Saturday, May 28, 2011

Black Confederates in the News Again

Greetings Cosmic American!

There is an interesting article in the Charleston Gazette that should get people talking. It is all about how funding was denied for a commemorative panel that included a talk from the most famous supporter of the idea that blacks fought for the Confederacy. If you have not heard of him, his name is H. K. Edgerton -  a black man who parades around the South in Confederate gray claiming that thousands of blacks fought willingly for the CSA. He suggests that black people were fighting for their homes, just as the white Rebels did, and insists that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.

An interesting suggestion to say the least, and part (a very intriguing part) of an ongoing onslaught by neo-Confederates to portray secession in the most positive light. Have a look at the article and please leave your comments. This is always a good conversation piece. And while you are at it, check out my friend Kevin Levin's blog, Civil War Memory. He has done a great deal of work on this subject.




  1. Again, I think you're jumping to conclusions. Every discussion of "black Confederates" is not NECESSARILY a stalking horse for Neo-Confederates to minimize race and slavery in the Civil War. Teresa Roane of the Museum of the Confederacy (and, not incidentally, a woman of color) will be leading a panel at the upcoming ASALH conference in Richmond, Va., on black Confederates as the "forgotten men" of the Civil War Sesquecentennial. (Sadly, Kevin Levin will be leading a counter-panel elsewhere during the conference, when the truly USEFUL exercise would be to set these two arguments in contention with one another, instead of holding them in separate-but-equal panels....)

    Now I'm not saying Roane will make a believer out of you. But if you do have the chanace to attend, I hope you'll listen to what she has to say -- if ONLY to demonstrate what peopel like Kevin Levin and (seemingly) yourself refuse to accept: that arguments for the idea of the "black Confederate" need not stem solely from a desire to minimize or expunge questions of slavery or race from discussion of the Civil War. The two positions are not mutually exclusive. One of the many tragedies and failings of the 150th, in my opinion, is that this entire area of legitimate historical inquiry is being ignored (whitewashed, even) by the very people who claim as their charge the responsibility for "getting it right this time"-- bringing attention to those peoples and subjects ignored at the Centennial. (Sadly, in my opinion, the organizers are no less ahistoric than their predecessors; the 150th is simply replacing the flawed paradigms of the Centennial with equally flawed, but multi-racial, ones.)

    As for Mr. Edgerton, he's wrong in some of his conclusions, but NOT on his statement about thousands of blacks serving in the Confederate Army -- many of them free, many of them willingly, many of them identifying themselves as Southerners.

    There's no single "black" narrative during the Civil War. It's fair to bristle against the attempts of some neo-Confederates to deny the role of race and slavery in the conflict. But it's equally racist (however well intentioned) to posit a single narrative or experience for over three and a half million individuals.

    Both sides of the "black Confederates" debate are equally guily of the same offense -- making sweeping declarative statements about a very complicated and varied set of data. Which is why, more often than not, both sides are ignorant of what they speak -- they only difference being one side shrouds itself in an ill-earned mantle of moral superiority, when in fact its argument is no less racist.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that there will be an additional panel on the subject. I will definitely check it out if it doesn't conflict with my own. Just to clarify, I am not leading anything. I was asked to join this panel, which I believe will offer some important perspective on the subject. Finally, I have never suggested that proponents of the black Confederate narrative are simply trying to minimize the importance of slavery and race in the Civil War. It's much more complicated than that. You've done nothing but create a strawman argument.

  3. Post-script Kevin, just to demonstrate your poor sourcing to anyone who may be following this discussion ---

    Quoting from your own post (above):

    "I have never suggested that proponents of the black Confederate narrative are simply trying to minimize the importance of slavery and race in the Civil War. . . . You�ve done nothing but create a strawman argument."

    Straw man? Really?? You're contradicted by THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG. Did you not read Keith's original post??

    Because I'll quote from what HE SAID (emphasis mine)


    Either you're throwing around the phrase "straw man" without knowing what it means, or you have waded into battle yet again without giving your opponents the courtesy of first reading and comprehending the point he or she made.

    What you are calling a "straw man" is what KEITH HIMSELF opened with: the statement that "black Confederates" is SOLELY the province of agenda-driven people white-washing history.

    What I said was that the Venn diagram of people people who support the notion of black Confederates is in fact a larger circle than those who (as I said) do so solely "to minimize or expunge questions of slavery or race from discussion of the Civil War."

    Nothing in your polemic contradicts that statement.