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

Univ. of North Carolina. Sept. 2019. 240p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781469653266. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781469653273. HIST
Levin, author of the blog Civil War Memory, incisively reveals the origins and various iterations of the “black Confederate” mythology that white supremacists, pro-Confederate memorialists, and states’ righters have conjured up to insist that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War and that slaves loved their masters and “home” so much that they were willing to fight for them. He skillfully deconstructs the so-called evidence that such mythmakers have distorted and even fabricated to make their claims, and tracks the ready way the Internet has circulated such unchecked conjurations. Levin is especially persuasive in showing that slaves who worked for the Confederacy during the war always did so as slaves, and that whites then understood them only as such. Even the Lost Cause mythology of the postwar era that celebrated supposedly loyal slaves never claimed them as soldiers in the cause. That claim came in response to the modern civil rights movement as whites sought to cleanse their own history of racism by creating legions of supposed black Confederates rallying for states’ rights.
VERDICT Levin’s timely and telling account should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the uses and abuses of history and the power and dangers of mythmaking.

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