Black Confederates to the Rescue… Again

I’ve been writing about this subject for much too long to be surprised by the emergence of the black Confederate narrative by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in response to last Wednesday’s shooting in Charleston. Black Confederate soldiers have been coming to the SCV’s and other Confederate heritage supporters rescue since the late 1970s, following the release of the popular mini-series, “Roots.”

This particular incident is unfortunately tailor-made for this myth. In a statement released by the South Carolina Division, SCV they maintain that neither the Confederate flag nor the history of the Confederacy has anything to do with the reasons behind Dylan Roof’s actions.

Historical fact shows there were Black Confederate soldiers. These brave men fought in the trenches beside their White brothers, all under the Confederate Battle Flag. This same Flag stands as a memorial to these soldiers on the grounds of the SC Statehouse today. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a historical honor society, does not delineate which Confederate soldier we will remember or honor. We cherish and revere the memory of all Confederate veterans. None of them, Black or White, shall be forgotten.

The historical record suggests that Confederate soldiers never acknowledged the existence of black comrades in arms during the war, though thousands of slaves performed a wide range of functions in the armies and elsewhere. They certainly didn’t acknowledge their presence while massacring black Union soldiers at Fort Pillow or the Crater and there were no signs of black soldiers while rounding up hundreds of fugitive and escaped slaves during the Gettysburg Campaign in the summer of 1863. Continue reading “Black Confederates to the Rescue… Again”

The Committee Speaks

This is the first interview that I’ve seen featuring members of Washington & Lee’s “Committee,” which last year successfully petitioned their school’s administration to take down Confederate flags in Lee Chapel and to think carefully about the school’s connection to Confederate history and slavery.

I applaud these students for their commitment to making their campus a more hospitable place for African Americans and for other students who are concerned with questions about the place of the past in the present. One of the two students interviewed closed with the following: “I know that someone is going to feel more comfortable by what we did and that is enough.”

This video is part of a larger project on how we remember and commemorate the Civil War.

The Continued Appeal of the Lost Cause

I frequent a number of Facebook pages that attract people who, for one reason or another, cling tightly to the Lost Cause narrative. You will not be surprised to learn that one of my favorites is called, “Black Confederates in the Civil War.” One of the reasons I visit is because members regularly post excerpts from Confederate Veteran and other publications and even primary sources from websites such as Fold3. It’s like having an army of researchers at your disposal. I’ve collected hundreds of such sources for my book project.

These postings are rarely accompanied by any attempt at interpretation. It’s understood by the members of the group that the postings offer undeniable proof of the existence of black Confederate soldiers. One of the more frequent posters in recent months has been Teresa Roane, who at one time worked as an archivist at the Museum of the Confederacy and is now apparently working for the United Daughters of the Confederacy. A few years ago Ms. Roane sent me a package of requested materials related to camp servants and impressed slaves from the MOC.

You may find it interesting that she is African American. Continue reading “The Continued Appeal of the Lost Cause”

Because Nothing Says Memorial Day Like a Confederate Flag Burning

Update: Click here for more information on scheduled events as well as a link for LiveStreaming.

Artist John Sims and Julian Chambliss, chairman of the Department of History and Africa and African-American Studies program at Rollins College in Florida, will spend this Memorial Day burning a Confederate flag. The event, which supposedly will take place in all of the former Confederate states, is being organized by John Sims, who is known for his artistic renderings of the flag. As you might expect the event is getting a good deal of media attention, but all I see is a lack of originality and a good deal of laziness. Continue reading “Because Nothing Says Memorial Day Like a Confederate Flag Burning”

Confederate Heritage is Alive and Well in Brazil

The gradual erosion of open celebrations of Confederate heritage throughout the United States stands in sharp contrast with a vibrant memory for the residents of Santa Bárbara d’Oeste and neighboring Americana, in Brazil’s south-eastern São Paulo state. Following Confederate defeat somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 white Southerners left for the promise of land and even the possibility of one again attaining slave-owning status in a foreign country. For close to thirty years the residents of this community have organized a celebration of their Confederate roots.

The images are right out of the Civil War centennial era, including the uniforms, dresses, dance, and large Confederate flags. All of it has a campy feel at best. Their memory of the Confederacy and the South is framed by a love for buttermilk biscuits and the “Dukes of Hazzard.” Very little attention appears to be focused on their ancestors themselves, many of whom were absorbed into Brazilian culture shortly after arrival. In fact, it’s not even clear what percentage of male immigrants actually served in the Confederate army. It also makes me wonder just how many of their ancestors wanted to put the whole Confederate experiment behind them and move on with their lives. Continue reading “Confederate Heritage is Alive and Well in Brazil”