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

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  223 ratings  ·  59 reviews
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 ...more
Kindle Edition, 248 pages
Published August 9th 2019 by The University of North Carolina Press
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Oleksandr Zholud
Dec 14, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the non-fic about a myth, which concerns the US Civil war but reached even me in Ukraine. You as well possibly saw photos of armed blacks in South grey or black and white soldiers sitting side-by-side. Often the comment is that no further comments are needed, all southerners fought Yankees for freedom…

If one is interested in the US history most likely s/he heard about the mainstream historians reason for the civil war – slavery and its alternative – state rights. One of the arguments of
...more
Maxine
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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' ...more
Christine
Can we just named UDC a terrorist organization already?

Wait, wait - here me out.

If you read anything about how the Civil War is remember and how the history of the War has been manipulated, at the heart of that manipulation is the UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy). From statues to textbooks, the UDC seems to be behind it all. In this book, you can even read about how they put a Confederate Vet marker on the grave of a former slaves, without telling his descendants who were understandabl
...more
Reuben
It’s difficult to truly understand how deep the scars of the Civil War reach into our national psyche. So far in fact, that like most familial trauma, we choose to ignore them. However, with Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, Kevin Levin digs into the scar tissue attempting to root out one of the remaining abnormalities of our collective trauma.

It feels strange and admittedly nerdy to call SFBC a wild ride throughout but it’s true. Thoroughly researched and
...more
Dale
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Published in August of 2019 by The University of North Carolina Press.

As the title states, one of the most common myths of the "the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery" crowd is that thousands and thousands of African-Americans served in organized units in the Confederate Army.

To be fair to the mistaken people that advocate for this position, there were African-American people traveling with the Confederate Army. They were not there as volunteers - they were there as body servants to their
...more
Justin
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
***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
...more
Lynn
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book on origins of the Black Confederate soldier narrative and it’s origins. The author begins with the civil war and how slaves are often brought to the battlefield and camps during the war. They were usually the personal manservant of a soldier and not treated as soldiers themselves. There were many stories of close bonds between master and slave but nothing about a slave being a soldier. Later it delves into the Lost Cause narrative and how white Southerners time ok good care ...more
Maggie
If the Lost Cause and the War of Northern Aggression were actual physical things, I would be happy to squeeze them to dust and shoot the particles into the sun.

But they are not things, they are ever-mutating concepts that are used to obscure actual history, and damnit, can we please just look at the record, learn from it, acknowledge our history, accept that immiseration, slavery, and other cruelties are part and parcel of our entire history, and then try to make things better? And maybe we coul
...more
Deb Montague
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Can be a touch dry at times, but this invaluable books gathers all available evidence for black Confederate soldiers and solidly debunks it. The author places the need to have black soldiers fighting for the Confederacy within the Lost Cause narrative. He shows how implausible it was to have had black soldiers and then, how the evolution of the Lost Cause chose to embrace a faulty memory. He cites extensive documentation that camp slaves became these soldiers. He also examines how, within a 50-y ...more
Joseph
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Susan Morris
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, thoroughly researched book addressing the claim of African Americans fighting for the Confederacy. Levin completely debunks the claim. I was greatly surprised to read at the end that Henry Louis Gates has supported this claim. (Own)
Jared
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book, addressing a continuing problem in historical memory. It needs to be widely read, and would serve excellently as a resource in undergraduate classes, especially alongside Charles Dew's Apostles of Disunion.

The narrator on the audiobook is also very good.
...more
Karen
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
I truly had no idea that this myth is still being pushed. Very thorough debunking of a completely absurd idea. Blech. Review to come.
Jud Barry
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Review here. ...more
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 ...more
Mark Cheathem
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the clearest and most detailed overview of the Black Confederate myth. It should be a staple in Civil War courses.
Trae
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memory, civil-war, owned
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.
Dencio
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A myth laid to rest.

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.
...more
David Kent
A definitive treatise on black confederate soldiers. In short, there weren't any. But author Kevin Levin goes deeper than that; much deeper. The result is a defining work on the subject. His extensive research demonstrates that there weren't any black soldiers in the Confederate army. There were, however, a significant number of black slaves who accompanied the army as body servants, laborers to dig trenches and construct earthworks, teamsters, blacksmiths, cooks, musicians, and for dead body re ...more
Josh Liller
I read this book via Project Muse as one of the university press books they had available for free. I have been interested in reading this book since it was announced. There are 184 pages of main text, with some photos and illustrations scattered throughout, plus endnotes.

The first two chapters cover the role of African Americans with the Confederate Army. Namely, they were nearly all enslaved and serving as personal servants, cooks, or similiar non-combat support roles. Levin notes that if blac
...more
Tara
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Thomas Mackie
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
To initiate this review of Searching for Black Confederates, I am introducing myself as a public historian with near forty years in the field. Almost twelve of these spent at a Lincoln museum with previous research into the field of public memory particularly that of the Civil War and Lincoln. Kevin Levin’s book lands in the segregated world of American public history. It is a world divided between heritage’s personal past and academic historians working on their own, in universities or museums. ...more
EJ Daniels
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Dr. Kevin Levin's latest contribution to the historic canon centers around spilling an awful lot of ink on debunking a risible premise: that tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of black troops served as enlisted, uniformed soldiers in the armies of the Confederate States of America. While this claim has never been made by any serious historian, it has circulated in certain circles and gained some traction thanks to faulty research and misidentified photographs, and Levin has t ...more
Ian Raffaele
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are times during our collective frustration where we may lament, “the Internet was a mistake.” The proliferation of online falsehoods and bad faith arguments over the past couple of decades lend credence to this cynicism. This is perhaps no better exemplified than in Kevin M. Levin’s Searching for Black Confederates. Levin does yeoman’s work in documenting the strange 50-year history of the Sons of Confederate Veterans rebranding efforts to whitewash camp slaves into enlisted combat soldie ...more
Madam Mystic
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that seeks to debunk the Black Confederate myth and reveal the actual roles of blacks, both free and enslaved, in the Confederate army. As he argues, the Black Confederate myth was created during a time in the 1970s when academics and mainstream culture placed more emphasis on slavery being the primary reason for the Civil War. Confederate heritage groups sought to defend the Lost Cause narrative and memory by whipping out historical documents that they believed proved the existen ...more
Mark Steininger
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book explores the role of African Americans in the Confederate army, and how Lost Cause revisionism has distorted the South’s own history. I was particularly interested in the affect of entering free states on Confederate armies, who suddenly had to face the fact that their impressed slaves were not particularly loyal to their cause. The sections on Civil War Reunions in the early-20th century, and the few ex-slaves who attended these events was also very enlightening. Levin contrasts these ...more
Don
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Levin's political biases creep occasionally into this book, but that's barely relevant. He has done a masterful and systematic job of tracing not only the development of the "black confederate" stories that emerged primarily after the Civil War centennial and the civil rights movement, but carefully documenting the misuse and mis-contextualization of existing documents, as well as the extremely significant silences of the writings of the actual generation of civil war veterans, to effectively de ...more
Ben Seiss
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book really surprised me. I was initially concerned that the title was just clickbait as the first third to half of the book was just talking about various slaves' experience in the Civil War. Little did I know that this part of the book was the author's building a counter-narrative to the black confederate theory. Levin uses these stories brilliantly to garner credibility for his theory (the truth) without addressing the historical myth until the second half of the book. Using an appropria ...more
montogma25
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
have to admit, until I read the title of this book, I never would have thought about the idea that there were African Americans serving in the Confederate Army. It is a very interesting concept, and that made the book a very interesting read. The readers learn a great deal about life in the south, the reasons why they wanted to leave both the Union and the Confederacy, the reasons why the African Americans chose the side that they to fight for; and the relationships between masters and slaves. ...more
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