Wednesday, October 20, 2010

They’re at it again!!!

Don’t you just love how the revisionists continue to alter true history? You may recall earlier this year, the Governor of Virginia introduced a proclamation celebrating “Confederate History Month” without mentioning slavery’s role in the Civil War making it appear “kinder and gentler”.

Well there is another attempt to revise history that coincides with preparations to marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. We know the capital was Richmond, Virginia which has long struggled to appropriately commemorate its Confederate past. However, doing so, or trying too, does not give them literary privilege to recreate their version of its wretched past.

This time it is in the form of a text book entitled “Our Virginia: Past and Present” distributed to fourth graders in the state’s public elementary schools disguised as a history textbook. Joy Masoff, the author of this book, who is not a trained historian but has written several books, makes the claim that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War. This claim is soundly rejected by almost all historians. In fact, scholars are nearly unanimous in calling her accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history.

Masoff also says, the book was reviewed by a publisher’s advisory council of educators and that none of the advisers objected to the textbook’s assertions. These assertions are most often used by groups seeking to play down slavery’s role as a cause for the conflict; like the state of Virginia, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and other confederate sympathizing groups. Virginia’s education officials admit the vetting of the book was flawed adding that “Just because a book is approved doesn’t mean the Department of Education endorses every sentence.”

In its short lesson on the roles that whites, African Americans and Indians played in the Civil War, “Our Virginia” says, “Thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.” Now the author attributes this fact concerning the information she provides about black Confederate soldiers from what she's gleaned primarily through Internet research, which turned up work by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Let me stop – take a breath. Ok, now. Let’s imagine thousands of slaves, people held in bondage, abused, beaten, owned as chattel, fighting to remain in a state of wretchedness helping their amoral captors/ masters/owners continue the practice of slavery. I think, more often than not, and history shows that they would choose the side of rebellion like a Nate Turner – if anything. What is troubling is that there seems to be a continuing pattern of this type of revision of late.

For example, most of the text books used in America's schools are modeled on the books used and approved in Texas, which has commissioned a body to alter massive amounts of information as it relates to actual history. The state school board revised social studies standards to increase study of Confederate leaders and reduce emphasis on the Founding Fathers' commitment to separation of church and state. Some wanted to stop referring to the slave trade and substitute a euphemistic phrase, the "Atlantic triangular trade," but that idea was, thankfully, dropped.

Carol Sheriff, a Civil War expert at the College of William and Mary, and the person who noticed the lie clarified the facts Wednesday on

"As far as we know from the historical record, not a single black person participated in a battle under the command of Stonewall Jackson… There is historical evidence that individual blacks, usually servants who followed their masters to the front, occasionally picked up guns in the heat of battle. But it was illegal in the Confederacy to use blacks as soldiers until the waning days of the war (early 1865). A few companies . . . were raised then, but none saw battle action, as the surrender followed shortly thereafter. Stonewall Jackson had died in 1863, so no black soldiers could have served under his command."

Sheriff said that thousands of blacks worked as laborers for the Confederate army, most of them involuntarily, including under Jackson's command. But that's very different from agreeing to risk your life in combat on behalf of a government committed to your enslavement, as some Confederate apologists would have us believe.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group of male descendants of Confederate soldiers based in Columbia, Tenn., has long maintained that substantial numbers of black soldiers fought for the South and supported the cause – so says Charles Kelly Barrow who has authored the book “Black Confederates.” Really! The Sons of Confederate Veterans widely dispute the accepted conclusion that the struggle over slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. Instead, claiming the war was fought “to preserve their homes and livelihood”. SLAVES – Really!

As sad as this is on its face, these untruths are a way of purging their cause of its association with slavery. The problem for me is that these efforts seek to find legitimacy of the Confederacy while implanting in the mind of future leaders that it was not really that bad or implying that it was caused by Manifest Destiny and God while denouncing the legitimacy of the emancipation itself. Like a particular Tea Bagger running for office now said that the Civil Rights Bill should be reviewed for its fairness. He was talking about fairness to white America.

More troubling is that Masoff said one of her sources was Ervin Jordan, a University of Virginia historian who claims to have documented evidence in the form of 19th century newspapers and personal letters of some African Americans fighting for the Confederacy. However, in an interview Jordan says the account in the fourth grade textbook went far beyond what his research can support. I think it is safe to assume beyond the pale of reason or what anyone’s research can support.

I often write Thought Provoking Perspectives on historical events concerning the African American Diaspora and know a little about the reality of our legacy. Therefore, I recognize that these attempts frankly are a sad commentary to truth. Let me say this: “If history that I have seen and witnessed in my life has been change, altered, and rewritten I find it hard to believe anything that His-Story professes to be true”. The shocking part about this is that it is accepted as truth. Nothing is as it seems – research for yourself and consider the source.

Finally, November 6 marks the 150th anniversary of the election of Abraham Lincoln, which led to the start of the Civil War. So let me warn you that for the next five years will bring a string of commemorations: Fort Sumter, the Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg, and Appomattox that will offer huge opportunities for the confederate sympathizers to continue to rewrite this sad history until the anniversary of the war’s end.

So get ready for the lies from the revisionists because the conscience dictates that they will not tell the truth.

JUST A SEASON – the novel

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