Here is another very touching and informative episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” featuring Lionel Ritchie. Ritchie searches for his great grandfather, J.L. Brown, and discovers that he applied for a pension based on his presence as a servant to Morgan W. Brown, who served in the Confederate army. Brown, it turns out, may have been his father or half brother. The historian who assists him is none other than Ervin Jordan. It is entirely possible that parts of this scene were edited, but Jordan makes no claims about this man’s loyalty to the cause or anything related to service as a soldier. It would have been helpful if they had included some kind of explanation as to why these pensions were given. What we do learn is that Brown’s relationship with his father/half brother must have been a complex one and certainly difficult for a descendant to understand and ultimately come to terms with. What we do know is that this man was not a soldier. It is just this space between master and slave that I hope to explore in my own study of black camp servants and “black Confederates.” This is an episode worth watching in its entirety.
Lionel Ritchie’s Black Confederate Ancestor
Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth
“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History