America

VA Textbook Claims Blacks Fought For South In Civil War. Source? The Internet.

civil war memorial

hide captionThe American Civil War Memorial. It carries the names of over 208,000 African American Civil War veterans. They fought for the Union.

WILLIAM PHILPOTT/AP

A new Virginia textbook for 4th graders claims that "thousands" of African Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, a claim that nearly all historians of the era reject. From the WP:

The issues first came to light after College of William & Mary historian Carol Sheriff opened her daughter's copy of "Our Virginia" and saw the reference to black Confederate soldiers.

"It's disconcerting that the next generation is being taught history based on an unfounded claim instead of accepted scholarship," Sheriff said. "It concerns me not just as a professional historian but as a parent."

The writer of "Our Virginia: Past and Present," Joy Masoff, defends her work. When questioned by the Post on her sources her publisher provided three web links. All of them citing work by Sons of Confederate Veterans, a Tennessee group that has long claimed Blacks fought for the South in large numbers. Their argument is really based in the idea that the war was not about slavery, but rather southerners defending their homes and way of life. Huh.

It is only one sentence in the book, "Thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson." Every single historian contacted by the Post found the claims, well, repellent.

"It's more than just an arcane, off-the-wall problem," said David Blight, a professor at Yale University. "This isn't just about the legitimacy of the Confederacy, it's about the legitimacy of the emancipation itself."

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson of Princeton University said, "These Confederate heritage groups have been making this claim for years as a way of purging their cause of its association with slavery."

Now, I'm not saying the Internet doesn't know everything, but when you're writing a history textbook, checking your sources might be a good idea. I'm just saying.

Egads.

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