In response to a recent post on the subject of black Confederates regular reader Mike Simons had this to say:
We see blacks mentions in all areas of the war but no defentive evidence has been found. I believe as I have read about the Confederate Marines the evidence was lost in the fog of war. I hope someone some where will find the smoking gun to prove these pictures and letters right.
Mike then went on to add the following after I asked why he had a need to see these stories vindicated:
Because I want all those old colored people who told me about their kin fighting for the South to be vindicated in the academic world that thus far had derailed and denyed the truth of their oral history.
Well, here is your chance Mike. I would like you to cite at least one historian in the “academic world” who has, in your view, “derailed” and “denied” the truth of the stories that you believe prove the existence of black Confederate soldiers. In addition to a name, I would also like a reference to the book or article as well as the page numbers. Finally, I would appreciate an analysis of the text in question that demonstrates an attempt to deny the past. Take your time and be careful because permission to participate in this community is at stake. I am tired of these off the cuff comments that engage in sweeping generalizations and condemnations of historians without any attempt to support said charges.
The 2009 Cliopatria Awards were announced yesterday evening as part of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. The awards are well deserved and reflect a format that remains vibrant and creative. [Note: Keep in mind that each category is decided by an independent committee, which explains why Georgian London won two awards.]
Best Group Blog: Curious Expeditions
Best Individual Blog: Georgian London
Best New Blog: Georgian London
Best Post: Rachel Leow’s “Curating the Oceans: The Future of Singapore’s Past,” A Historian’s Craft, 14 July 2009.
Best Series of Posts: Heather Cox Richardson’s “Richardson’s Rules of Order,” The Historical Society Blog, 20 March 2009.
Best Writer: The Headsman, at Executed Today.
Somehow I became a topic of concern over at Michael Aubrecht’s blog because I dared to comment on the Richard Kirkland story during the same week that a new website and film preview were introduced. I find it funny that both Aubrecht and Richard Williams make a point of minimizing my influence even as they spend their time worrying about what I write. Anyway, this little gem of a comment from Williams made my day:
“Outside of his classroom and blog, he has very little influence.”
Precisely Michael. Dana Shoaf of Civil War Times said in an interview a while back that, “The problem with academic historians is they are not reaching a wide popular audience.” I’ve personally noticed that academics, particularly those like Levin, talk mostly to themselves. Shoaf further noted, “people often are reluctant to read social history because they think it is boring.” Levin is a “social historian” and a self-proclaimed “activist historian.” That limits his influence and impact. Moreover, Levin’s (and many of his followers) constant impugning and mocking of Confederate heritage and history turns a lot of people in the “popular audience” category off, which even further narrows his influence.
In reference to the Richard Kirkland documentary that is slated for release in the near future, let me just say that I wish the people involved all the success in the world. No doubt, they put a great amount of time into this project and I am sure that it will find an enthusiastic audience. As I stated in my first post in the series, I decided to write about it after reading Peter Carmichael’s recent Fredericksburg commemoration talk in which he referenced Kirkland. That led me to what I thought was an interesting essay on some of the sources for the story that I featured as a guest post. That, in turn, led to a pretty good discussion. I guess I never realized that raising questions about a popular story in our collective memory of the Civil War would be such a problem.
By the way, Richard, Dana Shoaf is featuring one of my articles in the next issue of Civil War Times.
It’s time for a little break. I need to see a man about finishing an essay and a book manuscript. Enjoy the Holidays!