The Black Confederate Myth: The Case of Norris White, Jr., and Primus Kelly

Andy Hall’s at it again.

Today he offers something most advocates of the black Confederate myth fail to present — research — to offer evidence that yet another in a long series of fanciful tales might not be what its proponents say it is.

The case involves the claims of Norris White, Jr., a graduate student at Stephen F. Austin University, who has made some very interesting assertions about the Confederate military service of blacks from Texas, including the statement that some 50,000 blacks from that state participated in the Confederate military effort, a number that outstrips the actual number of enslaved males in Texas between 15 and 50 years of age. I’m waiting for claims of enslaved women from Texas who served with the CSA (note we haven’t heard that theme advanced yet).

Mr. White has done a good deal to establish himself as an authority on this matter, drawing plaudits from some; elsewhere, however, his assertions have come under scrutiny. Andy Hall’s post today adds to that scrutiny, and I direct you to it. Most notable is the tired old tale of how a slave accompanied his master’s son (or, in this case, three “sweet southern boys”) to war as some sort of de facto brother and playmate. Hall’s research suggests that such an inference may not be warranted in the case of Primus Kelly; his post also illustrates how certain people embellish certain stories to advance their own agenda.

Readers of this blog know the drill by now. One could have bet and won easy money on the proposition that “Border Ruffian” would make an appearance in Andy’s comment’s section, where he would offer yet more unsubstantiated claims (and Andy reminds him that he’s still waiting for evidence to support another one of BR’s claims); I will hear from several indignant academics (including those who claim that they don’t read or talk about this blog) who will be furious that I gave such people as Mr. White the time of day, and thus it’s my fault that anyone is discussing black Confederates (which ignores the untidy fact that Mr. White is in training to become a professional historian); reasonable people will be impressed with Andy’s research; we’ll hear nothing from a certain Harvard professor who claims to be quite interested in this subject, although I’ve never seen any actual research from him; and the Confederate “heritage” crowd will go to ranting and raving on their Facebook groups, hit blogs, and so on, because to them it’s heritage, not history.

To all I say … carry on.