The Politics of the Black Confederate Myth

I don’t think this is going to surprise many of you. This is certainly not a scientific survey, but it does reinforce my own perceptions having to do with the political affiliations (irrespective of race) of people who believe that black men served as soldiers in the Confederate army.

I follow a couple of twitter hashtags that relate to the black Confederate myth. Once every so often I respond by pointing out a discrepancy, especially when it comes to images or link to a scholarly source. It never ends well. So, as a little experiment I decided to check out the twitter profiles of individuals who have posted in support of the myth over the past few weeks.

Here are the results:

A recent piece at the History News Network profiled Donald Trump’s former Northeast Florida Field Director, who happens to be African American and who believes that there were thousands of black Confederate soldiers.

Again, I want to emphasize that this is purely anecdotal evidence pointing to a certain political profile of black Confederate myth advocates. It certainly complements what I have observed on countless other social media channels, especially Confederate heritage Facebook pages. While I have some thoughts about this, I am not entirely sure what to make of it.

A recent piece at the History News Network profiled Donald Trump’s former Northeast Florida Field Director, who happens to be African American and who believes that there were thousands of black Confederate soldiers.

Interestingly, the one decidedly skeptical tweet on the subject that I came across is from a self-identified liberal from Alabama.

What do you think?

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

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12 comments… add one
  • Gerald McClain Aug 29, 2016 @ 19:09

    I am a Reenactor with the Richmond Howitzers Artillary. Researching the units history, I came across a mention of Men of Color as being part of the Howitzers. Also I met a man David Tatum Jr. Who had a Great, Great, Grandfather who was a member of the Richmond Howitzers. He wrote letters home stating that they had Men of Color on their battery. So, if it is a myth then why are these historical refrences appearing in print.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2016 @ 2:11

      Most Confederate units had “men of color” in them, but they were not considered soldiers. Body servants (or what I call camp slaves) served their masters. Free blacks were hired as musicians, cooks and tens of thousands of slaves were impressed by the government over the course of the war. Again, none of these men were considered as soldiers even if they sometimes wore uniforms, were paid or were listed on muster rolls. The Confederate government did not authorize the enlistment of blacks as soldiers until March 1865.

  • James Simcoe Aug 24, 2016 @ 9:45

    Regarding the remarkable group photo, linked from this site by a contributor, of USCT Black Soldiers published by Charles Joyce – a writer for the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. (University of Kansas)
    The Alexandria (Virginia) Historical Society is sponsoring a talk on October 26th by Mr. Joyce. Will be very informative I’m sure.

  • Scott Ledridge Aug 22, 2016 @ 19:39

    Dr. Gallagher sums it up. “Just… no.”

    Ashamedly, as someone grew up in an area surrounded with so much Civil War history, even worked in a history museum (albeit as an exhibits designer), it wasn’t until the last 15 months that I really took the time to learn, for myself, about the Civil War. And as someone who was raised in a Southern Republican family, grew up Southern Republican, but, is now less and less Republican with each passing day, it’s incredibly embarrassing and surprising.

    I know that people on the “left” and the “right” base their beliefs on their perceptions mostly, but it seems to be a particularly strong with the “right”. There’s a particular aversion to proven facts, whether it’s scientific or historical. I have my own theories as to why, but, I don’t know if this would be the place to share those. But, suffice to say that people on the “right” more easily accept things for which there is no real evidence, and because those beliefs are usually personal, they are usually less open to actual evidence.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 23, 2016 @ 2:17

      Our understanding of the past is certainly influenced by our politics and other factors, but that doesn’t mean it is pre-determined. Professor Gallagher was my neighbor in Virginia for ten years and I recently published an essay in one of his edited books. I know him very well, but I have no idea who he voted for in recent elections or what, if any, political party he belongs to. My point is that Gallagher’s understanding of this issue is based on his understanding of the available evidence and the relevant historiography.

      • Scott Ledridge Aug 23, 2016 @ 11:15

        No, I agree, it isn’t pre-determined. I’d like to believe I’m example of that. I’ve learned a lot of new derogatory terms in the past year.

        You, nor I, would assume to know who Dr. Gallagher voted for, but I guarantee most on the right would make that assumption and tell it as fact.

  • Forester Aug 22, 2016 @ 10:11

    The mythmakers tend to re-name the slaves as “Black Confederates,” since they were black and, technically, served the Confederacy (against their will). I got into a bad argument about this with a blogger in 2014. He twisted the facts around to make me sound racist, arguing that the slaves deserve to be honored for their service. He made ME sound like the racist, saying stuff like, “but I guess they’re only slaves to you.”

    I don’t even know what to call this type of argument, but it’s very irritating. >_<

    • Kevin Levin Aug 22, 2016 @ 10:29

      They deserve to be remembered for surviving slavery and a war to protect and expand it.

      • bob carey Aug 22, 2016 @ 15:55

        Well said Kevin.

  • Andy Hall Aug 22, 2016 @ 8:59

    It barely qualifies as a passing mention; the word “Chandler” appears exactly once in the entire book, near the end. It’s in the paragraph immediately before the one that says West Point was a “Southern school,” and that E. Kirby Smith was black.

  • Corey Meyer Aug 22, 2016 @ 6:57

    Since you have written a great deal about Silas Chandler, what is your take on his Kindle book on Chandler?

    • Kevin Levin Aug 22, 2016 @ 6:57

      The photograph of Silas and Andrew is used as cover art, but the book is not about them.

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