Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Looking In From the Outside, Black Confederates Edition

Posted in African Americans, Media, Memory, Technology by Andy Hall on October 17, 2011

Leslie Madsen-Brooks, an assistant professor of history at Boise State University, has put up an essay on the online discussion over BCS. It’s interesting to see an outsider’s view of this business. For those who’ve followed the discussion for a while, it covers a lot of familiar territory, and a lot of familiar names. For folks who are new to the subject, it gives a pretty good lay of the land, and a useful introduction to the characters involved.

And boy howdy, are there some characters. 😉

h/t Kevin Levin and Brooks “Perfesser” Simpson

Image: Unidentified young soldier in Confederate uniform and Hardee hat with holstered revolver and artillery saber, Library of Congress.


6 Responses

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  1. corkingiron said, on October 19, 2011 at 9:28 am

    “Andy Hall did not disclose his profession”.

    Pretty clear proof that you’re an agent of the George Soros world conspiracy against all that is….um…y’know, all the good stuff. Ice cream. Church picnics. Archie Comics.

    An interesting article; the most important question for me is what the role of the professional historian should be. There’s a case to be made that they have a civic obligation to engage; but my gut tells me that their real responsibility remains with the complexities of the past. The “raging debates” about what history “proves” are best left to us amateurs.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 19, 2011 at 10:25 am

      I’ve chosen not to disclose my current job (or other personal information) on the blog because other bloggers I know have had problems with folks making trouble for them at work. My employment is not related to my blogging here, and I’ve provided sufficient general information about my professional experience and educational background for careful readers to know my perspective, and what I bring to the table.

      “The “raging debates” about what history “proves” are best left to us amateurs.”

      Perhaps. In the case of BCS, I’ll submit, academic historians know the evidence, so it’s not a particularly interesting question, nor one that will advance them professionally. (Stauffer made some news with his recent talk at Harvard, but it will not count one way or another at his tenure review.) That, and they are understandably reluctant to wade into what is frequently a very ugly scene.

      • Woodrowfan said, on October 19, 2011 at 4:40 pm

        As a professional historian may i also say it’s really frustrating dealing with issues like this. You spend years of hard work in training to learn your craft, then spend many more years learning the subject matter, and you end up arguing with someone with no training, who doesn’t understand the methodology, but who read something on the internet so it’s true. Imagine spending decades to learn immunology only to try to debate someone who believes vaccines cause autism because a former Playboy centerfold said so on “Oprah.”

        This is not to say I don’t have respect for amateur historians. In my Public History classes we talk about tapping into networks of non-professionally trained historians and history buffs who have mastered a certain subject. It’s the grads of “Google U” that drive us crazy.

        • Andy Hall said, on October 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm

          Thanks for this. There seems to be an assumption that professional (i.e., graduate-level) training in history is really only an extended indoctrination in a specific, predetermined (not to mention politically-correct) historical narrative, more-or-less by rote. Of course, the most scathing criticism of the discipline along these lines usually comes from people with little or no firsthand knowledge of it, too.

          Bonus points for your analogy. I think that may be the first mention of Jenny McCarthy on any Civil War blog, ever.

      • BorderRuffian said, on October 20, 2011 at 11:14 am

        “In the case of BCS, I’ll submit, academic historians know the evidence”

        On a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (good) they’re about a 3.

  2. Rob Wick said, on October 20, 2011 at 11:32 am

    But there certainly was a time when some academic historians DID engage the general, albeit more educated, public on issues of the day. Henry Steele Commager, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Richard Hofstadter just to name three, performed this service rather well. It seems to me that both “sides” (meaning academic and non-academic) historians must play a role in these debates. When you have a group of tea partiers trying to rewrite the history of the founders, not only do you need bloggers and non-academic historians (or even journalist/commentators) setting the record straight, but you also need Gordon Wood or R.B. Bernstein bringing their years of study to bear on the question. Not that it will matter to the true believer, but it can make a difference to someone who truly wants to learn.


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