This morning I learned that my co-authored essay on Silas Chandler with Myra Chandler Sampson will be published in the February 2012 issue of Civil War Times magazine. This just so happens to be the magazine’s 50th anniversary issue and I couldn’t be more pleased that we will be part of the celebration.
This little project has been in the works for quite some time, but it is one of the most important to me. The essay grew out of a series of blog posts over the past year that I hoped would begin to correct the historical record as it relates to the subject of black Confederates. Better yet, it led me to Myra Chandler Sampson, who happens to be Silas’s great granddaughter. Myra discovered me through the blog in the course of her own tireless quest to correct the historical record of her ancestor. She placed enough trust in me to send along a wonderful collection of archival sources, which greatly enriched my own understanding of Silas’s life as well as the rest of the family’s history through the 20th century.
Between the upcoming History Detectives episode on Silas and our own article it looks like we are one step closer to Myra’s goal of honoring her ancestor in a way that more closely reflects the available historical record.
This morning I learned that I will be speaking on the subject of black Confederates at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which will take place in Richmond in October. Thanks to National Park Service Ranger, Emmanuel Dabney, for putting together an excellent panel that will offer different perspectives on this subject. Proponents of this myth, who rush to cite Ervin Jordan as a supporter, ought to carefully read his session description.
It ought to be a well-attended session and the discussion will, no doubt, be entertaining. The conference as a whole promises to be quite interesting given that the theme is the Civil War and the Sesquicentennial. We don’t have a specific time for the session, but I will be sure to pass it on as more information becomes available.
Continue reading “Black Confederates at the ASALH”
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.
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The PBS show, History Detectives, has completed filming an episode on Silas Chandler in West Point, Mississippi. A few weeks ago I mentioned that I would be taking part in this show, but I recently learned that producers decided to take the story in a different direction and would not need my assistance. I was a bit disappointed, but ultimately I just hope they get the story right. Well, I have it on good authority that not only did they correct the mistakes made on the Antiques Road Show episode, but that investigators uncovered additional material that puts the nail in the coffin of the story that the Sons of Confederate Veterans and others have spread on their websites and other materials for years. The show is scheduled to air in July or August.
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Matt Isham has published a thoughtful post in which he assesses the black Confederate controversy over at A People’s Contest. While I appreciate Matt’s positive assessment of the attention that I’ve given the subject over the past few years, his critique misses the mark. Consider the following:
Of course, the person who has done yeoman work on this issue is Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory. He has challenged black Confederate mythmakers with vigor and gusto for several years now and shows no signs of slowing down, as he will be publishing a book on this subject soon (find his latest post on the topic here). Levin consistently has pointed out the basic historical illiteracy of the mythmakers, particularly their inability to understand how 19th century Americans conceived of citizens, slaves, and the citizen-soldier.
This, of course, is all well and good, especially the heavy lifting Mr. Levin has done on this issue. After all, it is one of the most important aspects of our mission as educators to expose the public to the fraudulent nature of such myths as the black Confederate story. I wonder, however, if historians are not in danger of sinking down into the mire of this debate by continuing to pay attention to every continued claim from the mythmakers and supporters and every rebuttal in the blogs and the news media. To be honest, I’m not sure where I stand on this, but I feel as though this debate is beginning to yield diminishing returns. Surely, the public has been educated about the debate and the shortcomings of the black Confederate thesis. Carrying on the debate with members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other true believers yields nothing, for they are resolved to support their position regardless of whatever evidence and logical analysis is marshaled to expose the fallacy of their belief.
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