I have been giving this question some thought since our recent discussion surrounding the upcoming movie about Patrick Cleburne and the broader black Confederate narrative. As many of you know I’ve been committed to responding to some of the more outlandish claims in the news and on numerous websites. My goal has not been simply to deny these claims, but to work to steer the debate in a direction that may help us to better understand the complexity surrounding the question of how the Confederate war effort challenged the slave – master relationship as well as broader issues of race relations in the South. I feel comfortable in concluding that between these posts and the intelligent discussion that almost always ensues that this site offers the most thought provoking commentary to be found on this issue on the Web. That said, I am very much aware of its limitations.
First and foremost, Civil War Memory was never meant as a place to showcase my scholarship in a finished form on any subject nor was it meant to be considered as a digital history site. Yes, I regularly share ideas that I am working on and excerpts from finished projects, but I am not doing history here in a strict sense. I’ve always thought of my blog as a place to share ideas about teaching, the books I am reading, the news items I come across and a host of other concerns. Some of these threads are relatively short while others are quite extensive. In other words, I think it would be a mistake to treat this site as a legitimate secondary source of any kind.
That said, I do think that the extended thread on black Confederates offers the interested reader a great deal to consider. A number of posts explore the terms employed in this debate while others counter claims made about specific individuals. In fact, we’ve not had one example of a supposed black Confederate hold up under close scrutiny. I want to thank those of you who have helped to hunt down the necessary archival materials, work that should have been carried out by those making the claims.
Still, as I pointed out there are limitations to what a blog can do in addressing these issues. Most importantly, blogs easily lend themselves to partisan bickering since they can be attributed to an individual or organization. In the eyes of most observers all is equal on the Web. Anyone and everyone can establish their own website and/or comment on a subject regardless of their background and competence. That is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve met some very talented and smart people through this site, but I’ve also been forced to deal with outright incompetency. The black Confederate issue provides us with a case study of the pros and cons of the dangers and possibilities associated with the Web. Continue reading