Skip to comments.Public Library to Celebrate Black Confederate History
Posted on 02/10/2003 8:22:03 AM PST by H8DEMS
(CNSNews.com) - As part of Black History Month, the public library system in Norfolk, Va., is honoring African-Americans who fought and died on behalf of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Robert Harrison, director of the Horace Downing Branch library in Norfolk, said blacks are rarely portrayed as supporting the Confederacy because politically correct historians prefer to connect the South and the Confederate flag with the evils of slavery. But history tells another side of the story, he said.
Harrison said the Horace Downing Library will spend one day, Feb. 25, re-creating Civil War encampments and re-enacting the roles that blacks played on both sides of the battlefield. (On Feb. 13, the Barron F. Black Homework Center, part of the Norfolk Public Library system, will present a similar re-enactment.) The celebrations will include rifle and cannon salutes to black "fallen heroes."
"We're going to try to bring together a balanced view of what happened to the black soldier, North and South," said Harrison, a black man with Confederate ancestry who intends to wear his own Confederate uniform during the event.
Harrison said Confederate re-enactors will explore the various factors and conditions that motivated thousands of blacks, including freemen and slaves, many of whom fought alongside their masters to preserve the Southern way of life. He said the controversial Confederate battle flag will fly as part of the re-enactments.
"All historical flags, historically accurate to the individual units presented, will fly. More than likely, one or two versions of the national flags will fly as well," Harrison told CNSNews.com. "This is strictly an historical event and nothing political. We're not here to have a flag rally; we're here to have a history rally, if anything."
Harrison said the reenactments are intended to show people of all races that black history is not always what Americans have been taught to believe.
"Politically correct history has definitely found a stable footing in the way history is presented in this country," Harrison said. "Historical truth is in the eyes of the beholder, and there's always more to history than what we think we know."
For example, Harrison said he has discovered "tons of passages and memoirs" that document Southern blacks' loyalty to the Confederacy prior to and after its demise. Yet almost 138 years later, he said, it's becoming increasingly difficult to convince modern blacks that their ancestors fought to preserve the South of their own free will.
"Sometimes, people are so accustomed to having things one way, that no matter how much proof or documentation you're going to present to them, they will automatically dismiss it," Harrison said. "People have told me flat-out, 'I don't care what you have to say. I don't care if it's real or not. I believe what I believe and that's all I want to know.'"
Harrison said the stigma that attaches to the Confederate flag and issues of Southern heritage have prevented Americans, both black and white, from taking pride in their Confederate ancestry.
"It is a part of American history," Harrison said. "It's a proud history and I, myself, as well as a large host of people of all ethnicities and colors, such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other folks, speak about and praise this history every day of our lives."
Harrison said the local library system is not trying to influence patrons' views on the controversial nature of this subject. Instead, the library system will offer information, including the reenactment, that lets people draw their own conclusions.
"We're going to try to bring together a balanced view of what happened to the black soldier, North and South," Harrison said. "The information is more than there if people want to see it."
"It strikes me as an extremely false portrayal of history," said Mark Potok, spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center. "It aids and abets a completely distorted and really racist view of what occurred during the Civil War."
According to Potok, there were "extremely few" blacks that fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War. He claimed only a "handful" of blacks served the South and were relegated to non-combat roles, such as cooking.
"I'm not saying there weren't a handful of blacks who willingly fought for the Confederacy," Potok said. "It is established fact - and not by me, but by real academics of the Civil War - that blacks who fought in the Civil War were almost entirely pressed into service in one way or the other."
Potok accused the "neo-Confederate movement" of promoting the "myth" that blacks willfully fought and died to preserve the Confederacy.
"The fact is that this is a myth that has been pushed very hard by groups like the League of the South and others concerned with kind of re-writing the history of the Civil War," Potok said. "Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to spotlight the many blacks who fled the South during the Civil War and fought with the Union."
Potok said the Norfolk Public Library system's decision to celebrate black Confederate history "shows an appalling lack of judgment on their part."
"Re-enactments are very popular with the public," said Brag Bowling, Virginia commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "All we ask for is historical accuracy."
According to Bowling, more than 90,000 blacks served the Confederate army in "one form or another," including combat.
"Depending on its slant, of course, I've seen them say that these people were forced to work for the Confederacy," Bowling said. "If you take a look at a lot of the United Confederate Veterans reunion photos, there are just boatloads of black people in the pictures...they weren't forced to come to the reunion."
Bowling said the "most overlooked" group of people in America is blacks who fought for and supported Confederacy. However, he said many blacks with ties to the South are pressured into denying their Confederate roots by other blacks who are too ashamed to admit the reality.
"Within black communities," Bowling said, "the people who want to honor their ancestors are shrilly beaten down by the politically correct forces in the community."
Bowling blames the embarrassment faced by those Southern blacks on historians and text book authors for creating an abundance of "politically correct revisionist history."
"Nowadays, you're not allowed to talk about certain subjects, and this is one of them," Bowling said. "I think black people, especially, need to know the fact that there were lots of blacks that served in the Confederate service, and it might be some of their ancestors that they don't even know about."
If you want on (or off) of my black conservative ping list, please let me know via FREEPmail. (And no, you don't have to be black to be on the list!)
Extra warning: this is a high-volume ping list.
The Wlat Brigade is really going to get its panties in a twist over this.
"It's pure fantasy,' contends James McPherson, a Princeton historian and one of the nation's leading Civil War scholars.
Adds Edwin Bearss, historian emeritus at the National Park Service: 'It's b.s., wishful thinking.'
Robert Krick, author of 10 books on the Confederacy, has studied the records of 150,000 Southern soldiers and found fewer than a dozen were black. 'Of course, if I documented 12, someone would start adding zeros,' he says.
"These and other scholars say claims about black rebels derive from unreliable anecdotes, a blurring of soldiers and laborers, and the rapid spread on the Internet of what Mr. McPherson calls 'pseudohistory.' Thousands of blacks did accompany rebel troops -- as servants, cooks, teamsters and musicians. Most were slaves who served involuntarily; until the final days of the war, the Confederacy staunchly refused to enlist black soldiers.
"Some blacks carried guns for their masters and wore spare or cast-off uniforms, which may help explain eyewitness accounts of blacks units. But any blacks who actually fought did so unofficially, either out of personal loyalty or self-defense, many historians say.
"They also bristle at what they see as the disingenuous twist on political correctness fueling the black Confederate fad. 'It's a search for a multicultural Confederacy, a desperate desire to feel better about your ancestors,' says Leslie Rowland, a University of Maryland historian. 'If you suggest that some blacks supported the South, then you can deny that the Confederacy was about slavery and white supremacy.'
"David Blight, an Amherst College historian, likens the trend to bygone notions about happy plantation darkies.' Confederate groups invited devoted ex-slaves to reunions and even won Senate approval in 1923 for a "mammy" monument in Washington (it was never built). Black Confederates, Mr. Blight says, are a new and more palatable way to 'legitimize the Confederacy.'"
-- Wall Street Journal, May 8, 1997
"There seems to be no evidence that the Negro soldiers authorized by the Confederate Government (March 13, 1865) ever went into battle. This gives rise to the question as to whether or not any Negroes ever fought in the Confederate ranks. It is possible that some of the free Negro companies organized in Louisiana and Tennessee in the early part of the war took part in local engagements; but evidence seems to the contrary. (Authors note: If they did, their action was not authorized by the Confederate Government.) A company of "Creoles," some of whom had Negro blood, may have been accepted in the Confederate service at Mobile. Secretary Seddon conditioned his authorization of the acceptance of the company on the ability of those "Creoles" to be naturally and properly distinguished from Negroes. If persons with Negro Blood served in Confederate ranks as full-fledged soldiers, the per cent of Negro blood was sufficiently low for them to pass as whites."
(Authors note: Henry Clay Warmoth said that many Louisiana mulattoes were in Confederate service but they were "not registered as Negroes."
War Politics and Reconstruction, p. 56) p. 160-61, SOUTHERN NEGROES, Wiley
There is -no- credible evidence that even a small number of blacks served as soldiers in the rebel armies.
You kill me every time you do this. ;-)
at least 100,000 black men (and NOT a few women!) served the TRUE CAUSE of dixie LIBERTY.
the military forces of the southland were about 1/4 "persons of colour", red, brown, asian & black.
that is the TRUTH that the shysters of the SPLC, naaLcp & the LYING DIMocRATS don't want you to know.
It's not revision to quote the people of the day.
FRIDAY, February 10, 1865.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
SECOND CONGRESS-SECOND SESSION
EMPLOYMENT OF NEGROES AS SOLDIERS
Mr. Wickham, of Virginia, moved the indefinite postponement of the bill. He was opposed to its going to a select committee. If it went to any committee it should go, in the regular channel, to the Committee on Military Affairs. He wished, however, this question of arming and making soldiers of negroes to be now disposed of, finally and forever. He wished it to be decided whether negroes are to be placed upon an equality by the side of our brave soldiers. They would be compelled to. They would have to camp and bivouac together.
Mr. Wickham said that our brave soldiers, who have fought so long and nobly, would not stand to be thus placed side by side with negro soldiers. He was opposed to such a measure. The day that such a bill passed Congress sounds the death knell of this Confederacy. The very moment an order goes forth from the War Department authorizing the arming and organizing of negro soldiers there was an eternal end to this struggle.-(Voice-That's so.)
The question being ordered upon the rejection of the bill, it was lost-ayes 21, noes 53. As this vote was regarded as a kind of test of the sense of the House upon the policy of putting negroes into the army, we append the ayes and noes-the question being the rejection of this bill authorizing the employment of negroes as soldiers:
Ayes-Messrs. Baldwin, Branch, Cruikshank, De Jarnette, Fuller, Garland, Gholson, Gilmer, Lamkin, J. M. Leach, J. T. Leach, McMullin, Miles, Miller, Ramsey, Sexton, Smith, of Alabama, Smith, of North Carolina, Wickham, Witherspoon, Mr. Speaker.
Noes-Messrs. Akin, Anderson, Barksdale, Batson, Bell, Blandford, Boyce, Bradley, H. W. Bruce, Carroll, Chambers, Chilton, Clark, Clopton, Cluskey, Conrad, Conrow, Darden, Dickinson, Dupre, Ewing, Farrow, Foster, Funsten, Gaither, Goode, Gray, Hartridge, Hatcher, Hilton, Holder, Holliday, Johnston, Keeble, Lyon, Pugh, Read, Rogers, Russell, Simpson, J. M. Smith, W. E. Smith, Snead, Swan, Triplett, Villere, Welsh.
If any number of black soldiers had been serving in the ranks of the CSA armies, how did it escape the notice of Congress?
It also escaped the notice of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and others:
Page 246, Confederate Veteran, June 1915. Official publication of the United Confederate Veteran, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Confederated Southern Memorial Association. Gen. Howell Cobb, an unbeliever in this expedient, wrote from Macon, Ga., January 8, 1865:
"I think that the proposition is the most pernicious idea that has been suggested since the war began. You cannot make soldiers of slaves or slaves of soldiers. The moment you resort to this your white soldiers are lost to you, and one reason why this proposition is received with favor by some portions of the army is because they hope that when the negro comes in they can retire. You cannot keep white and black troops together, and you cannot trust negroes alone. They won't make soldiers, as they are wanting in every qualification necessary to make one.
Samuel Clayton, Esq., of Cuthbert, Ga., wrote on January 10, 1865: "All of our male population between sixteen and sixty is in the army. We cannot get men from any other source; they must come from our slaves... The government takes all of our men and exposes them to death. Why can't they take our property? He who values his property more than independence is a poor, sordid wretch."
General Lee, who clearly saw the inevitable unless his forces were strengthened, wrote on January 11, 1865:
"I should prefer to rely on our white population; but in view of the preparation of our enemy it is our duty to provide for a continuous war, which, I fear, we cannot accomplish with our present resources. It is the avowed intention of the enemy to convert the ablebodied negro into soldiers and emancipate all. His progress will thus add to his numbers and at the same time destroy slavery in a most pernicious manner to the welfare of our people. Whatever may be the effect of our employing negro troops, it cannot be as mischievous as this. If it ends in subverting slavery, it will be accomplished by ourselves, and we can devise the means of alleviating the evil consequences to both races. I think, therefore, that we must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves used against us or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our soldiers' social institutions. My own opinion is that we should employ tl1em without delay. I believe that with proper regulations they can be made efficient soldiers. They possess the physical qualifications in an eminent degree. Long habits of obedience and subordination, coupled with the moral influence which in our country the white man possesses over the black, furnish an excellent foundation for that discipline which is the best guarantee of military efficiency. We can give them an interest by allowing immediate freedom to all who enlist and freedom at the end of the war to their families. We should not expect slaves to fight for prospective freedom when they can secure it at once by going to the enemy, in whose service they will incur no greater risk than in ours. In conclusion, I can only say that whatever is to be done must be attended to at once."
President Davis on February 21, 1865 expressed himself as follows: "It is now becoming daily more evident to all reflecting persons that we are reduced to choosing whether the negroes shall fight for or against us and that all the arguments as to the positive advantage or disadvantage of employing them are beside the question, which is simply one of relative advantage between having their fighting element in our ranks or those of the enemy."
Would Lee and Davis have had those points of view had there been any number of blacks in ranks?
The Richmond Examiner:
"We have been accustomed to think in this Southern country that the best friends of the Negroes were their own masters. . . But now the President of the Confederate States opens quite another view of the matter. According to his message it is a rich reward for faithful services to turn a Negro wild. Slavery, then, in the eyes of Mr. Davis, keeps the Negro out of something which he has the capacity to enjoy. . . If the case be so, then slavery is originally, radically, incurably wrong and sinful, and the sum of barbarism."
Genovese, "Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World The Slaves Made", 1974p. 129
There is no -credible- evidence of blacks in active rebel service.
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