I’ve written a number of posts on this blog as well as in my new book about Dr. Henry Louis Gates’s confusion about the black Confederate myth. In this webinar sponsored by PBS Education he managed to confuse it even further.
Dr. Gates is still referencing his colleague John Stauffer’s piece in The Root, which is fundamentally flawed, but it is his understanding of basic facts and poor primary source analysis that I find appalling. You can listen for yourself beginning at the 55:00 minute mark.
At one point he references this well known illustration from Harper’s Weekly as vague evidence for the existence of these men.
This is the level of interpretation that you find on SCV websites and Facebook pages devoted to perpetuating this myth.
Later he offers a vague comment about the Louisiana Native Guard as somehow briefly serving the Confederacy. He isn’t sure whether the Confederate government officially recruited black men into the army at the very end of the war.
But what troubles me more than anything else is his insistence that historians disagree on this issue. THEY DO NOT! I don’t know a single reputable historian who believes that black men served as soldiers before March 1865.
Dr. Gates needs to do better with educators, who certainly see him as an authority figure on these matters. In the future I wish he would just admit that he doesn’t know enough about the subject and end it.