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Debunking the Myth of the Voluntary Black Confederate Soldier

Author Kevin M. Levin at a podium giving a presentation
Author Kevin M. Levin

*VPM intern Brianna Scott reported this story.

The Virginia Museum of History & Culture hosted a talk this week debunking the myth of the Black Confederate.

Kevin M. Levin is the author of the book “Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.” Levin says that despite what the internet may say, black confederates were not fighting in the war willingly.

“Enslaved men are what allows a confederate army to camp efficiently, it allows a confederate army to march and it also allows an army to engage in battle," Levin said. "Enslaved men are the cornerstone, to use Alexander Stephens’ word, of the Confederate military. There is no Confederate army without enslaved men.”

Levin says many slaves were forced to accompany their masters in the war, a reality that he says is not depicted in Confederate monuments.

Levin hopes the recent unveiling of the Kehinde Wiley’s sculpture, which is a direct response to the J. E. B. Stuart monument here in Richmond, will fuel more discussion amongst locals. Wiley’s sculpture will be moved from Times Square to Richmond this December in front of the VMFA.

“African-Americans have been protesting confederate monuments and the memorials since day one," Levin said. "And I think for many Americans, and specifically African-Americans, those monuments and memorials are not static symbols They still do send a message.”

A survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows Virginia is home to 223 confederate monuments.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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