NC Committee Endorses Neo-Confederate History

Update: Perhaps “Endorse” is too strong a word for the post’s title, but despite tough questions from two historians on the commission this Lost Cause nonsense was given a level of legitimacy that it does not deserve. We wouldn’t feature debunked scientific theories in such a setting, so why do we tolerate it in history?

Last night North Carolina’s Committee on Confederate Monuments and Memorials held a meeting in Durham to discuss the ongoing controversy. As many of you know last year a Confederate statue in Durham was toppled over and severely damaged beyond repair. I am a big fan of these public meetings as they give residents the opportunity to share their opinions and perspectives, but last night’s gathering was deeply disappointing.

For whatever reason the committee chose to invite Teresa Roane to address the committee and the audience as an expert on the history of the Civil War, the Confederacy, and the Jim Crow-era. Roane is a former archivist at the Museum of the Confederacy, but I have come to know her as one of the more vocal African American supporters of neo-Confederate history. Listen to the first few minutes and you will understand.

Her presentation comes right out of the neo-Confederate play book. More specifically, Roane has promoted the false claim that African Americans fought as soldiers in the Confederate army. Jump to the 18:30 mark in the video and you will hear her discuss the “men of color who served in the Confederate military” as well as those who attended Confederate veterans reunions.

Roane was unable to offer a reasonable response to any of the questions posed by committee members following her presentation.

What I don’t understand is why Roane was brought in as an expert. Committee members have access to some of the top scholars in the country on these challenging topics from nearby Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, UNC-Greensboro, to name just a few. Is someone who spends a good deal of time posting on neo-Confederate social media pages really the best they can do?

This is another reminder of why it is so important for scholars and others to make themselves available for just these kinds of public outreach opportunities. Matthew Gabriele recently shared these tips for fellow scholars to consider when responding to media and other requests as experts.

Perhaps the committee simply wanted to feature a wide range of interpretations from a racially and ethically diverse set of speakers. Regardless of the reason, the city of Durham essentially endorsed a discredited and highly misleading narrative of American history by allowing Roane to speak as an expert. Let’s hope they don’t make the same mistake again.

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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46 comments… add one
  • Tony Houston Aug 10, 2019 @ 5:39

    And if they were in the Confederate Army as cooks and Teamsters, are you implying that they did not take up arms to defend themselves when they were attacked ? Or when they weren’t cooking that they never carried arms ? If you believe that then I have some ocean front property in Arizona that you might be interested in as well.

  • Tony Houston. Aug 10, 2019 @ 5:19

    So tell me, why did you not address the claim that you have a personal hatred or at least dislike for Miss Teresa Roane ? It’s pretty obvious by the way you attacked her that you have this personal dislike of Miss Roane. You attacked her character pretty hard.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 10, 2019 @ 6:07

      I stand by every word of my characterization of Ms. Roane’s understanding of this subject.

  • Kenneth Althaus Sep 29, 2018 @ 13:08

    No you have written biased biased garbage & care only about writing books then being honest about what you research.
    You have an apparent hatred for Ms. Roane & anyone who disagrees with your arrogant assessment of black Confederate’s. You are the typical Yankee with the typical hate foranyone who opposes your claims. Also when confronted about Your bias you respond with arrogance & not the “teacher” reply. I would believe those who have ancestors who were black & Confederate.
    Also your followers have the same arrogance so i guess brainwashing them has been easy.
    Money is the root of all evil & your views off the Confederate’s shows that is all you really care about, regardless of fact or fiction….

    • Kevin Levin Sep 29, 2018 @ 14:03

      Fascinating analysis, Ken. 🙂

  • chris meekins Aug 30, 2018 @ 3:27

    Just to note – Dr. Susanna Lee and Dr. Watson Jennison are both experts in the field (Civil War and Civil War Memory). Lee at NSCU and Jennison at UNC Greensboro. Both UVA graduates. Both worked on the Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War project (if I am not mistaken).

    • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2018 @ 3:33

      Hi Chris. I know them both and indirectly mentioned them in the update to the post. It’s certainly encouraging to see them on this committee. My concern is that their questioning and that of others appeared to me to treat Roane as an expert on the Civil War. Both could have pressed much harder given their expertise, but that would have looked awkward. Meanwhile, Roane was given a platform to spout her nonsense and even give voice to the black Confederate myth, which no one challenged unless I missed it.

      • Lee Geranios Sep 13, 2018 @ 14:15

        You sound rattled. What an outrage you had to deal with minds inferior to yourself. You are just an SJW with a history degree. Hell, I have a history degree. You are nothing special.

        • Kevin Levin Sep 13, 2018 @ 14:18

          Hi Lee. Thanks for checking in. Congratulations on your history degree. Perhaps at some point it will be reflected in a comment. 🙂

          • Lee Geranios Sep 14, 2018 @ 8:17

            One could say that about you as well.

            • Kevin Levin Sep 14, 2018 @ 8:58

              I guess so, but I’ve done a bit more over the years than simply write blog comments. What exactly have you done?

  • ROBIN KIRK Aug 29, 2018 @ 11:00

    We DID say this at the very beginning — and my cochair is most definitely NOT a Duke prof — she is a proud EAGLE of NCCU (and a UNC grad — the HORROR). Seriously, there is a central place for scholarship, but what has been sadly lacking is a robust community engagement that allows for (sometimes rambunctious and unruly) contributions that include but aren’t limited to scholarship — which, as you well know, often doesn’t prevail in these sorts of discussions. One thing that is perhaps a southern necessity is personal relationships and talk. We need to move outside of books and social media and TALK to one another, face to face. One thing I’ve been struck by is how much of this is about emotion, feelings, not facts. And we have to allow a space for that to be expressed. I’m not guaranteeing any outcome, but so far, we’ve been able to at least open a civil space. Thanks for your work!

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2018 @ 11:40

      We DID say this at the very beginning.

      I guess I missed it. Thanks for the follow up and again thanks for all your hard work on this issue.

  • ROBIN KIRK Aug 29, 2018 @ 4:27

    As the co-chair of the D4CMM, I have to disagree. Our charge is not to be historians (though we have several on our committee) but to engage in a public dialogue that brings a variety of views — some of which individual members may not agree with — to the fore. The committee wants to air arguments — and examine them. We’ve also had Fitz Brundage, an expert on NC law, a leading African American business leader (to talk about Black Wall Street), and the lawyer representing the SCV, with his take on how to apply the law. Coming up our roster includes the Durhan County Library archivists, the lawyer who represented the individuals who took down the statue and the director of the Museum of Durham History. This is what life is like OUTSIDE academe — we would be useless as a committee if we took a strictly academic approach to this — and we would fail at our central mission, to engage in public debate, discussion and education. Happy to discuss further.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2018 @ 10:47

      Hi Robin,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to push back on this post. I have no doubt that your committee is proceeding in good faith and I want to say thank you for taking on this work. I guess I would have liked to have heard at the beginning of Roane’s presentation that she is offering one perspective and is not providing expert testimony. It certainly wasn’t clear to me. Thanks again.

  • Robert Morgan Aug 25, 2018 @ 17:37
    • Kevin Levin Aug 26, 2018 @ 1:51

      I am very familiar with this article. Did you bother to read it? The pensions referenced were given not to soldiers, but mainly to former slaves who served as camp servants.

    • Jimmy Dick Aug 26, 2018 @ 4:09

      Thanks for linking the article. It is a very good article which serves to confirm the facts about blacks not serving as soldiers during the Civil War for the Confederacy. The author points out how there were 3000 or so pension applications from blacks who served in some capacity during the war for the Confederacy, but of those applications, none were for blacks who served as a soldier.

      When doing research it is important to go through the sources carefully. There have been numerous examples of someone showing a pension record as if it would prove their point, but upon closer examination the source revealed that the individual did not serve as a soldier, but in a noncombatant capacity.

      Kevin has done his research on the subject and I do not think he found any evidence of the elusive Black Confederate soldiers beyond the three units created at the very end of the war.

    • Andy Hall Aug 26, 2018 @ 6:08

      Hollandsworth also wrote “Looking for Bob: Black Confederate Pensioners
      After the Civil War,” which is really a starting point for anyone wanting to understand how the pensions for African Americans were established, and the differences between those pensions and the ones made for former soldiers and their widows.

      • Rob Baker Aug 27, 2018 @ 4:16

        Thanks for that link Andy. I honestly didn’t know about this.

        It’s amazing how out of a den of loonies one can still find useful information.

  • Jimmy Dick Aug 25, 2018 @ 10:19

    Don’t you just love it when the neo-confederates make all sorts of claims but can’t show a single shred of evidence to back up the fantasies?

    I’m still waiting for all those records that prove all those black men fought for the Confederacy. There’s plenty of records that prove those black men did not fight for the Confederacy. Yet, how odd it is that the neo-confederates will support claims with no evidence while ignoring claims with evidence.

  • HankC Aug 25, 2018 @ 8:28

    has a fresh wave of wackos appeared?

    • Kevin Levin Aug 25, 2018 @ 8:30

      They mean well.

  • Karl Burkhalter Aug 25, 2018 @ 7:01

    Teresa Roane has seen primary sources, which terrifies Ivy League school ” Historians” They must cover their duplicity and mendacity in funding and inspiring Hitler with Union Bank and Yerkes Eugenics program. A million Freedmen died from tender mercies of Reconstuction while Robber Barons funded Transcontinental Railroad Transatlantic Cable and purchase of Alaska. North wanted to be free of Blacks not free for Blacks. Vilifying South is to further Marxists agenda, if they really cared about Civil Rights they would be discussing Drug War and mass incarceration, not hunks of marble and granite.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 25, 2018 @ 7:07

      Teresa Roane has seen primary sources, which terrifies Ivy League school ” Historians”

      Yes, the Ivy League historians have yet to hear of these things called primary sources. Let’s keep this little secret between the two of us.

  • Suzanne Starbuck Aug 25, 2018 @ 6:44

    Mr. Levin, I hate to inform you , however, your ten years of research has been in Vain. My Confederate ancestor served with side by side and actually under a free man of color . Oh my Sir yes indeed you read that correctly. My white ancestor served with Free men of color and under the charge of a Free man of Color. Only you Yankees kept negroes as they were called in a separate mans army.
    Please stop attempting to speak for me or my family. We did not own slaves so no my ancestor did not force his own slave to accompany him to war.
    Furthermore, I find it very distasteful that you attack Teresa Roane.
    You failed to tell your Blob of words readers that you worked with Ms. Roane. You failed to mention that Ms. Roane has personally handled letters from Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and let’s not be unbalanced as you are yes Ms. Roane has handles artifacts written by The man who would become President Grant.
    You do not hold these artifacts that are so important in the growth of this nation, and not read them. You don’t hold them and document them for future generations and make sure that ever word and punctuation is perfectly correct so that future generations will learn the truth from a war that divided our country, States, families and brothers.
    I find your writing to be self serving . Malicious, uninspired.
    You are in fact proof that the entitled generation has no respect for conversation, proper presentation, compromises, or regards for decency and the Law.
    What happened in Durham was a bunch of ignorant child who have become so self entitled, so self important, broke the Law. They did it again on UNC Chapel Hills property.
    Mark my words sir, we the People have had enough. I will defend those monuments and gravestones. The war is coming. When it does no one will care about your blogs or your books.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 25, 2018 @ 6:47

      This is getting even more interesting.

      You failed to tell your Blob of words readers that you worked with Ms. Roane.

      Perhaps you can shed some light on when I “worked” with this individual.

    • Jimmy Dick Aug 25, 2018 @ 10:20

      Provide proof of your claim. If you can’t provide the proof, then your claim has absolutely no merit.

      Show me!

    • Andy Hall Aug 25, 2018 @ 19:42

      “My white ancestor served with Free men of color and under the charge of a Free man of Color.”

      Post their names and unit, please. I’ll look up the records and we can discuss them here. It should be instructive.

    • Rob Baker Aug 27, 2018 @ 4:14

      My Confederate ancestor served with side by side and actually under a free man of color . Oh my Sir yes indeed you read that correctly. My white ancestor served with Free men of color and under the charge of a Free man of Color.

      Can you please provide documentation of this? I’m being serious, I would love to see it. Documentation, primary sources (diaries/letters) that you used to get your family story would be absolutely groundbreaking for historians. I would give us loads to talk, discuss, interpret and write about. It would undoubtedly change the way historians view the South during the mid-to-late nineteenth century in regards to the institution of slavery, race relations, and the war in general. For the average Joe, it would be a fascinating tale of unity and struggle. It would have immediate impacts on the Confederate Monument and Flag debate and likely thrust accelerate the popularity of this particular historic event.

      So please; please show us the documents you have or know of that shows your ancestors marching and fighting in the Confederate Army with men of color.

  • Milo Pyne Aug 25, 2018 @ 5:29

    please correct headline; “Durham Committee Endorses Neo-Confederate History” – it is not a “Durham Committee” but an NC committee; we in durham are disturbed by your implication that our community ” Endorses Neo-Confederate History” which it does not; the statue-topplers were not charged or were acquitted… thanks!

    • Kevin Levin Aug 25, 2018 @ 5:30

      Post title has been edited.

      • Carlos Danger Aug 25, 2018 @ 5:42

        “endorses” …then “perhaps endorse is too strong a word” yet you didn’t change it? hack

        • Kevin Levin Aug 25, 2018 @ 5:44

          I decided to keep it. In allowing Roane to speak as an expert on the Civil War the committee acknowledged its legitimacy. Thanks for the comment.

      • Leonard Lanier Aug 27, 2018 @ 4:03

        Kevin, you had it right the first time. This video comes from a joint local committee formed by the City of Durham and Durham County to determine the ultimate fate of the toppled Confederate monument at the county courthouse.

        Here is a press release explaining their mission and membership:

        While the two chairs are professors at Duke, neither have a history background.

        This City-County Committee is completely different from the state-level committee created by the North Carolina Historical Commission, which issued its final report on Confederate mouments in Raleigh last week.

        I must admit, there’s so much monument-related news coming out of the Old North State of late, it’s easy to get confused.

        • Kevin Levin Aug 27, 2018 @ 6:42

          Thanks. I should have taken the time to confirm.

  • Valri S. Purdy Aug 24, 2018 @ 13:21

    Here’s what I believe about the comments posted. I can guarantee this… If her views gave validity to yours you would be singing her praises from the tallest building south of the Mason Dixon line. And that is from a non southern born, tried and true Yankee.
    As for your claim that blacks did not serve the Confederacy at all or by their own decision? I know for a fact you are wrong. The first person I met who told me the truth about that war was a black man I met in Phoenix, Az when I was in college.
    We were both about 19 years old. I was shocked when he told me his ancestors fought for the Confederacy. By their own decision. They were not forced to. I’m not saying that no black People were coerced…. I am saying far more chose to defend their territory than most know or will ever admit. Thanks to him, learning the truth has been a challenging but amazing journey.
    I am very weary of those who disagree about an issue insulting the others character, intelligence and anything else they choose to. That in my experience displays a clear lack of decency and respect for the party being inundated with such remarks.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 24, 2018 @ 16:08

      If only I had consulted your friend I could have saved ten years of researching and writing my forthcoming book on the myth of the black Confederate. 🙂

  • Rodney Seiler Aug 24, 2018 @ 8:30

    So I should just ignore my GGGrandfather ,who was black , and fought in the war as a free black . Really documentations and all, from like his pension papers ,the muster roll he signed ,and not with an X neither. I guess the other six in my tree are a fermentation of real documents that say otherwise , free blacks fighting for there rights to live the way they wasn’t to lands sakes . So here you come all educated and such telling folks they cannot be telling the truth ,cause you a dang expert. L_o

    • Kevin Levin Aug 24, 2018 @ 8:55

      My advice is that you should probably look into it more carefully.

      • CliosFanBoy Aug 24, 2018 @ 15:59

        or he should come up with a more believable lie.

  • Rob Baker Aug 24, 2018 @ 4:48

    We wouldn’t feature debunked scientific theories in such a setting, so why do we tolerate it in history?

    I don’t know about that, the last Presidential Primary featured GOP candidates complaining about vaccines and autism….

    Politics as usual. Not everyone on the committee is an expert so it goes without saying that not everyone invited to speak as “experts” will actually rise to that label. I cannot say I’m really surprised overall though. Much of what we’re seeing from the majority of local and state governments in the South has more to do with political beliefs projected onto the past than actual interpretation of the past. My Facebook was alive with comments about the “American Taliban” that tore down “Silent Sam.”

    • Kevin Levin Aug 24, 2018 @ 5:02

      I completely agree that politics is an important component of these local hearings. If the committee wants to invite people to offer different perspectives on the past that is fine, but it should be clear that this testimony is not that of an authority on the subject.

      • kenneth althaus Aug 25, 2018 @ 17:26

        again i’ll have to disagree with your bias assesment & non factual proof of what Ms Roane is an “authority” of, she is more of an authority then you claim to be. She has more documented proof to back up her “claims” then you provide in any of your “writings” or yout biased fb page.

        • Kevin Levin Aug 26, 2018 @ 1:51

          Yes, I have no doubt that you believe this to be the case. 🙂

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