Tomorrow I’m sure many people will be tuning in to watch PBS’s History Detectives in order to watch the episode devoted to the story of Andrew and Silas Chandler. The nature of this relationship between a white Confederate and his black slave has been the stuff of many a blogging entry, with Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory taking pride of place by a large margin. Kevin’s done a lot of research into this story, and it amused me when History Detectives first worked with him, then left him hanging (this is not unusual practice with many of these history television shows). It’s clear to me that sometimes the best qualified people do not show up on these shows.
Nevertheless, anticipation’s building, judging from newspaper coverage. I’m sure that various blogs and other discussion groups (including various “Confederate heritage” groups) are anxiously awaiting this episode.
My prediction (and I have no inside information about this) is that no one will be happy with the result. Regardless of what’s found, people will find reasons to discount the show’s conclusions, both in terms of the particular story and its larger import for the continuing controversy over black Confederates (and yes, regardless of what some scholars say, there seems to be a debate about this issue that at times has very little to do with a dispassionate examination of evidence).
As some folks know, I do not hold History Detectives in high regard. Nor do I care much for its cousin, Antiques Roadshow. The quality of History Detectives is erratic, and the research techniques are often common sense … and at times the show simply misses important points. Give me National Treasure I/II or Castle any day. And it will be interesting to see whether Wes Cowan admits that he was a bit confused when he first discussed the issue on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, as you can see here.