New Book Project for Public Historians

R&LI don’t believe I have said much of anything about it on this site, but in addition to my book project on the myth of the Black Confederate soldier I have also been working on a proposal for a collection of essays on interpreting the Civil War at museums and historic sites. The idea was bring together public historians to explore how they interpreted the Civil War for the general public during the 150th. I also wanted to offer concrete ideas on how public historians can address the ongoing debates about Confederate iconography, which I believe has been woefully lacking.

The idea grew out of last year’s meeting of the AASLH in Louisville, where I took part in a panel discussion on this ongoing debate. While perusing the exhibit hall I came across the Rowan & Littlefield table and their “Interpreting History” series, which is published in partnership with AASLH. I was surprised that there was no book on the Civil War and brought it to the attention of Bob Beatty, who gave me the green light to kickstart a proposal.

Today I am happy to announce that Interpreting the Civil War at Historic Sites and Museums has received final approval and will soon be under contract with Rowan & Littlefield. It goes without saying that I am super excited about this project and that has everything to do with my list of contributors.

Rather than share names at this early stage I thought it might be helpful to list their institutional affiliation:

  • American Civil War Museum in Richmond
  • South Carolina Department of Archives and History
  • National Park Service
  • National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta
  • Georgia Historical Society
  • Kenosha (WI) Civil War Museum

As with any edited collection there has been a bit of movement on the author front so I am still in the process of soliciting two additional essays.

While the book is geared primarily toward public historians I can easily see it appealing to a wide range of folks whose work or interests connect to this period of history and the interpretive challenges that it continues to present.

Stay tuned for updates as the project moves forward.

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!

4 comments… add one
  • Rob Orrison Mar 31, 2016 @ 16:10

    It is a good series of books, the one you have pictured is one we have our staff here in PWC read (and is very well done). Look forward to seeing this project come to fruition. I have feared (and seen) many sites steer away from Civil War interp due to all the controversies of late. I hope this book will give those sites a new look into how to interpret the most difficult part of our collective American past

    • Kevin Levin Mar 31, 2016 @ 17:15

      Hi Rob,

      I’ve read through the essays in that volume as well. Really good stuff. Two of the essays will address the ongoing controversy about Confederate iconography head on and will hopefully empower others to do the same.

  • Bob Beatty Mar 31, 2016 @ 4:46

    I certainly hope your book will appeal broadly to folks beyond just the world of public historians and folks who work in history organizations. Even before I became a public history professional, I was always fascinated/intrigued by peaks “behind the curtain” at how exhibitions and programs came into being. It gave insight into another way of how history is practiced. Glad to see this book is moving forward Kevin. Thanks for taking it on.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 31, 2016 @ 4:54

      Hi Bob,

      Absolutely. I have no doubt that this book will have wide appeal. One of the two essays that I am trying to solicit is from a history teacher that has established a close working relationship with a local Civil War museum. Not sure I have ever read an essay that explores this important dimension of the work that takes place behind the scenes at museums and other sites. The essay will offer concrete ideas on how teachers can approach museums and develop that relationship.

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