve said numerous times that actual Confederates would be utterly confused by the rise of the black Confederate myth in the last two decades, especially as it has been framed by individuals and organizations that claim legitimacy through their ancestral connections. For the latter, the black Confederate narrative is intended to distance the Confederate war effort from the explicit goal of establishing a slave-holding nation – the very goal that united so many even past the point where victory appeared to be likely. In short, this narrative places Confederates and their descendants in two different worlds, with one claiming the existence of the very thing that the other was fighting to prevent.

As we all know, apart from mistaken accounts by Union soldiers – often published for political purposes – there are no wartime accounts by Confederates affirming the existence of a single black Confederate. Not one. We do have accounts that indirectly deny their existence in the form of hundreds of newspaper editorials, letters and diary entries authored by Confederates in the army and home front in 1864-65 concerning whether their country should recruit slaves as soldiers. The debate makes little sense if free and enslaved blacks were already fighting as soldiers in the army. Continue reading ““The People Were Not Prepared For It””

Searching For Black Confederates in Narrative

While a big chunk of my manuscript on the history and memory of camp servants/black Confederates is either completed as a rough draft or in outline form, I am still playing with the structure of the overall narrative. As it stands each chapter begins with a vignette that captures the theme of the chapter and includes its main argument. This is standard fare. The first chapter begins with Confederate General Edward Porter Alexander’s purchase of a servant in 1862 while the third chapter starts off with a detailed description of a Confederate veterans reunion that included former camp servants. As it stands, they work pretty well, but it is lacking in one important way. Continue reading “Searching For Black Confederates in Narrative”

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Yesterday I walked out of my high school history classroom for the final time. I gave notice fairly early in the year in order to force myself to think carefully about what might be my next steps. Upon moving to Boston back in the summer of 2011 I hoped to find the space to weigh options beyond the classroom. Without going into too much detail, the reality of moving to a new city necessitated having to think about full-time employment a bit sooner than I would have preferred. It certainly wasn’t the end of the world as I still love teaching high school students and the intellectual stimulation that it brings.

I will never be far from the high school classroom. In fact, it is certainly possible that I may end up in one again, but for now it’s time to think about other possibilities. Continue reading “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”