books

Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth w/The University of North Carolina Press, Fall 2019

One hundred and fifty years later the American Civil War remains a contested narrative. Searching For Black Confederates peels back layers of history and myth, uncovering the central role that slaves played in the Confederate war effort, the complex relationships forged in the cauldron of war between master and slave, and how the institution unraveled. More importantly, Searching For Black Confederates points to the continued struggle that Americans face in coming to terms with the history and legacy of the Civil War, slavery and racial injustice.

This is the first book length study to explore the evolution of the myth that thousands of blacks fought as soldiers in the Confederate army. Topics explored include the place of the loyal camp slave narrative in the Lost Cause, monument dedications, and the debate surrounding slave pensions at the turn of the century. This book will be published later this year. You can read the book proposal for more information about this project

Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder w/University Press of Kentucky [2012 (paperback, 2017)]

Crater

The Battle of the Crater is known as one of the Civil War’s bloodiest struggles—a Union loss with combined casualties of 5,000, many of whom were members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Union Brigadier General Edward Ferrero. The battle was a violent clash of forces as Confederate soldiers fought for the first time against African American soldiers. After the Union lost the battle, these black soldiers were captured and subject both to extensive abuse and the threat of being returned to slavery in the South. Yet, despite their heroism and sacrifice, these men are often overlooked in public memory of the war.

In Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder, Kevin M. Levin analyzes the shared recollections of a battle that epitomizes the way Americans have chosen to remember, or in many cases forget, the presence of the USCT. The book focuses specifically on how the racial component of the war’s history was portrayed at various points during the 140 years following its conclusion, illuminating the social changes and challenges experienced by the nation as a whole. Remembering The Battle of the Crater gives the members of the USCT a newfound voice in history. University Press of Kentucky, 2012.

Reviews

“In this stunning and well-researched book, Kevin Levin catches the new waves of the study of memory, black soldiers, and the darker underside of the Civil War as well as anyone has. That horrible day at the Crater in Petersburg, its brutal racial facts and legacies, all tangled in the weeds of Confederate Lost Cause lore, have never been exposed like this. Levin is both superb scholar and public historian, showing us a piece of the real war that does now get into the books, as well as into site interpretation.”— David W. Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Interpreting the Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites w/Rowman & Littlefield (2017)

Public historians working at museums and historic sites focused on the Civil War era are tasked with interpreting a period of history that remains deeply controversial. Many visitors have strong connections to historic sites such as battlefields and artifacts as well as harbor strong convictions about the cause of the war, its consequences and the importance of slavery. Interpreting the Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites surveys how museums and historic sites approached these challenges and others during the Civil War sesquicentennial (2011-2015). In doing so, this book offers museums and history professionals strategies to help shape conversations with local communities, develop exhibits and train interpreters. With the ongoing controversy surrounding the display of the Confederate battle flag and monuments, there has never been a more opportune moment to look critically at how the Civil War has been interpreted and why it continues to matter to so many Americans.

Reviews

“Practitioners of history at Civil War sites and museums will delight in this book. Kevin Levin and his team of essayists provide most useful examples that will assist interpreters (and students) in making sense of the War and its legacies.” − Dwight T. Pitcaithley, Former Chief Historian, National Park Service

“Kevin Levin has assembled an impressive cast of practicing public historians whose extensive experience in the field has translated into a series of engaging articles that will appeal to practitioners as well as to students of the Civil War.” — Peter S. Carmichael, Fluhrer Professor of History and director, Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College

“By allowing practitioners’ voices to come through clearly in each chapter, Interpreting the Civil War builds a highly authentic product, and more importantly, provides a shining example of how collaboration among professionals at museums and historic sites is a vital component of strengthening the field.” — The Public Historian