The History Channel will air pretty much anything related to history regardless of how nutty it is. However, it turns out that even the HC has standards, which apparently do not include the Georgia Division SCV’s series of videos on the Civil War. According to Stephen Clay McGehee (aka “Confederate Colonel”) “the History Channel received a complaint from a liberal blogger and Friday they reacted as liberals so often do – they have pulled the videos from their broadcast schedule.” Now, I just want to state for the record that I am not the “liberal blogger” who contacted the History Channel. Like I said, given the HC’s programming, I can’t think of a better place for these videos.
Over the past few weeks I’ve used Ann DeWitt’s website as a case study of what is wrong with the current debate about black Confederates as well as the pitfalls of doing online research on this specific subject – a fact that was confirmed this past week.
What most college professors will probably not share with their students: As you will find documented here [Petersburg Express] are hundreds of Black Confederate SOLDIERS from Petersburg Virginia. documented from just one Virginia city. And William and Mary is “just down the road” from Petersburg! Amazing! …. These are the stories that bring people together, not the Neo-Yankee version of the South that we are having to endure today. We could do with a lot less “presentism”!
A textbook distributed to Virginia fourth-graders says that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War — a claim rejected by most historians but often made by groups seeking to play down slavery’s role as a cause of the conflict.
The passage appears in “Our Virginia: Past and Present,” which was distributed in the state’s public elementary schools for the first time last month. The author, Joy Masoff, who is not a trained historian but has written several books, said she found the information about black Confederate soldiers primarily through Internet research, which turned up work by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Scholars are nearly unanimous in calling these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history. Virginia education officials, after being told by The Washington Post of the issues related to the textbook, said that the vetting of the book was flawed and that they will contact school districts across the state to caution them against teaching the passage.
“Just because a book is approved doesn’t mean the Department of Education endorses every sentence,” said spokesman Charles Pyle. He also called the book’s assertion about black Confederate soldiers “outside mainstream Civil War scholarship.” Continue reading “Black Confederates In Virginia Textbooks”→
The Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans is gearing up for the sesquicentennial with a series of commercials that will air on the History Channel in December. These videos will fit perfectly in between Ice Road Truckers, American Pickers, Pawn Stars and various documentaries about UFOs and Hitler’s Bunker. The first video offers an outline of what the war was about:
Men and women of the South courageously stood for liberty in the face of insurmountable odds. Is this meant for black and white southerners?
The South peacefully seceded just like the Founding Fathers did in 1776.
All the South wanted was to be left alone to govern itself.
Lincoln fought to maintain taxes and tariffs.
Men like Jackson, Forrest, and Lee fought valiantly and were often outnumbered 5 to 1. You would think that the Georgia Division would reference military leaders from their home state.
As I was going through the videos I realized that this series will make for a very interesting assignment in my Civil War Memory course, which I am teaching next trimester. I am going to split up the class into groups of two and assign a video to each group. Their assignment will be to critique the video by consulting relevant recent scholarship on their respective topics. Students will be responsible for surveying both the strengths and weakness of these videos. For instance, one of the videos on slavery goes into restrictions on free blacks in states like Indiana as well as offering a few points about the place of slavery in the North and involvement in the international slave trade. At the same time the video almost completely ignores the place of slavery in the South. The video on South Carolina’s secession makes no mention of its own Ordinance of Secession. They can write up an analysis and present it to the rest of the class or make a video response and upload it to YouTube. Thanks Georgia SCV.
It didn’t take long for Brag Bowling, the commander of the Virginia division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, to respond to Gov. Robert McDonnell’s announcement that he would discontinue the practice of designating April as Confederate History Month. Instead, the governor has decided to create a new designation that he calls, Civil War in Virginia Month. Unfortunately, Bowling’s response does little more than render his organization even more irrelevant on the eve of the Civil War Sesquicentennial:
“Our organization is terribly disappointed by this action,” Bowling told TPMmuckraker. “He succumbed to his critics, people who don’t support him anyway. And the vast majority of citizens of Virginia support Confederate History Month.” He said he had spoken with the governor’s office and told them the same thing. He said “Civil War In Virginia Month” is a poor substitute.
“Nobody’s ever been able to reason with me and tell me why we’re honoring Yankees in Virginia,” Bowling said. “The only northerners in Virginia were the ones that came to Virginia and killed thousands of Virginia citizens when they invaded.” He also defended against the charges of racism. “There was nothing racist about Confederate History Month. It was honoring Confederate soldiers who fought and died for their state,” he said, adding that the Sons will continue celebrating the month privately.
The problem with the criticism that the governor succumbed to his critics is that while it may apply to his initial retraction it doesn’t explain Friday’s announcement. And the charge that the governor is honoring “Yankees in Virginia” suggests that Bowling doesn’t understand an important aspect of Virginia Unionism. Bowling also fails to deal with the substance of McDonnell’s announcement. As I stated the other day, it was an incredibly thoughtful speech. The governor has decided that Virginia should make room for multiple narratives of its Civil War experience. The truth is that the change will not prevent the SCV or anyone from remembering the service and sacrifice of their Confederate ancestors. What the governor has put forward is a proclamation that acknowledges the rich Civil War history of this state and which has placed him in line with the work of the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission – a committee funded by Virginia taxpayers.
What I don’t understand is why the SCV doesn’t endorse McDonnell’s decision. What harm could come of it?