Earlier today I received an email from a reader who wondered if I had any regret about sharing a blog post whose author intended not to be read. It’s a reasonable question and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to thinking twice before posting. But here’s the deal. If the post in question reminded us of anything it’s that the delete button is a myth. You can make information published to the Internet more difficult to find, but, with few exceptions, it cannot be permanently erased. All of us who interact on the Internet through various social media platforms must understand this before leaving a comment, posting an image and before blogging. Continue reading
You didn’t really think that I would allow the publication of a column on Silas Chandler in The New York Times to pass without comment, did ya? Thanks to Ronald Coddington for bringing the story of Silas (r) and Andrew (l) to the Disunion blog. [Ron and I shared a stage last year at the Virginia Festival of the Book to discuss our research.] As many of you know it is the story of Silas and Andrew that launched me down the road of taking the myth of the black Confederate soldier seriously. My relationship with Myra Chandler Sampson and our subsequent essay published in Civil War Times about her famous ancestor reinforced for me on so many levels why it is important that we correct these stories of loyal and obedient slaves that continue serve the interests of a select few. Continue reading
Update: I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that the class in question is being taught by Steve Kantrowitz. Professor Kantrowitz is the author of More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889, which was my pick as the best history book of 2012. The book is of particular interest to me given that it focuses on the black community here in Boston.
For the past few days a group of students from the University of Wisconsin has been scouring my posts on black Confederates. I think it’s safe to say that collectively they have read every post on the subject. I don’t know much at all about why they have been assigned my blog or what they are getting out of it beyond a few tweets from one of the students. If I am not mistaken one of the students left a comment on an old post.
@kevinlevin We’ve got an assignment using your blog posts in our civil war-recons. history class, but what are your thoughts on Paisley?
— Ben Zeece (@zeece81) April 10, 2013
As an educator this makes my day.
Hey guys. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything related to the relevant history, the public debate, and the role of the Internet in spreading this myth. I am more than happy to talk with your class via Skype if interested. As a historian, blogger, and educator I would love to know what you are getting out of this exercise. Good luck.
Tomorrow I hope to finish up an essay that I was asked to write for one of the Civil War journals over a year ago about the the influence of digital technologies on how we write and research history and how that has fueled the myth of the black Confederate soldier. At the end of the essay I take a moment to suggest ways that academic and public historians as well as history educators generally might address this myth, not by jumping head first into the very places where these emotional debates are taking place, but by re-considering what it means to educate the public at a time when everyone can be his/her own historian on the Web. Continue reading
One of my favorite sites is a Facebook page made up of folks who style themselves as defenders of Southern Heritage. There isn’t much serious history being discussed. Once in a while someone will ask for a quote’s source or the reference to a particular book, but more often than not members simply reassure one another of their own worth in the continuing struggle against folks, who they believe are out to destroy all things “Southern”. Here is a wonderful example that begins with a posting by Ann DeWitt, aka “Royal Diadem”.