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

Presenter: 
Kevin M. Levin
Duration: 
(00:58:24)

On October 1, 2019, Kevin M. Levin delivered a Banner Lecture entitled, “Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.”

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, such claims would have shocked anyone who served in the army during the war itself. Levin explains that imprecise contemporary accounts, poorly understood primary-source material, and other misrepresentations helped fuel the rise of the black Confederate myth. Moreover, Levin shows that belief in the existence of black Confederate soldiers largely originated in the 1970s, a period that witnessed both a significant shift in how Americans remembered the Civil War and a rising backlash against African Americans’ gains in civil rights and other realms.

Kevin M. Levin is an award-winning educator and historian based in Boston, Massachusetts. He has written extensively about the American Civil War and has spoken across the country on the current controversy surrounding Confederate monuments. Levin is the author several books, including Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder; Interpreting the Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites; and Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.

This presentation was presented in partnership with the American Civil War Museum.