I can file this one under: “Glad I don’t have a kid in Virginia public schools.” The Washington Post is reporting that a new fourth-grade textbook called “Our Virginia: Past and Present” contains a passage that states: “thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.” Joy Masoff, author of more than a dozen books for children published through Scholastic Books and its subsidiaries, says she found the information through Internet research and would have gladly removed the sentence had historians asked her to take it out. (Paradoxically, she also tells the Post: “As controversial as it is, I stand by what I write. I am a fairly respected writer.”)
Had they seen the text before it was shipped out to schools, historians would have asked her to take it out. The argument that many thousands of slaves willingly fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War has zero support in mainstream academic circles — for the simple reason that it is not supported by the documentary record. There is evidence that a very few African-Americans joined the Confederate ranks by choice; the overwhelming majority were servants and laborers.
The Myth of the Black Confederate has found a home primarily in Lost Cause circles, particularly Southern heritage groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), who use it to bolster the argument that the Civil War was not primarily about slavery. It’s been around for a while, but it has certainly found new life on the Internet in recent years. Not surprisingly, the links Masoff’s publisher provided to the Post as her sources for the passage in her book came almost exclusively from SCV-affiliate websites.
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