Category Archives: Teaching

Setting the Record Straight on Black Confederates (sort of)

This morning I was interviewed on The Takeaway Radio Show by John Hockenberry and Celesete Headlee on the subject of black Confederates.  It was a productive interview and I am pleased that the producers decided to follow up yesterday’s show by addressing some of the more problematic claims made as well as broader misconceptions.

Unfortunately, the time went by way too fast.   I would have been happy to listen to any number of people on this issue, but of course, I am pleased that they asked me to join them this morning.  For additional reading, I highly recommend Bruce Levine’s, Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War and Stephanie McCurry’s, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South.  You may also want to take a look at my Black Confederate Resources page, which provides an overview of what I’ve written on the subject on this blog.  You will also find a great deal of commentary on this site about Earl Ijames, who was mentioned in the course of the interview.  Click here for the post on Ijames and Henry L. Gates.

Challenging the Black Confederate Myth on the Radio

This morning The Takeaway radio show, which is a national news radio program produced by WNYC, New York Times radio and the BBC, aired a segment on the subject of black Confederates.  It was incredibly disappointing and a number of people, including Ta-Nehisi Coates, brought attention to it.  The producers decided to do a follow-up show and a number of people suggested that they get in touch with me.  Well, I just finished talking with one of the producers and we are set to do a live interview tomorrow morning at 7:20am.   We began our discussion on the issue of numbers, but I quickly moved the conversation to the more substantial issues of how African Americans were viewed by the Confederate military and government as well as slaveholders.  Hopefully, we can provide some context for this misunderstood topic and move beyond some of the more  statements of Nelson Winbush and Stan Armstrong.  I will provide a link to the interview if you don’t have a chance to listen live.

What I Will Miss

This last trimester I am working closely with a very talented senior, who is experimenting with historical fiction set during the Civil War.  The story is set in Virginia and told through the eyes of a young Virginia girl.  We decided that it might be helpful to base the story on some primary sources so today the two of us headed on over to the Special Collections Department at the University of Virginia.  We decided to take a look at Sara Ann Graves Strickler’s wartime diary, which is incredibly rich.  I’ve known about the diary for some time, but this was my first opportunity to read it for myself.  It was a real treat having the opportunity to share that inexpressible joy that comes with holding an important piece of history.  As I like to say, in those brief moments time collapses.  We took turns reading random entries to one another and looking to see if Sara addressed specific events during the war.  Diaries such as Sara’s get us up close to individual lives and force us to confront the contingency that defined their lives and many of the same hopes, dreams, and fears that animate our own.  For my student that connection was reinforced in a shared interest in the French language and literature, the references of which were sprinkled throughout the diary.

Interpreting Homer’s “Near Andersonville”

Actress Tia James portrays the enslaved African American woman represented in a painting in the Newark Museum’s collection. “Near Andersonville” was created by famed American artist Winslow Homer in 1866. The painting depicts the young woman on the ‘threshold’ of the future as she considers her freedom and views her liberators (Union soldiers) being led off to the notorious Andersonville Prison in Georgia. Homer presented an anonymous figure, but Ms. James researched published narratives of enslaved people to create her own character named Charity. Charity tells her story and comments on the dangers of the Underground Railroad, facing fear, and the hope to reunite with her husband, Walter. The gourds presented in the picture are symbols of the North Star (the guide for runaways) and the video includes a rendition of the folksong “Follow the Drinking Gourd”. The video is a component of the Newark Museum’s curriculum, “Civil War@150,” a teaching resource recognizing the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

If you are looking for more on the painting you will want to take a look at Peter H. Wood’s concise study, Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War (Harvard University Press).

Library of Congress to Archive Civil War Memory

This morning I received the following email address from the Library of Congress.  I have a great deal of control over the content of this site because it is self-hosted, but what happens after I am no longer around?  Well, it looks like interested readers will have permanent access to the content of this site for a very long time and that makes me very happy.  I love the idea of this site being saved as a point of entry on how the Civil War was remembered at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

The United States Library of Congress has selected your website for inclusion in the historic collection of Internet materials related to the American Civil War Sesquicentennial.  The Library of Congress preserves the Nation’s cultural artifacts and provides enduring access to them. The Library’s traditional functions, acquiring, cataloging, preserving and serving collection materials of historical importance to the Congress and the American people to foster education and scholarship, extend to digital materials, including websites.

We request your permission to collect your website and add it to the Library’s research collections. In order to properly archive this URL, and potentially other URLs of interest on your site, we would appreciate your permission to archive both this URL and other portions of your site. With your permission, the Library of Congress or its agent will engage in the collection of content from your website at regular intervals over time and make this collection available to researchers both at Library facilities and, by special arrangement, to scholarly research institutions.  In addition, the Library hopes that you share its vision of preserving Internet materials and permitting researchers from across the world to access them.

Our Web Archives are important because they contribute to the historical record, capturing information that could otherwise be lost. With the growing role of the Web as an influential medium, records of historic events could be considered incomplete without materials that were “born digital” and never printed on paper. For more information about these Web Archive collections, please visit our website.

[I will provide more information as it becomes available.]