Arlene Barnum Goes Looking For Black Confederates

Today the South Carolina Secessionist Party held a rally on the Columbia State House grounds to mark the anniversary of the lowering of the Confederate battle flag in the summer of 2015. The group was allowed to raise a battle flag for a few hours, which itself symbolizes the waning influence of the Lost Cause in public life. A Robert E. Lee impersonator was accompanied by Arlene Barnum, who played the role of the loyal slave.

Barnum is a vocal supporter of Confederate heritage and as an African-American woman is embraced by the SCSP, Sons of Confederate Veterans and other Confederate heritage groups. She is best understood as the female H.K. Egerton.

As I have suggested regarding Edgerton, the Confederate heritage community values these black voices because it vindicates their view that slaves remained loyal to their masters during the war and that the Confederate cause was theirs as well.

When the Confederate battle flag was removed in 2015 the South Carolina Division of the SCV issued a statement that referenced the presence of black Confederate soldiers as proof that it did not symbolize racism and white supremacy.

In her address to small crowd that turned up in Columbia today Barnum offers her own take on the black Confederate narrative. Apparently, she went looking for an exhibit of black Confederates at the South Carolina Relic Room and Museum, but found nothing. Of course, that is because they did not exist before the last few weeks of the war. Her speech begins at the 14:20 mark.

Confederate veterans embraced former camp slaves (body servants) who attended reunions and other public events as vindication of their cause and their neo-Confederate descendants are happy to continue to do so today.

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!

16 comments… add one
  • ROBIN KIRK Aug 29, 2018 @ 4:21

    She’s been on the Facebook page of the Durham Committee on Confederate Memorials claiming she’s been duped into going to Southern heritage events.[0]=68.ARCghIe_AIQzNu7QTvDvj21v2fDi6Rzi8WBAew3o0jB1jFM_UYt0bwdkF2eu2-VMfcIkvHrq6Ix5yAays1tkXNF4fXjz3Dplv8b4UzVUyaaNfN7AkK1Wr64Mlbn3gzH7EnqU-G8&tn=kC-R

  • Charles Roseberry Jul 15, 2017 @ 5:22

    John Hope Franklin Of Duke University Henry Louis Gates of Harvard University would dis agree both are well recognized African American scholars. At the time of the Civil War census year 1860, 95.2% of 4 million slaves were owned by freed black slaves meaning only 4.8 % of southern whites owned slaves this is a US govt census statistic. Freed black slave owners had a financial reason to back the confederacy, most black confederates served in support roles of mule skinners, cooks, teamsters and in the Artillary. The grandson of William Ellison a well known freed black who was the largest slave owner in South Carolina and he was Slave breeder, his grandson John Wilson Buckner served in the Confederacy in the South Carolina Artillary , was wounded July 12, 1863, he was praised by the white officers that led his unit as being a faithful soldier in August 1895 when he died. The reason why black soldiers were not rifleman was because southern whites were taught to shoot from the age of 6, because if you wanted to eat meat, you had to learn to shoot small game or trap game because hog or deer were not killed until the winter or fall because there was no refrigerator, The reason why the South won the early civil war battles is because the spent more time hunting, and where better marksmen, the Northern soldier was drafted , previously worked in a factory and bought meat from a butcher because northerners had access to ice houses.
    A reader of really old books, not revisionist history crap, the truth has no agenda, lies always have an agenda

    • Kevin Levin Jul 15, 2017 @ 10:05

      Henry Louis Gates has never done original research on this subject. What he has stated is highly problematic. I am not aware of any research on black Confederates by John Hope Franklin. Please share any references if they are available.

    • hankc9174 Jul 15, 2017 @ 16:22

      Your census data does not come from ‘really old books’ or, from anywhere, actually.

      • woodrowfan Jul 16, 2017 @ 2:37

        the idea that northerners were all “factory workers” is cliched nonsense. While the north was far more urbanized than the south, it was still majority rural and those Union soldiers were likely farmers’ sons who also learned how to hunt.

        On the plus side we now have a new euphemism. “A reader of really old books” = “pulled it out of my (butt).” 😉

        • Ken Noe Jul 16, 2017 @ 4:40

          Aside from the mythology about Union soldiers–Woodrowfan is exactly right–all of these assertions come from one obscure 1997 article published in an agenda-driven magazine that was infamous for its Holocaust denial and defense of the Nazis. I provide the link only in hopes that Kevin can use it in his book:

          • Kevin Levin Jul 16, 2017 @ 4:59

            Thanks for the link, Ken.

  • Matt McKeon Jul 11, 2017 @ 11:08

    Her name is Barnum. It’s not like she didn’t warn you.

  • bob carey Jul 11, 2017 @ 6:12

    I watched all the speeches (I must be a glutton for punishment) and I never seen a group of people so proud of their collective ignorance.

  • andersonh1 Jul 11, 2017 @ 5:43

    Kevin, have you ever actually asked one of the Confederate heritage community how they feel about Arlene Barnum, Andrew Duncomb or H.K. Edgerton? Or are you just assuming you understand what their feelings are? It certainly seems like the latter to me. If you could just see the tone of this blog post from our eyes, and see how judgmental you’re being towards these fine people, you might well reconsider your evaluation. Everyone I’ve personally talked to about these black Confederate heritage supporters expresses nothing but admiration and affection towards them. If you ever have an opportunity to talk with them, I think it might be a real eye-opener for you, and well worth your time to do so.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 11, 2017 @ 5:55

      OK, what do you think about African Americans who adopt historical roles right out of the Lost Cause?

    • woodrowfan Jul 11, 2017 @ 17:06

      Everyone I’ve personally talked to about these black Confederate heritage supporters expresses nothing but admiration and affection towards them.

      I have, and they talk about them like my southern relatives from my grandparents’ generation talked about any African-American they hired and liked because they “knew their place.” Kevin can feel free to disagree (he is far, far more patient than I am) but to me, people like Edgerton and Barnum are nothing but a 21st century version of the “House Negro” —steppin’ and fetchin’ so some whites will toss them a little reward now and then.

      • Forester Jul 16, 2017 @ 23:22

        This is how I feel about my family’s Black Confederate. His stories of battles don’t quite match up with the facts, and I suspect he told the white folks what they wanted to hear. I don’t know if he really fired a gun, but I have my doubts.

        My Grandfather’s sisters were so entertained by his stories in the 1930s, that they specifically drove back to North Carolina to meet him. It was very profitable for him, and he even got a pension out of it. Not a bad deal, since his Master was only in the Confederate Army for six months (and then they both went home for the rest of the war).

  • Bill Underhill Jul 10, 2017 @ 15:19

    Is she dressed as Mammy from “Gone with the Wind”? Talk about stereotypes!

  • Sandi Saunders Jul 10, 2017 @ 13:27

    All they prove is that to a certain segment, only the facts they accept can matter. Convenient isn’t it.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 10, 2017 @ 13:31

      Sure. There is really nothing new here.

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