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Each week at In The Past Lane, the American history podcast, host and Historian-at-Large, Edward T. O’Donnell, brings you news, stories, interviews, and special features on all things U.S. history. His aim is to be both engaging and thought-provoking, inspired by the notion that history explains the world we live in and provides insights into how to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful, and just future. So come along with us as we journey In The Past Lane.  

Sep 17, 2019

This week at In The Past Lane, the American History podcast, I speak with historian Kevin Levin about his new book, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth. The story behind this myth that tens of thousands of free and enslaved black men fought on behalf of the Confederacy is fascinating. And in light of recent conflicts over the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments, it’s a very timely and important book that examines why the myth was developed in the late 1970s and how it has been used to argue that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War.

In the course of our discussion, Kevin Levin explains:

How the Black Confederate myth emerged in the 1970s in response to the civil rights movement and new historical scholarship that emphasized slavery as the cause of the Civil War.

How the Confederate military effort relied on the labor of tens of thousands of African Americans – but as enslaved workers, not soldiers.

Why many white Confederates brought enslaved men to accompany them as servants during their service in the Civil War.

How and why historic photographs and official government records are either misinterpreted or willfully misrepresented as “evidence” of Black Confederate soldiers. 

How the Black Confederate myth has found its way into history textbooks and public history exhibitions.

And why the current popularity of the Black Confederate myth reveals how Americans have not yet come to terms with race, slavery, and the Civil War.

Recommended reading

Kevin Levin, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth (UNC Press, 2019) 

Douglas R Egerton, Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America

Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

Amy Murrell Taylor, Embattled Freedom: Journeys through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps

More info about Kevin Levin - website

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Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen, “Trophy Endorphins” (Free Music Archive)

Blue Dot Sessions, “Sage the Hunter” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

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Website by: ERI Design

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