Black Confederates in Massachusetts?

I haven’t done a Civil War Roundtable talk in some time, but I almost always enjoy the experience, especially the Q&A with folks who share my passion for this history.  Today I accepted an invitation from the North Worcester County Civil War Roundtable to give a talk on black Confederates.  The talk is scheduled for October 11.  I couldn’t be more pleased as this will be my first talk in my new home of Massachusetts.  My talk is going to explore the evolution of the black Confederate narrative over the past few decades through a close look at the story of Silas Chandler.  I am also going to talk about the perils of digital sources, which I recently explored in my NYTs op-ed piece.

One of the things I worried about was moving to a place outside of my main interest in the Civil War, but I am now much more confident that I can find outlets in which to share my fascination with the history of the South and the Confederacy.  Perhaps I can establish myself as the go-to guy on certain topics, especially during the next few years.  I am hoping to schedule a few more talks on this subject at least through the next year or two.  As soon as I get established in Boston the plan is to finish up the black Confederate book.  I’ve been collecting source material and sketching out ideas.  While I want to write a scholarly study I also want to explore how this narrative has played out in popular culture.  Think of it as: academic study meets “Confederates in the Attic”.  I am hoping to work with one of the major publishers on this one.  Once I finish this book I am going to look into writing something about the Robert Gould Shaw memorial in Boston.

Upcoming Talk on Black Confederates:

“Searching for Black Confederates in History and Memory” Historical Society of Western Virginia, Roanoke, Virginia, April 2011.

“Black Confederates and Media Literacy in the Classroom” Civil War Preservation Trust Annual Teachers Institute, July 2011.

8 comments… add one
  • Sarah A. Adler Mar 12, 2011 @ 14:27

    Indeed, Prof. Smith is not a historian in the traditional sense. I would say he is more of a folklorist than anything. He has no formal post-secondary education, but knows a lot about a lot of things through experience. He’s not an academic though, and I think that’s what messes things up. People assume he is an academic, but in reality he’s more of a grandfather type. You might learn a lot from your grandfather but you’re probably not going to be able to source him in a thesis. For example, he’s sent me on a wild goose chase looking for letters that, if they exist, will be extremely historically valuable. But so far I can’t find them, though he swears they’re there. Basically… Ed Smith is a great guy, you can learn a lot of interesting stuff from him, but his historical work is not academic. Still, if you ever have a chance to hang out with him, you definitely should.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 12, 2011 @ 14:35

      Hi Sarah,

      I really appreciate you taking the time to comment about Professor Smith. He sounds like a very interesting person. Your evaluation of his methods really does shed a great deal of light on his activities in this particular area.

  • Sarah A. Adler Mar 12, 2011 @ 13:41

    This is interesting to me because of the drama of late in Virginia concerning inclusion of black Confederates in history textbooks. I am also taking classes with Ed Smith at American University in DC, who is considered an authority on black Confederates (though honestly, his research methods are a little sketchy). If you have not yet met Ed Smith, you definitely should. Not only is he a fountain of knowledge, but just an interesting person in general. He is not reachable my email though, so how to get in touch with him is something you’d have to explore.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 12, 2011 @ 14:02

      Nice to finally hear from a Smith student. You will find numerous references to Prof. Smith on this blog, including this post: His research methods are not just “sketchy” they are highly misleading. As far as I am aware Prof. Smith has never published an academic study on this subject. Unfortunately, he has contributed to much of the misunderstanding that you will find Online.

      Thanks for the comment, Sarah.

  • Ed Mar 12, 2011 @ 12:06

    If you want to be notified of Kevin’s talk and our other ones, click on the “Join the interest list for updates about our programs” link at www, I promise, I do not send out spam or give the list to others.


    • Kevin Levin Mar 12, 2011 @ 12:28

      I am really looking forward to it, Ed.

  • DG Foulke Mar 12, 2011 @ 0:45

    Waaall, seein’ how’s ya’ll are just up the road a piece, I mighta oughta round me up some boys from here in Upton, and swing on ovah then. Pick up Cousin Luke and the twins on the way ovah in Grafton, and make it a party.

  • Ed Norris Mar 11, 2011 @ 10:46

    We’re thrilled to be the first in the area to get Kevin. If anyone else would like to speak at the NWCCWRT please let me know. I’m working on the schedule for next September 2011 – June 2012, October is taken. Meetings are the second Tuesday of the month. And all are welcome to attend any meeting.


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