Kevin Levin of Civil War Memory has posted good material to his academic blog under the category, The Myth of Black Confederates. Several recent posts include criticism of efforts by modern-day Confederate patriots and would-be historians who want to appropriate Weary Clyburn, a slave, as a defender of Southern liberty. In one he points out that writing good books to debunk myths is all well and good, but on the subject of black Confederates “the real fight must take place on the web.”
In the same post he points to an earlier one he made in late March: “Should Civil War Historians Blog (academic that is)?” In it he observes how vast the public discourse about the American Civil War is, while the discourse in which professional historians participate is relatively narrow. Historians need to continue their current research and publishing mission, but they also have “a responsibility to engage a wider audience and contribute to the public discourse.” Since much of the public turns to the internet for ready answers, historians need to offer these answers in an accessible format, especially for highly sensitive questions that shape American identity.
I agree with Kevin about the need for Civil War historians to blog. I have also observed a similar need with respect to Holocaust denial, since I have found that Google can get it wrong. Until now I have used this blog mainly to reflect on what I do and to communicate with other historians, but as Kevin points out, Google brings him search engine traffic for important topics such as black Confederates, so his blog posts reach a wider audience. I have written a few of my posts with that awareness, but his arguments make me think I could do much more. So could other historians.
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A question about names: I refer to other historians by their last name in formal academic prose. In blogging, on the other hand, I generally refer to fellow bloggers by their first name. This post has left me unsure of how to handle this issue. Since it’s about blogging, I have decided to go with the first name. If I had been engaging historiographical arguments, I think I would have used the last name instead. What do you other blogging historians do?
Update (1/11/2010): Civil War Memory has moved to http://cwmemory.com/.