Today I woke up to learn that historian Phillip Thomas Tucker is slated to publish a book on black Confederate soldiers next month with America Through Time publishing, a division of Arcadia and The History Press. This is any author’s worst nightmare. Here I spent years trying to complete a book manuscript on the subject only to be beaten to the punch by another author. Well, having read the book description I am not too concerned. Continue reading
Last week the Southern Poverty Law Center released the results of a survey it conducted on the current state of how the history of slavery is taught in our nation’s schools. The report is well worth reading and offers a number of important insights into the challenges of teaching what is one of the most difficult subjects, especially at the pre-collegiate level. I am certainly not in a position to challenge the SPLC’s findings, but I do believe that the report as a whole needs to be placed in a broader historical context. Continue reading
Last summer I delivered a talk as part of an NEH program at the Georgia Historical Society on the Civil War and historical memory. One of the highlights of the visit was the tour we took of Savannah’s historically black communities. The most memorable stop for me was the federal housing project in Yamacraw Village, which includes an administration building that is a replica of a famous plantation home. Continue reading
I have to admit to being slow in fully embracing the new world of podcasts. It’s only been in the last year that I have learned to appreciate this particular format. One of my favorite new podcasts is Uncivil, which explores different aspects of Civil War memory and other unusual or obscure narratives from the period. The hosts are quite entertaining and the guests are always thoughtful.
Last month I helped out with a new episode, titled “The Portrait,” on the black Confederate myth. Only a few minutes were used from our hour-long interview, but much of it was integrated into the overall narrative. The episode focuses on a former member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who was once seduced by this narrative and Myra Chandler Sampson, a descendant of Silas Chandler. The episode is not yet listed on their webpage, but you can click through in the “subscribe” section and listen on Spotify, iTunes, and the other providers listed.
The producers did an excellent job overall and I thank them for the opportunity to participate.
Glory is still one of my favorite movies, but like all Hollywood productions, there are places where it falls short in explaining the history or providing the proper historical context. Few Hollywood movies have had more of an influence on how we remember the Civil War and, specifically, the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, along with its young colonel, Robert Gould Shaw. Continue reading
Reports out of Charleston today indicate that the city’s commission to add a contextual panel to the John C. Calhoun has been finalized. Not surprising, this has been a contentious process from the beginning. It ended with the decision to remove what some people believe to be the most important reference to the monument as a “relic of the crime against humanity.” Continue reading
I suspect there are a few of you out there who will be happy to hear that today I finished my book project on the history of Confederate camp slaves and the evolution of the myth of the black Confederate soldier for the University of North Carolina Press’s. Searching for Black Confederate Soldiers: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth is just under 70,000 words and 300 double-spaced pages.
To be completely honest, I am at a loss for words right now. This project should have been completed much earlier. As many of you know, I have set this project aside more times than I care to acknowledge. On the other hand, the delay has given me the opportunity to explore the black Confederate myth in connection to the ongoing debate about Confederate iconography. There turned out to be a good deal of material to work with. One of things that kept me going is that in the end I knew that I would regret not finishing this book.
We are still a long way from an actual book. The good people at UNC Press must decide if they even want it. Assuming it gets through the front gate, the manuscript will then go out to an independent reader(s) and will be returned with extensive comments. I am very much looking forward to this process. One of the things that I desperately need is a set of new eyes to review what I have done. I benefited from my book group here in Boston with the earlier chapters, but I need people to look at the manuscript in its entirety and to point out things that I missed and where the argument and narrative can be improved.
I have heard nothing but great things about the editorial staff at UNC Press. I am also looking forward to working with the editors of the Civil War America series. Peter Carmichael, Caroline Janney, and Aaron Sheehan-Dean are all talented historians and I have been the beneficiary of their advice and editorial review on previous projects.
Thanks to all of you for your continued patience. I will certainly keep you up to date as we move through the next stages.
Bryant Gumbel woke up today believing that his great-grandfather briefly volunteered as a soldier in the Confederate army. Since the airing of Finding Your Roots on Tuesday evening tens of thousands of Americans now believe that the Confederate government recruited black soldiers into the army as early as the first two years of the war.
No one denies that mistakes will be made when doing historical research, but this is a different kind of mistake altogether. Americans are once again divided over the legacy of the Civil War and how it is remembered in public spaces throughout much of the former Confederacy. The staff should have been aware of this and taken extra steps to ensure that their research is sound. Continue reading