tv Kevin Levin Searching for Black Confederates CSPAN December 2, 2019 1:01am-2:04am EST
to the associate editor of the journal to help prepare for today's interview i have on this question do you love doing history? >> absolutely. my dream job i love researching and i love writing. >> you did a very very well. congratulations it is a major scholarly achievement. >> thank you so much. wonderful conversation.
>>. >>. >> as always it's nice to see some new faces. and a special welcome we are the oldest historical society in america with 14000 manuscripts it is truly breathtaking correction. and we also host academic seminars and workshops with many many public programs. it with those upcoming programs with african-american history so we are hosting a
four program series and now the 400th anniversary for the arrival of the british colonies in north america. so discuss the history of africans and african-americans to feature scholars to elaborate on the perspective of the 20th century. the first past a couple weeks ago but we still have three more to go the next program is october 19th. tonight we'll hear from kevin will talk about the myth of african americans fighting for the confederacy he claims they would have shocked anyone who served in the army and he suggests the story of the 20th
century backlash and as we often do we pulled material from the display that's in the reception so when reviewing the book looking at the african-american collection for the confederacy they are not actually images that contradict the have a lot of * around them but are interesting in the context of this. the images from the sixties if you are interested i'm sure we'd be happy to talk about them receiving masters in history and published extensively including two earlier books and to interpret
at historic sites and also published numerous articles including the new york times and the atlantic and washington post very active in social media with a strong twitter presence. so please join me to walk our guest. [applause] thank you. before i get started thank you for inviting me at the massachusetts historical society. this is an honor and i'm thrilled to speak here where a couple of years ago i was doing research on a project so now to get the feedback on this book. i don't think i need to remind anyone in this room so a very
public and divisive and emotional debate about race since the early summer 2015 in the wake of the horrific murders in charleston by dylan and we know what that led to lowering the confederate battle flags also with confederate monuments. and this is not a new debate and has always been commercial. and attracted many more americans so perhaps it's more entrenched with the white nationalist around a confederate monument to robert
e-lee that they always have to confront the history of white supremacy. those who read the new york times opened it up the 1619 project of course that came with a great deal of emotional responses to the new york times or anyone with the very foundation the institution of slavery so this fits into that broader discussion so just to talk about and how that reflects to come to terms to
face the history of slavery and race but the way the links we go to distort that and searching for black confederate is a case study in that broader discussion so we'll start with the image that is featured on the cover if you go to the internet right now you can find the photograph that's in the hands of the library of congress you can find this on hundreds of websites. on many of these it is framed around the narrative and difficult to imagine why that is somewhat pops out two men are sitting both are wearing uniforms and of course what really jumps out is they seem to be heavily armed.
so you have chandler and on the left andrew chandler. these are why the more popular images to support the idea that black man or sleeve men fought as soldiers during the confederate civil war. somewhere between 50,100,000. [laughter] i wish i could narrow it down but that's where people come down on this issue between 50,100,000. so this seems problematic with the narrative but people who are committed to this narrative this is all the evidence they need. what they don't understand of course for a number of reasons
it's not an image of the confederacy but in the history of slavery are not looking at cyrus chandler the enslaved man born into the chandler family in virginia. to west point mississippi in the 18 forties and when the war start spring 1861 and then in the 44th mississippi infantry. and officers from the slaveholding glass he would have brought a body servant as their personal slave. so these men would have existed with the confederate military hierarchy. it was likely taken at a studio early in the war.
what's really interesting is it's very likely what you see as weapons are studio props even uniform that cyrus is wearing is a studio pop although you will see that camp slaves did wear uniforms which i will talk about later. so i look at this photograph now after how many times over the last ten years, there's something quite funny about it. i chuckled quite a bit because what i see is not to confederate soldiers and then walks into a studio to see all these weapons and the first thing that comes to his mind is to demonstrate in the form
of a photograph to send back to his family to cram in as many weapons as possible. one in your coat jacket? stick one in their. that something bizarre is highly unusual as we will see as they are standing next to the ambassador. never see another photograph quite like this one. with the battle in 1863 and in less then a year cyrus went back to war as the encamped slave with his brother in the mississippi calvary unit and
escorted jefferson davis out of richmond. in fact it's very likely cyrus and benjamin were with the davis party in georgia so he was literally in the army the very beginning until the very last day of the civil war so as we go into this world of the confederacy tends thousands of enslaved men were impressed by the confederate government to any number of projects between 1861 and 65 again thousands would have been repairing and working in
the salt mines like the iron work producing material anything that they needed in terms of production to support the effort of enslaved men are asked to do so they have to do this because they try to offset the advantages the united states enjoys with the material produced by the war so enslaved people everywhere but they are not the men that today are commonly referred to as examples is black confederate soldiers. they are nameless and don't have much of a record the ones that are incredibly popular are the body servant's like silas chandler they would have
been everywhere in the confederate army but the confederate army also would have included thousands of enslaved men doing various things functioning as teamsters driving trucks working in hospitals maintaining supply lines anything the confederate army needs to march on the battlefield they serve this kinds of functions but these are the camp slaves and they are highlighted by soldiers and officers and especially in the decades after the war because they are maintaining those close ties with their masters throughout the war and
a that they would have performed any number of functions cooking, cleaning and to go on long marches. even on the battlefield. so one of the things that's important to understand is a large numbers of enslaved men in the army is to refocus on the importance of slavery not just as a nation but confederacy is fighting for slavery that is true it's a little abstract that one way is to focus on the army because confederates every day whether in camp on the march on the battlefield whether they own 100 slaves are not they were reminded each and
every day of the importance to maintain slavery. there is no confederate army there is no confederate war effort without the ends is one - - assistance of the enslaved people so what i want to do with the book is to tear down the myth the role of enslaved people throughout the confederacy and especially the rb during the war. these army marching north this summer 1853 culminating in the battle of gettysburg that numbers around 75000 men there are as many as 10000 enslaved men without rv. so they are fighting for slavery slavery follows every confederate army and its success its ability to do what
it needs to do depends on a large part of the presence of enslaved men so the idea whether they will never don't own them is irrelevant of course they all understood the importance of slavery to the war effort. this is the more common example of the photograph of master and slave he's worrying that confederate uniform. one thing that is interesting to research what happens when you pluck the master slave relationship that was very common to be defined and reinforced over time but when you remove that it's a very different situation within the military neither party has any experience.
how is that contingency of known of military life impact that relationship? out of that stretch over time how are enslaved men going to push their privileges or what do they do with the need to push back? to reset that relationship one way that they pushed was for money during free time. that happened quite a bit masters write home about the amount of money their slaves are making in camp and they said the home to family. actually managed to purchase parts of uniforms or entire uniforms why is not entirely clear maybe they wanted to be feel part of the military or they saw their own presence in military terms maybe that
would not have been approved of their owners but this is way they are trying to create their own experience during the war. of course masters quite often have to end up pushing back in some do so in very filing violent ways one asked to punish his slave and was home to his wife i laid on 400 lashes on his camp slave. so all that experience happens on the home front is also happening in camp at the same time it's pretty clear that these men actually do form a bond i do hesitate to say that
because i don't want to lose the fact were talking about the master slave relationship but keep in mind that they are sharing many of the same experiences far from home and away from their families. they experience a long marches and also lack of food and especially disease. and there are a number of accounts the officers are writing about the experience they are having taking care of the camp slave and also the camp slave taking care of then we have to be careful how we categorize these relationships and what their motives were to help one another we don't have the records we would like looking at these relationships through the lens of these white men which is quite problematic in many cases.
these men are everywhere the encamped slaves again they are performing the roles the legal status is of enslaved men. but the question if the confederacy should move forward to make the big step that does not take place until 1864 people that are convinced there are large numbers of men that served throughout the war the army responses why are they debating this? what is the preface with large numbers of black men are already serving a soldiers? it starts in the military itself. the army commander in 1854 does approach the idea to emancipate the slaves if they join as soldiers.
and he shared this with command and they are horrified one of them is so horrified he sends a note to davis and immediately he is ordered to shut his mouth and sees talking about this issue it's much too controversial. so early 1864 even after told let's keep it quiet within a few months the cat is out of the bag more people are beginning to debate this a very public and divisive debate and you can imagine people are very concerned about the implications of enlisting soldiers and the day
is the beginning of the end our whole theory is wrong. so as a class they are wanting every qualification as a soldie soldier. and the richmond examiner. the negro is fit to be a soldier he is not fit to be a slave either with or without perspective or emancipation is the first step to involve all the rest to universal abolition this hits at the very core of what the confederacy was fighting for to maintain slavery in white supremacy if we recruit them as soldiers then what are we fighting for quex some people came on favor.
set men in the army did as well but they do show as a way to preserve the institute if you have a limited number that could be a way to offset defeat but it's not going to lead to the end of the institution of slavery as a whole. so the debate continues through 1864 everyone is involved it's another moment to reinforce the obvious. no one involved in this debate over the last ten years have expressed an opinion on this regardless of their position no one ever included in
writing their point of view that black men were already serving as soldiers. as far as the confederates were concerned it's a step in an entirely new direction only with robert e-lee support of the beginning it 1865 they come around and other people to speak in the confederacy as a whole long story short that only passes legislation in the final weeks of the war a small number of men are recruited and may have marched down broad street in richmond likely they are not give it weapons that shows how much trust was placed in them and
likely did not see any action on the battlefield it is a white man's war. and the fact it takes the confederacy as long as it does to pass this legislation reminds us how committed you were but with the black men in the united states through early 1863 and of course how the war is evolving as they make this move. the bull starting out from the same point from very different places. and harper's weekly. of course this is what you think will happen if the confederacy recruits black men as soldiers this is the
publication poking fun at the confederacy no one knows about by confederate soldiers and here's the case for decades in the postwar period coming to terms with that narrative to help to rationalize the loss cause obviously part of that narrative is the belief they were not fighting for slavery and to preserve states rights but of course the other part that the slaves remained loyal to them throughout the postwar period with stonewall jackson and to see camp slave with the
immediate postwar period you will see a black man lying down and then some african-americans including a woman it seems is cooking in the back so to be confused about the black individuals in these illustrations they were the clearest example so if you're thinking of sherman's march where the focus is on the slaves and also have slaves in the army itself. no one is confused about the status of these men by confederate veterans are gathering across the confederacy black men former
camp sleeves are there for a number of reasons because they are invited they are the clearest example as part of the loyal slave at this point in time these reunions are bringing together large numbers thousands of white southerners from all over the place many of them were born after the war so they are getting an education about the slaves in the antebellum south and they are there as a reminder between white and black people to see one man sitting by the table. some of these man are prominent also because they
are verbal about their support not just the confederacy but very outspoken so these are examples for all white southerners not only the hierarchy of the past but what is taking hold during the postwar period of the jim crow era he's a character you will see him again in another photograph but this is my favorite he attends at least 15 reunions he is an interesting example he is usually seen carrying chickens he likes to play the role of the forager. he takes that as a sign he was really good during difficult moments when food was scarce he could find food.
he made money at these reunions and there is some evidence that suggests that everhart how he refers to himself that was the name of his former master that if he understood he was performing a role. because what he's not with former confederates he has the surname of his wife and children so that suggest he plays the role when he's away from home. and he plays it to a t at one point he says it's a little difficult i shall be obedient to all the white people i pray that angels may guard the homes in the light of god shine upon them i have always
been a white man's and then uses the edward in the yankee - - cannot change me. very expressive about his loyalty not just with the confederacy but the importance to maintain white control during the jim crow era into the 20th century century and for white southerners to showcase with the formally enslaved men to send a message to the black community. so think about how that sounds at the end of world war i having made the world safe they get off the trains in southern towns perhaps expecting things will change and of course for white southerners and former enslaved men present a
contrast to the younger black men who are expecting change. you can see everhart holding the confederate flag look to the man to the right he is wearing a ribbon this is popular large numbers of former black confederate soldiers if we read the ribbon it says ex- slave. this is not that difficult to do the research. just throwing it out there from a reunion tampa florida 1927 and gives you a sense of the numbers they would have slept together, march together to a large extent during these events so i have to accept the possibility to perhaps look
forward to seeing the men they marched off with were white men and the same is true that had established a relationship during the war itself and that we are talking about the former slave dynamic. here's another image coming into the 1930s because it gives a sense of how widespread it was in the early h century there is robert e-lee's selling our washing machine. that the important point nobody is more confused of the legal status of these men or if they are soldiers nobody talks about it. there is no discussion about black men serving as soldiers throughout the period. also the monuments during this
critical period many monuments focus and we should keep this in mind. they are not history lessons they are to distort and mythologized the history of the confederacy and slavery of course these are some examples of possible statues have gone up on though mall of national - - of washington dc but that never happened of course thankfully but this gives you a sense of how widespread these discussions of monuments and race for government some of these of the postwar south of jim crow era were camp slaves are former body surfers. here is one in four mills south carolina for the
confederate army this has been debated quite a bit whether or not it should be removed but the most interesting example is across the potomac dedicated 1914 the daughters of confederacy woodrow wilson gave the dedication address 465 confederates that were interred at arlington national cemetery so of course you make it a point of section 27 of arlington to see where the colored troops are buried but this is one of the most prominent stops of the entire cemetery because i think it's the largest monument in the entire cemetery and dedicated to the men who try to destroy the united states.
was interesting is the images around the base of the statue taking from the white confederate officer you can see what appears to be a black man and wearing a uniform. wasn't confusing for anyone who attended the dedication address and this is the excerpt. their own handbook about this particular monument. and on the right is a faithful negro following his young master. very clear he's not a soldier he is a uniform slave. so when did this change corrects i have to include
this. just so that you know how important this is is the only one that acknowledges the black man in the service of real union soldiers through the 19 nineties. so when did this change corrects if you plug into google and this program the black confederate keywords and how that appears on websites it's a fairly recent spike as you can see what is interesting bad it is the success of the series roots that kicks this into high gear and a detail this in the book so the key confederate heritage organizations very concerned about the population
in large numbers watching a television series telling a different story but a narrative that one does dig into the darker side of slavery. and the response as well as the service and the response is those that can defend their confederate ancestors without any pushback wonder if they can do so if we have to defend the confederacy the issue of slavery is now on the table. the issue of emancipation they are now focused and the slavery of the colored troops to make certain people feel more defensive and to do
research into their own black confederate soldiers those that might are like travis manion chandler that have been refashioned into soldiers but not for the internet it really takes off can publish anything with our own historians it is a blessing this is what you'll find on hundreds of websites they were never accepted but they were never confederates they were union soldiers in 1864 using as a recruitment poster recruiting plaquemines
so you don't see those white officers of both sides and on the early seventies you can cut and paste and say what you want and it speaks to the ability - - the inability of most people to assess digital forces were not teaching teachers how to do this and they are not teaching their students we click on the top image and that's it that's as far as a lot of people go. and publish for fourth-graders a textbook look at that.
okay i will keep going. so the narrative begins to take off a small number of african-americans who have gravitated to this for one - - former naacp president he is the darling of the sons of confederates because he hasn't erased that one way they push that narrative is by dedicating military style headstones so you wouldn't know if they were slaves. noticed the language with the
confederate pensioners of color what does that mean cracks so another example she recently passed away the sons of confederate veterans using her to push their own narrative. and then to be more than happy to chair with a understood a camp slave and then to turn into a confederate soldier and god headstone military style amended 2014 they helped us special service for a real daughter of the confederacy. and this narrative continues to this day.
after the murders in charleston the sons were concerned for the confederate flags waiting to come down and then to hold the confederate flag so the historical fact shows there were black confederate soldiers into the trenches all under the confederate battle flag. so it's still still surfacing after charlottesville. and a monument to buy confederates on the capitol grounds in columbia. going into detail during the q&a but i will just stop there to see what you have in your
gettysburg to recross the potomac and many of these camp slaves either escape they become detached from their masters many end up as prisoners. and baltimore and other prisons. but if they are recruited specifically for intelligence purposes or espionage i did not come across any examples. that's a good question. >> you were talking initially between the black slaves and is probably a situation of
somebody being fond of their dog rather than a friendship in human term terms. >> you do make it interesting and a compelling point. with the image of silas i came in contact with silences great-granddaughter about ten years ago and we maintain the relationship sense and obviously she is aware of this image. that is how she sees it to suggest anything beyond that she doesn't want to go there. when she looks back someone who is slightly slouched over that that is more than likely has perspective. over the years we have no
accounts of enslaved men how they view the relationship and obviously we need that because certainly looking at this from the perspective of andrew and people out there who do looking at this from interspecific perspective it's very difficult to characterize the nature of the relationship but to look at coercion it is at the center of the master slave dynamic and i'm left with a lot of unanswered questions.
>> as somebody who follows you on social media i'm very aware. >> it has been a ride. >> so what kinds of reactions have surprised you quex. >> at knauf i would say surprised whether twitter or my blog i highlight the crazies just yesterday i was referred to as the baghdad bomber i don't know what that means. and i do that in part because it's a way to defuse what they are doing and have fun at their expense perhaps but the overwhelming response over the
last ten years with this subject which of course is encouraging the vast majority of people who come under the spell of this narrative don't try to push an agenda what happens is they don't have enough historical background so the narrative is lacking that of course sticks out also interpreting the primary source the internet is a blessing and a curse i love having access it's incredibly rich but there does need to be a little bit of training of how to look at this if you
don't have the background you could interpret an image like this is severely lacking. i think people appreciate the information or the help and for me social media the classroom is one thing through the blog i can reach out to those people who i think are hungry to understand this. it is a fascinating subject and also a memory of the civil war and again the last few weeks have reflected that which it's great to see people have told me they will never read it but that's fine.
>> one of the last slides there was an asterisk at the big up - - at the bottom. >> that was a free person of color. but if you look at this image where does the word slave appear other than enslaved? they are both bodies servants but the father of maddie but this is how people go about that vested interest to push their narrative this is the way you do it. these are public spaces now i
should just add to this ultimately that black confederate narrative has been unsuccessful it appeared in a fourth grade textbook i could even tell you to read the book across the river there are harvard scholars that are followed for this and it hasn't helped. that actually hurt things because more the people are happy to cite a harvard scholars. but wherever it has appeared in the mainstream place ultimately it was removed so it lives on the internet along
with other crazy ideas that never became mainstream and that was the goal. the goal was to preserve the lost cause of the emancipation this narrative of the civil war. that was for the sesquicentennial of there was any black soldiers between 2011 and 2015 that is an important development. this will be with us for some time that will never become mainstream. >> and then talk about i would think the lack of soldiers
would be pretty powerful so that and what else you try to help to educate people quex. >> that's a big part of it there is an entire chapter in the book of five former confederate states and of course of these people never even saw a pension but if you look at the actual documents it clearly states pensions for former bodies servants and i go into that. >> so also what tools do you use i do a lot of travel
especially teachers interpreting primary sources but giving them the tools so they interpret these documents that's more than anything else but the pensions the photographs and the words of real confederates. this isn't a difficult book to research what are confederate saying about the place of free blacks in the confederate war effort? and that's what makes the things so bizarre and that's
probably true. >> the work progress administration they interviewed many former slaves. so given the thousands that were camp slaves is there any attempt to record their stories quex. >> there's just a couple. part of the problem is a lot of the camp slaves and those did so in the early twenties and at that point in time very few former camp slaves could take advantage of it. that's the problem by the time you get to the 1930s. they were older.
obviously during the war there were fewer of them still alive. it's a very small number. dad is pretty consistent throughout the time. but sometimes to take the opportunity not to embellish their accounts that they are expected to tow the line and some of them they talk about the excitement of the battlefield and you could imagine them for the first time it's not clear if they are writing the accounts themselves but to imprint with that participation in the war