Friday, September 23, 2011

Lecture: Imagining Slaves as Loyal Confederates

Myself and some history bros (Stephen and Sarah!) attended the lecture at St. Mary's Hall given by Dr. Peter Carmichael (dude is director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, he is somewhat 'knowledgeable' about these things) titled Imagining Slaves as Loyal Confederates:  A Dangerous and Enduring Fantasy.  It was great!

Chuck Holden Introducing the speaker.  They were BFFs in grad school and spent spring break in the Duke archives

The lecture was about a persistent myth that exists in much of the South, and other areas, that there were a lot of slaves that were loyal to the Confederate cause, that these slaves supported the Confederacy even though it was working to keep them enslaved.

Dr. Carmichael argues that the slaves were doing whatever it took to survive, and any 'loyalty' was mostly an attempt to not get lynched.  Additionally, the myth is still perpetuated today because it helps to establish the notion that slaves wanted slavery, that they were better off being slaves, that they 'owe' something to the white slaveholders.  One interesting anecdote was a Confederate officer whose slave 'got lost' while in Maryland.  Obviously the slave ran away, but the officer was not able to really understand why a slave would want to run away and could only mentally justify it to himself that the slave merely got  lost.  It's a really interesting topic that I can't do justice to fully explain, but if you have any questions I can probably answer them.

Dr. Carmichael lecturing #swag

I think in a lot of ways it is just another example of why slavery in the United States is often referred to as a "The Peculiar Institution," because there are so many strange facets of the system of slavery that occurred here compared to slavery in most any other society (the primary difference being that slavery was associated with skin color, which has rarely been the case throughout history).

Anyways, be sure to check out lectures that interest you!  Years from now you probably won't have the opportunity to attend lectures like this, at least not as easily, so take advantage of that while you can.

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