The Civil War has brought about many controversial ideas; one idea is that if blacks were involved at all in the confederate army. In all the books and discussions we have had in class, almost always there is a limited, almost nonexistent view of male African Americans and their participation in the Civil War. Slavery was obviously a big part of the war and there are discussions about African American slaves and African American women but not a lot of details on black involvement in the fighting. After doing some searching on the internet, I found some interesting things about black confederates, and some perturbed people claiming that they did not exist at all. Despite all the evidence involved, there are those who claim black men were in no way part of the confederate army and try to defend it with all they can, truth or not. Then there are those who have looked through many primary sources and found evidence of slaves being involved, but it may have not been on their own free will.
A personal story of African American slaves involved in the war was John Parker and some others who fell into fighting at Bull Run. Kate Masur who is a historian for Northwestern explains that all four men were slaves, ordered by their owners to fight for the Confederate cause. ‘We wish[ed] to our hearts that the Yankees would whip and we would have run over to their side but our officers would have shot us if we had made the attempt,’ Parker recalled. Does this story represent that masters forced their slaves to work in the Confederate army or was it their own will that they joined in the fighting?
There are other stories and evidence to prove that there were black confederates. The battle at Fort Pillow in Tennessee consisted of a garrison by one regiment of black troops, numbering 262, and a cavalry detachment of similar size, for a total of 557 men. Then the most infamous group, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, in which the regiment consisted of all black men. There is also another story about blacks participating in regiments here and there. Do you think these blacks in the confederate army are valid or are they made up?
On one hand there are people like Harvard professor John Stauffer who states that, “They say the Civil War was about states’ rights, and they wish to minimize the role of slavery in a vanished and romantic antebellum South. But most historians of the past 50 years hold that the root cause of the Civil War was slavery. They bristle at the idea of black Confederates, which they say robs the war of its moral coin as the crucible of black emancipation.” Even though the amount of black’s fighting for the confederacy was low, it still shows that they were there and they were fighting. Stauffer states that blacks who shouldered arms for the Confederacy numbered more than 3,000 but fewer than 10,000. On the other hand, many scholars believe that black confederates did not exist. Fergus Bordewich, who wrote the fiction book The Root, is not alone in his position. Top-ranking scholars have repeatedly torpedoed the myth, including Bruce Levine, the renowned professor of African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Edwin Bearss, historian emeritus at the National Park Service; and Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, editor-in-chief of The Root and chair of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. Yet it persists. What do you think? Are black confederates a myth or did they really exist? If they did exist, why do you think they were involved?
For more information about black Confederates:
Confederate Law to authorize enlistment of slaves:http://www.history.umd.edu/Freedmen/csenlist.html
Myth of black confederates: http://www.theroot.com/views/myth-black-confederates-persists
 Kate Masur, “Slavery and Freedom at Bull Run,” New York Times Opinion Pages, accessed June 28, 2012, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/slavery-and-freedom-at-bull-run/.
 J Rickard,”Fort Pillow Massacre, 12 April 1864,” History of War, accessed June 28, 2012, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_fort_pillow_1864.html
 John Stauffer, “Black Confederates,” Harvard Gazette, accessed June 28, 2012, http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/09/black-confederates/.
 John Stauffer, “Black Confederates, ” Harvard Gazette, accessed June 28, 2012, http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/09/black-confederates/.
 Lynette Holloway, “The Myth of Black Confederates Persists, 2011,” The Root, accessed June 28, 2012, http://www.theroot.com/views/myth-black-confederates-persists.