Thanks to Garry Adelman and Nicole Osier of the Civil War Trust for sending along reviews of my two presentations, which I gave at their annual Teacher Institute in Nashville two weeks ago. I assume they took out the negative reviews so as not to upset me. All kidding aside, I couldn’t be more pleased with the feedback. I gave two presentations. The first was a tutorial on digital media literacy in the classroom – specifically the need to teach our students how to access and assess online information. I used a couple of black Confederate websites as a case study. Here are a few reviews.
“Excellent presentation. I have been waiting for a session like this.”
“As a new teacher, I am still grasping how to teach using the internet. This was very helpful!”
“Can’t wait to share this talk with my fellow teachers.”
“I have never had any formal training on evaluating sites – this was so helpful.”
My second talk focused on how to use the movie, “Glory” in the classroom. I focused specifically on the kinds of questions that can be raised in class that asks students to think critically about the intersection of Hollywood and history. Here is what the participants had to say.
“Fascinating presentation – will take a lot of this into my classroom. Well done!”
“Kevin Levin was a good presenter who responded wonderfully to participant questions and comments. This workshop will certainly impact how I use Glory and other movies in my classroom.”
“Entertaining and thought-provoking. Let’s have more like this good give and take between presenter and attendees.”
“Absolutely stellar session. We need more of this type of session!!”
This is one of my favorite talks to give. I am currently working on an essay on Civil War movies for an upcoming issue of the OAH’s Magazine of History, which is being edited by Carol Sheriff.
Please let me know if I can help with your teacher workshop or any other event that involves k-12 history educators. Sharing with my fellow teachers is the most important work that I do professionally. Click here for a list of upcoming talks.
We all know that certain Civil War narratives die hard, none more so than the black Confederate myth. While it will continue to spread on the Web and rear its ugly head from time to time in various popular forums it will never gain legitimacy in our most respected private and public historical institutions. This fact has nothing to do with a conspiracy to conceal the facts from the general public or some vaguely defined liberal bias and everything to do with what we know about this subject.
Thanks once again to Andy Hall at Dead Confederates for once again taking the time to expose the house of cards that is the myth of the black Confederate soldier. This is another example of a website that purports to be educational, but is really nothing more than a list of names by state, most of which are clearly referenced as slaves – both body servants and impressed. There is almost no serious analysis nor is there any indication of the methodology utilized to order, catalog, and interpret the men listed. Somehow the facts are suppose to speak for themselves, whatever that means. The site is called Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education (SHAPE) and is run by George Purvis. You will also find such lists on other websites along with the same shoddy or limited analysis.
It’s one of those quotes that sticks out like a sore thumb on many black Confederate websites: “When you eliminate the black Confederate soldier, you’ve eliminated the history of the South.” The only problem is that if you search for this quote Online you run into any number of problems not the least of which is authorship. Let’s take a quick tour.
The quote was posted today at the Southern Heritage Preservation Facebook Page and attributed to Robert E. Lee in 1864. Carl Roden responded with a correction: “Actually it wasn’t Robert E. Lee who said that, it was historian, Erwin L. Jordan, Jr. who did good work on telling the story of Black Confederates and their service…its still a good quote none the less.”
Over at the 37th Texas website the quote is attributed to Dr. Leonard Haynes, an African-American professor at Southern University.
An Online search for the quote will yield page after page of websites that apparently have cut and pasted the passage. Most of them attribute the quote to Professor Haynes. What you will not find, however, is a single reference to the source of the quote. There are no references to any publications on the subject or even a speech in which he may have made the claim. The claim of authorship seems to be based on nothing more than that has been cut and pasted countless times. If you are looking for an example of why an uneducated search on the Internet is so dangerous look no further.
So, who is Leonard Haynes? Start with this biography of the man [and here]. He earned a Ph.D in higher education and served in the Department of Education during both Bush administrations. Dr. Haynes sounds like an interesting guy, but I can find nothing that points to a single publication or presentation on the subject. Is there any evidence that he has ever written anything about the Civil War let alone the subject of black Confederates?
A few days ago I mentioned that I was in contact with a 7th grade history teacher in Boston, who wanted to introduce the subject of black Confederates as part of a unit on the Civil War. Well, today the instructor reported back with a detailed overview of the lesson. I think it’s a wonderful example of how this subject, along with the related issue of media literacy, can be introduced at the middle school level. A number of school districts in Virginia have had difficulty addressing the recent scandal involving the 4th grade history textbook that included false claims about the service of slaves in the Confederate army. This need not be the case. In fact, it’s a golden opportunity to address some of the fundamental misconceptions of the war as well as the veracity of the sources of these claims. Here is an example of a teacher making a difference.
Again, Kevin, I owe you tremendous thanks for your guidance on this topic; your suggestion to follow the UVA lead on “Retouching History” along with your own coverage of the websites purporting to educate the online community about Black Confederates were invaluable. Here’s a detailed overview of what we’ve been up to:
1) For homework last Thursday, I asked kids to conduct some research into the topic of Blacks fighting for the Confederacy. In case you want to see how I framed the question, here’s the text of the email I sent them:
During the flag project, Heather sent a representative of the Sons of Confederate Veterans an email asking for his perspective on the Confederate flag. In Mr. Barrow’s response, he mentioned that one way to show that the flag is not necessarily a symbol of slavery is to consider that Blacks actually fought for the Confederacy; if this was the case, he reasoned, how could the cause of the South been to preserve slavery?
This presents an interesting opportunity. Let’s figure out if he is correct in his statement that large numbers of Blacks fought for (not against) the South. Your homework, then, is to conduct about a half an hour of research into the topic of Blacks fighting for the South.