According to Our Virginia: Past and Present, a textbook currently in use in Virginia public schools, "thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks." According to Civil War scholars, that's not true, at all. Who is right, here?
Virginia education officials are telling teachers to avoid the passage in Our Virginia: Past and Present that reads "thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson," since it's "outside mainstream Civil War scholarship." The passage was first flagged by College of William & Mary historian Carol Sheriff, whose daughter was using the textbook, reports The Washington Post.
But hold your horses for a second, Virginia Department of Education! Are you sure you trust these so-called "scholars"?
Point: "Scholars are nearly unanimous in calling these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history."
Counterpoint: "The author, Joy Masoff... is not a trained historian but has written several books."
Point: "[Historians] expressed concerns not only over its accuracy but over the implications of publishing an assertion so closely linked to revisionist Confederate history."
Counterpoint: "Masoff... said she found the information about black Confederate soldiers primarily through Internet research."
Point: "Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson of Princeton University said, 'These Confederate heritage groups have been making this claim for years as a way of purging their cause of its association with slavery.'
Counterpoint:"'As controversial as it is, I stand by what I write,' [Masoff] said. 'I am a fairly respected writer.'"
Point:"'There's no way of knowing that there were thousands,' [University of Virginia Historian Ervin] Jordan said. 'And the claim about Jackson is totally false. I don't know where that came from.'"
Counterpoint "Masoff said one of her sources was Ervin Jordan, a University of Virginia historian."
Point: "'It's more than just an arcane, off-the-wall problem,' said David Blight, a professor at Yale University. 'This isn't just about the legitimacy of the Confederacy, it's about the legitimacy of the emancipation itself.'"
Counterpoint: "Masoff also wrote Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty and Oh Yikes! History's Grossest Moments."
In any event, it's nice to see that Virginia is still engaging with its Civil War legacy with the same forethought and attention to detail that led its governor to declare "Confederate History Month" without mentioning slavery at all.