How to Interpret a “Black Confederate” Pensioner

Stay tuned. In the next few days I am going to be able to share some exciting news about who is publishing my black Confederates book.

In this short video historian Randolph “Mike” Campbell discusses the story of Guy and Dora Shaw of Harrison County, Texas. Guy Shaw applied for and was approved a Confederate veterans pension even though he was black. I haven’t spent much time with Texas Confederate pensions beyond a small set sent to me by Andy Hall, but this particular story raises a number of interesting questions about race relations at the turn of the twentieth century. Campbell’s own evaluation of the significance of Shaw’s pension begins at the 17:00 minute mark, which I pretty much agree with.

[Uploaded to YouTube on October 5, 2016.]


Public Historians and Confederate Monuments

Looking for a little help today. In about a month I will hopefully begin to receive individual chapters from the contributors to a book of essays that I am putting together on how the Civil War is being interpreted at museums and historic sites. This project is under contract with Rowan & Littlefield and will be included as part of their “Interpreting History Series”. [click to continue…]


Going Rogue With Keith Harris

I am happy to announce that the first three episodes of Keith Harris’s new podcast, The Rogue Historian, is now live and yours truly is the guest for Episode 1. Keith, as all of you know, is a blogger, historian, and this year a full time high school history teacher. Check out his website for all of his activities. Keith is very active in finding creative ways to share his love of history with the general public.

We focused on the myth of the black Confederate soldier, which is the subject of my current book project. We talked about a wide range of issues related to the subject so definitely check it out when you have a chance.

Congratulations, Keith.


Is This the Confession of a Neo-Confederate?

Update: Thanks to William Black for taking the time to respond to this post.

I passed this essay along by William Black last week and have been thinking about it ever since. Black is currently a Ph.D candidate at Rice University in history and writes about his embrace and eventual abandonment of neo-Confederate ideas about role of slavery in causing the war, Reconstruction, and the meaning of the Confederate battle flag. According to Black, had he gone to school with Dylann Roof, “we would have agreed on a lot.”

This essay is well worth reading, but it is not a story of a one-time- or recovering neo-Confederate. [click to continue…]


Forsyth County, Georgia’s Confederate Heritage

This image appears in a new book about Forsyth County’s history and its struggle to remain an overwhelmingly white community through the 1990s. I have not read it, but plan on doing so very soon. It’s the image and its timing that strikes me as significant.

Taken in 1987 it connects the battle flag’s history as a potent symbol of “massive resistance” during the civil rights era with its increasing visibility in recent years, including its presence at Donald Trump rallies.

As I have stated before in connection with so many other incidents, it is no accident that this group embraced the battle flag as its symbol of resistance in the 1980s. They embraced a symbol whose connection to the preservation of white supremacy extended back to 1861. No other symbol can convey such a powerful and unmistakable message.


American Foreign Policy and the Protection of Slavery

Vast Southern EmpireYou need to pick up a copy of Matthew Karp’s new book, This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy, if you haven’t done so already. Karp explores the role that Southerners played in the three decades before the Civil War in shaping U.S. foreign policy. While many of the key players, including John C. Calhoun, Henry Wise, and Abel P. Upshur pushed for a small federal government, they expressed few qualms with flexing its military and diplomatic muscles in the interests of protecting slavery in the Western Hemisphere, following Britain’s ban on slavery throughout its empire in 1831.

I find Karp’s analysis of the annexation of Texas to be particularly interesting. In our survey classes we typically connect annexation with the growing national political divide between free and slave states, but we don’t connect it to the push to maintain its slaveholding interests on the world stage. [click to continue…]


Charlottesville’s Lee Park Could Be “Confederate Fabulous”

I have been consistent in maintaining that the future of Confederate iconography, including monuments must be debated and ultimately decided by local communities. Having taught history, lectured and led tours in and around Charlottesville for ten years, I feel a bit more comfortable sharing my personal perspective on what should happen to its monuments.

A recent controversy highlights one way forward for the Charlottesville community. On September 17 the Charlottesville Pride Festival took place at Lee Park that includes an equestrian monument to Robert E. Lee. Though it was not sanctioned by the organization, at one point someone attached a bright multicolored boa around Traveler’s neck. It was eventually removed after a local resident complained to city officials. [click to continue…]


Daniel Crofts on Lincoln and the “Other” Thirteenth Amendment

This past week Daniel Crofts delivered a Banner Lecture at the Virginia Historical Society that focuses on the crux of his new book, Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery: The Other Thirteenth Amendment and the Struggle to Save the Union.

The book does an excellent job of clarifying the issues surrounding Lincoln’s position on an amendment to protect slavery in 1861, its place within the brief history of the Republican Party and the unraveling of the Union.