Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

More than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, scores of websites, articles, and organizations repeat claims that anywhere between 500 and 100,000 free and enslaved African Americans fought willingly as soldiers in the Confederate army. But as Kevin M. Levin argues in this carefully researched book, such claims would have shocked anyone who served in the army during t...

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Title:Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth
Author:Kevin M. Levin
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Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth Reviews

  • Tara

    I received an Advanced Reader Copy courtesy of the publisher.

    I am going to sit down and write a proper review (this weekend?). But suffice it to say that this book is highly recommended reading.

    I remained impressed by the detail and breadth of the scholarship, from the Civil War to the present day, throughout this entire book. It is also very readable, accessible for the layperson and student.

    I have pre-ordered a copy of this book for my own bookshelf.

  • Trae

    This book is painstakingly researched and beautifully written. Levin thoroughly exposes the misread sources, misinterpretations, and outright lies which have lead to a fringe movement of neo-Confederates to perpetuate the myth that African Americans served in the Confederate military during the Civil War. This goes on the list of books I wish I could make every American read.

  • Karen

    This is an incredibly fascinating and informative read on a vital, and sadly sensitive, subject.

    The author did an amazing job debunking the myth of the black Confederate soldiers. Making his case in a very well written, structured way and presenting the facts in an objective and impartial manner. Slaves were not free to make their own choices, duh… and the Southern states (at that time) regarded them as property not people and would never have wanted to elevate them to the rank of soldier, whic

    This is an incredibly fascinating and informative read on a vital, and sadly sensitive, subject.

    The author did an amazing job debunking the myth of the black Confederate soldiers. Making his case in a very well written, structured way and presenting the facts in an objective and impartial manner. Slaves were not free to make their own choices, duh… and the Southern states (at that time) regarded them as property not people and would never have wanted to elevate them to the rank of soldier, which would have implied they were equal to white men.

    I was pleased by the richness of historical details and context provided by the author’s meticulous and in-depth research, conscientiously referencing the many quotations throughout the book. In the foreword, he also makes a very good case for the necessity of having this book out there in this day and age of fake news & the internet, as well as the rising tide, unfortunately, of (aggressive) white supremacy. The author brilliantly demonstrates how important academic research is in the fight against fake news as a way to ignore all the pesky little facts that don’t fit into some people’s narrative or worldview.

    It’s sad, scary, and incomprehensible, that so many people today still feel the need to revere and defend the former slave-owning Southern states. Why not take responsibility and preserve this history as a warning and lesson, instead of trying to glorify it?

    I have learned so much reading this book. Very much a necessary read.

  • Joseph

    The author strives to debunk the most persistent myth about the Civil War; black Confederate soldiers. He asserts that there were none, and anyone claiming the opposite is using the myth to further their own agenda. I found the book to be very engaging, and easy to read. Each chapter focused on a different aspect of black Confederate soldiers, and the book overall was very enjoyable. Also, it wasn't a massive tome like so many newly released Civil War themed books seem to be.

  • Maxine

    I have come to the conclusion that a little history in the wrong hands is a very dangerous thing. That is no more true than in the myth of the Black Confederate Soldier. In Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War's Most Persistent Myth, author and historian Kevin M Levin debunks this myth using both secondary and contemporaneous sources. As Levin shows, this myth actually began in the 1970s in response to the gains of the Civil Rights movement. It was part of the attempt to 'deracialize'

    I have come to the conclusion that a little history in the wrong hands is a very dangerous thing. That is no more true than in the myth of the Black Confederate Soldier. In Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War's Most Persistent Myth, author and historian Kevin M Levin debunks this myth using both secondary and contemporaneous sources. As Levin shows, this myth actually began in the 1970s in response to the gains of the Civil Rights movement. It was part of the attempt to 'deracialize' the Civil War to 'prove' that the war was not fought over slavery but states rights. As the myth developed, it entered the education system so that it became widely disseminated 'history'. Levin looks at all the 'evidence' used to back up its claims, some of them direct and deliberate falsehoods but some, like a photograph of a Black man sitting beside a white man, both in Confederate uniforms, are, as he shows, misunderstandings of what the particular documentation signifies. Searching for Black Confederates is well-researched and well-documented and, unlike too many history books, interesting and accessible and I recommend it highly.

    In Searching for Black Confederates, Levin shows how small bits of history taken out of context can become dangerous 'truths' especially in a world where the Internet functions on memes and one can easily find any 'facts' to back up biases. This is particularly dangerous when it is used, as in the case of the myth of the Black Confederate, to dismiss the horrors of slavery, one of the worst human rights violations ever committed.

  • Matt

    Kevin M. Levin's excellent new book is about the role that African-Americans actually played in the Confederate Military and how perceptions of that role shifted during and after the Civil Rights Movement through misinterpretation of primary sources, both deliberate and otherwise. Levin writes pointedly about how the men who served as Camp Slaves and their enslavers would have thought the notion of their being armed African-Americans in the Confederate Military as preposterous. Levin has produce

    Kevin M. Levin's excellent new book is about the role that African-Americans actually played in the Confederate Military and how perceptions of that role shifted during and after the Civil Rights Movement through misinterpretation of primary sources, both deliberate and otherwise. Levin writes pointedly about how the men who served as Camp Slaves and their enslavers would have thought the notion of their being armed African-Americans in the Confederate Military as preposterous. Levin has produced a fine work and easily my favourite chapter was the 5th, regarding the origins of the myth in the 1970s and how it initially spread. This chapter includes some analysis of the response to major pieces of popular culture relating to Slavery and the Civil War - including "Roots" and "Glory". I have a soft spot for media analysis and cultural memory studies.

    If you're at all interested in the Civil War, historiography, or cultural memory this is not a book to miss.

  • Janilyn Kocher

    Levin provides some compelling arguments. I disagree with some of his assertions in the introduction. I also think he extrapolates too much in some of the chapters and veers off the subject. Overall, readers will find value in his debunking of the black soldier of the south myth. Thanks to NetGalley for the early read.

  • Dencio

    Well documented and thoroughly researched book on the myth of the Black Confederate 'SOLDIER '. Highly readable and informative. If one is interested in the history and development of the mythical Black Confederate 'SOLDIER ' this is the go to book.

    The book has footnotes, index and bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

    Highly recommended.

  • Justin

    ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.***

    The book, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth by Kevin Levin, challenges the myth that large numbers of African Americans served in the Confederate army and charts the myth’s development to the present day. Levin explains that for most of the Civil War, the Confederacy refused to allow black slaves to become soldiers in the army. It wasn’t until a couple a month before its defeat, when it was i

    ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.***

    The book, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth by Kevin Levin, challenges the myth that large numbers of African Americans served in the Confederate army and charts the myth’s development to the present day. Levin explains that for most of the Civil War, the Confederacy refused to allow black slaves to become soldiers in the army. It wasn’t until a couple a month before its defeat, when it was in dire straits, that the Confederate government allowed for black men to join their armies. Since their defeat, many in the south, including groups like the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy, have used the idea of enslaved blacks fighting as soldiers under the Confederate flag to back their Lost Cause narrative and divorce racism and white supremacy from the Confederate cause. This narrative made its way into textbooks, museums and even into National Parks until being challenged and put into context in current times. Levin does a great job of pointing out the errors in the way Lost Cause proponents use historical evidence to back their claims. From the mischaracterization of the black camp servants as soldiers, so-called photographic evidence of black Confederate soldiers, pension papers and narratives created after the war, Levin puts everything into its proper historical narrative allowing the reader to see how over time the truth became distorted. This is a great analysis of Black Confederate soldier narrative and will be an interesting read for anyone interested in the Civil War and its influence on American culture.

    Rating: 4 stars. Would recommend to a friend.

  • Tony Griffin

    I’d give it Zero stars. Kevin Levin is not worthy of publishing anything. His bias against the South and Black Confederates is we’ll known. He is a huge hypocrite. Black union soldiers doing the same jobs as Black Confederates are considered soldiers. Not so the Black Confederates, he dismisses them with the same old rhetoric. Don’t waste your money supporting this book of fiction!

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