“He Had Twelve Slaves, I Don’t Feel Bad For Him”

That was CNN Anderson Cooper’s response to learning that his ancestor, Burel Boykin, had been killed by a rebellious slave, which you will be able to see in the new season of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates.

It’s impossible for me to know how I would respond to learning such news, but I do find it interesting that the sympathy/empathy is directed solely toward the slave community. On the one hand it’s a breadth of fresh air as opposed to seeing someone rush to the defense of their ancestor as if it reflected poorly on the descendant as well. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder how this killing effected the rest of his family, which, by the way are also Anderson’s ancestors. Perhaps he comments on this in the full episode.

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

Purchase your copy today!

12 comments… add one
  • Jerry McKenzie Oct 6, 2014 @ 7:37

    I enjoy this show very much also, but I am not too concerned about the edit of the form. I think it was a TV edit for clarity (get it close to the name) and dramatic effect.

    I have found many interesting things in my tree also. I used to think there were plenty of dirt farmers in my line, but it turns out many were quite well off and was much more Southern than I realized, originating in Maryland and Virginia. So turns out there are many slave owners, although my ancestors seemed to have sold off their inherited slaves to migrate further west or purchase additional lands. The DNA test from Ancestry.com has also turned up distant cousins of mixed race. I have no doubt that Ancestry is correct that President Obama is descended from one of the early emancipated slaves thru his maternal grandmother. Eventually, this Bunch line passed as white and blended completely into white communities (I came across many white Bunches in Russell County, Kentucky, but I do not know for sure if they are the same line).

    • terry Oct 6, 2014 @ 8:27

      Who decided that President Obama’s so-called relative Bunch was black? Maybe Bunch was white, if he blended into white communities so well? Don’t believe there were many blended families at that time in American history. Ancestry’s tale of Obama’s relation to a slave is about as far fetched as the moon turning to ice cream, from the evidence I’ve seen.

      Too many unknowns. Sensationalizing evidence/history, which I believe Ancestry did, provides zero answers.

      And if you knew what I know about DNA evidence you would discount about 75 percent of DNA evidence too. In too many cases DNA evidence proves nothing about one’s ancestry, and can actually be very misleading.

    • Jerry McKenzie Oct 6, 2014 @ 11:01

      Correction: Punch, not Bunch (and no Punches in Russell County).

    • mischling2nd Oct 6, 2014 @ 21:24

      “Passed as white” is a racist term. How can you “pass” as white without actually being white?

      • Andy Hall Oct 7, 2014 @ 7:03

        What would be a better or preferred term for a case in which someone joins or assimilates into a group they would not be allowed in, if their actual racial or ethnic background were known?

        I’m not trying to be a smart-ass, I’m asking a serious question. What are the words we should use to talk about that process?

        • mischling2nd Jan 23, 2015 @ 19:22

          What makes you think they would not be “allowed in”? The “white race” is not a fraternity. Many white supremacists do not consider Jews “white.” Hispanics, Arabs and North Africans have been classified and self-classified as both “white” and non-white at different times and for different purposes. It is ridiculous to declare physically white people “black” because of an old stigma. I can tell you for a fact that, when you publicly oppose the “one drop” myth, only blacks or those who think they’re black want to fight you to preserve it.

  • terry Oct 5, 2014 @ 17:21

    I believe the same people,using similar methods, came up with the revelation that Obama is a descendant of a slave???

  • Andy Hall Oct 5, 2014 @ 8:45

    There’s some dramatic embellishment going on here, and I don’t damn like it.

    In the video, the camera focuses on the name of Burel Boykin, and then pans just a little to the right, to the big reveal: “Killed by Negro.” But on the actual document, that’s on the other edge of the page, in the next-to-last column:


    The producers used Photoshop or something similar to move the phrase “killed by Negro” across the page, next to Boykin’s name. Although they’re not misrepresenting the information, they absolutely are misrepresenting the document. Doing that calls into question anything they do with primary source materials.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 5, 2014 @ 9:07

      I assume these kinds of edits are pretty standard. No?

      • Andy Hall Oct 5, 2014 @ 9:12

        Maybe they are. But it opens the door to suspicion that they’ve changed not only the form of the document, but its content as well.

  • John Betts Oct 5, 2014 @ 4:05

    A great show I enjoy watching when I can.

    It’s odd what researching one’s family history can turn up. Before I started working on my own I had heard the family stories, much of which did check out for the most part, and found some surprises too. I had heard the family story, for example, of how we had split over the American Revolution, with half the family being kicked out to Canada and then snuck back in later on. There’s truth to that, but my direct line is from the Loyalist side that had left for New Brunswick and from the records regularly went back and forth with no sneaking needed. Lots of immigrants on my Mom’s side, yet what surprised me was finding a Southern line in her tree we knew little about. Turns out I have a Southern line from both sides, with extensive roots in Virginia – something we never heard of before. Mostly dirt poor from what I can tell although on one side (I forget which off the top of my head) I did find evidence of slave-owning. A 7th Great Grandfather in Georgia owned at least 3 slaves, which he had willed to his eldest son and wife. That one was a shocker and unexpected find. Much of my family can be said to be Yankees from New England but I also do have Southern roots, at least one unpleasant one too I guess.

  • Patrick Young Oct 5, 2014 @ 3:19

    Coopers tweet: “Union Gen judson kilpatrick, also had folks on the confederate side. Rt @mantone1: is it true your family member was a Civil War general?”

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