The first example comes from a recent Confederate Day celebration in Dixie County, Florida, which was hosted by the SCV Dixie Defender Camp 2086. The speaker is Al Mccray, who hosts a radio/talk show in the Tampa Bay area. This is a wonderful example of why the black Confederate argument has proven to be attractive to a certain number of African Americans. Listen to Mccray’s understanding of Lincoln’s emancipation policy. Behind the vague references to his position on colonization and his famous response to Horace Greeley in the spring of 1862 there is disillusionment with the mythology attached to the mythology/narrative of the “Great Emancipator.” It’s that same narrative that drove Lerone Bennett to write his famous essay for Ebony magazine and later, Forced Into Glory. The problem, of course, is that Mccray substitutes an incredibly vague account for this mythology.
More interesting, however, is the way in which this argument morphs into commentary about what Mccray and the SCV perceive as our present political situation. Mccray bounces back between history and politics with ease. In referring to slavery, Mccray suggests that “pretty soon we all will be slaves to the Washington administration” and later notes that the “Army of the Potomac is still around.” Finally, Mccray argues that we are losing more and more rights at the hands of a corrupt government. I suspect that both H.K. Edgerton and the economist, Walter Williams, also fit into this camp. All of them operate on the flawed assumption that while the Civil War led to a larger and more intrusive government in Washington, D.C. the Confederate government preserved a stricter state sovereignty and states rights. This is simply not true. In fact, most slaveowners viewed the continued attempt by the Confederate government to impress and later recruit slaves for military purposes as a violation of their sovereignty.
From Florida we travel to of all places, “30 Rock.” That’s right, thanks to one of my readers I learned that there is a reference to black Confederates in the episode “Fireworks” [season 1, episode 18]. The plot, involving Tracy Morgan, runs as follows:
“Tracy is served with paternity papers and insists that the child is not his. After the DNA test, Tracy learns that the child is not his but that he is a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson. The news angers Tracy and he talks to Toofer and Frank about it. Toofer learns that he is a direct descendant of Tobias Spurlock, a black Confederate soldier. Tracy and Toofer are upset about the news until Tracy has a dream in which Thomas Jefferson (portrayed by Jack Donaghy) appears to him on The Maury Povich Show. In the dream, Jefferson takes credit for “inventing” America and tells Tracy to forget his past. Tracy decides that he wants Toofer to write a movie about their experiences and Thomas Jefferson’s life. Tracy intends to play all of the parts in the movie, except he intends for the film to be a drama.”
Toofer is terribly distraught to learn that his ancestor Tobias Spurlock was a Black Confederate officer who is known by Civil War scholars as the “Confederate Monster”, who harbored the fugitive John Wilkes Booth following his assassination of Lincoln, and who personally knew Robert E. Lee, rather than a Union officer who knew Ulysses S. Grant as Toofer had always believed.
Unfortunately, I can’t find a clip of this particular segment. This is the first reference to black Confederates that I’ve seen in mainstream culture.
What do you do for your child after a full year of indoctrination in the public school system where they are taught that the Confederacy was evil and the war was about slavery? You send them to Summer Camp with the SCV for a “true” history of the war. According to an advertisement:
There is no question that the youth of today must run a terrible gantlet, and that many are struck down along the way by one or more of the politically correct influences which flourish in our schools…. Sometimes these youth are from the best homes with strong families and religious training. With even the most conscientious parenting, though, oftentimes (sic) in high school or college, even these best and brightest finally succumb to the liberal, politically correct view of history. This summer you can help turn the tide.
In addition to learning how to fire a cannon and parade/dance in period dress, campers learn lessons in the “Theology of the South During the War.” Unfortunately, I don’t think the kids will be reading Eugene Genovese’s The Mind of the Master Class or Michael OBrien’s Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860. Rather, it looks like much of the time will be spent undoing the damage of being taught that slavery was somehow central to understanding what the war was about. Perhaps the course will be taught by none other than H.K. Edgerton.
Specifically, the teens are exposed to the group’s contention that the Civil War was not about slavery, James said. Too many people have bought into that notion, he said, and wrongly exalt then-President Abraham Lincoln as wanting to end slavery. Lincoln was “a bigger racist than I ever knew,” James said. The truth is that the South was fighting for independence and the North was fighting to preserve the Union, James said. Slavery played into the tensions, he said, calling the practice “morally unacceptable.” But painting the war as being primarily about slavery falsely gives the North the “moral high ground” and makes it seem as if Confederate soldiers were fighting to maintain slavery, James said. He said slavery eventually would have ended on its own, as it has in other countries. “To attribute the war to something that wasn’t the cause isn’t right,” James said. “We try to tell it like it is.”
Rather than offer summer camp, I would suggest that the SCV organize their own schools. This way children will be completely removed from the dangers posed by our public schools.
Let’s see, what would that curriculum look like? For starters, Biology would be replaced with the course Stonewall Jackson taught at VMI.
Update: The interviews were conducted by the Palmetto Patriots with all the candidates and are available on the organization’s website. A wide range of issues were covered. McMaster discusses the flag in Part 2 at 2:55. Bauer comments on the flag in Part 2 at 4:50 after one of the interviewers admits that there is some crossover between the SCV and Palmetto Patriots. Barrett is a member of an SCV camp and in Part 1 at 2:25 pledged to defend the Confederate flag against “cultural genocide.” One of the interviewers also encouraged Barrett to resist calls to remove the statue of Ben Tillman from the statehouse. There is nothing surprising in any of this.
This is a wonderful example of a behind-the scenes-look at the way in which Civil War/Confederate heritage continues to shape politics. I’m not sure Nikki Haley, who recently won the Republican Gubernatorial Primary in South Carolina, knows anything about the American Civil War, but she is clearly being put through the ringer by an unknown group. I suspect that the interviewers are with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, but I can’t be sure. Haley reduces the war to a matter of “tradition vs. change” and is clearly doing her best not to offend. Around the 5 minute mark one of the interviewers demands to know Haley’s position on the ongoing debate about the Confederate flag and reminds her of their work to remove Governor Beasley for proposing to remove the flag from atop the statehouse.
I’m not sure if I am more upset about the complete lack of historical understanding by everyone in this video or that this is an issue that demands serious attention by our candidates for public office.
Black Confederate Soldiers has more of a professional look to it, but the information and commentary provided is as misleading as anything you will find online. You will find all of the standard accounts on the “History Facts” page as if to assume that serious history involves a simple listing of facts without any attempt at analysis or confirmation. The bibliography is nothing more than an assortment of neo-Confederate/Sons of Confederate Veterans propaganda that fails to draw any distinction between secondary and primary studies. The authors of this site invite readers to share their own sources on the subject.
Interestingly, both Kevin Weeks and Ann DeWitt are African American. DeWitt seems to be responsible for much, if not all, of the content of the website. As in the case of Edward C. Smith I get the sense that we are looking at another example of wanting to acknowledge the presence and importance of African Americans in our collective memory. And as I’ve said before, this is certainly understandable. In this case, however, there is something very personal at stake for DeWitt:
Born and raised in the south, I was taught forgiveness. (Matthew 18:21-22). During my research, I visited a 19th century church in Oxford, Georgia called “The Old Church.” Sitting in the front pew during a tour, I finally understood that one cannot completely understand the complexity of the American Civil War and its ties to slavery until there is complete forgiveness. The people I met on this journey gave an open reception and led me down the safest trails in obtaining the facts about Black Confederate Soldiers. For this, I am grateful.
Perhaps, Christian slaves forgave and picked up arms to fight for the little they acquired during their years on American soil. Not until we set aside our differences can we have the necessary dialog about everyone, regardless of color, family lineage, political, or military affiliation, who made tremendous sacrifice from the first shots fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861 until the the final surrender of General Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox Court House in April 1865.
I have no interest in critiquing what motivates Ms. DeWitt to explore American history and the history of race relations specifically. That said, there is something very honest about the above passage and I certainly sympathize with the ways in which understanding history can help to bring about understanding and reconciliation. Unfortunately, this site does little more than promote the same tired myths and moves us even further away from understanding how the war effected the master-slave relationship.