Celebrating Black History Month in the South
February 17, 2012
February is Black History Month and 2011 through 2015 marks the 150th Anniversary of the War Between the States.
May I share two short stories about a Black South Carolina Confederate soldier honored recently and a Black Confederate Veteran-Legislator from Mississippi from over a century past?
Black Confederates? Why haven’t we heard more about them? National Park Service Historian, Ed Bearrs, stated, quote “I don’t want to call it a conspiracy to ignore the role of Blacks both above and below the Mason-Dixon Line, but it was definitely a tendency that began around 1910.” Unquote
The movie “Glory” enlightened us about Black Union Soldiers of the War Between the States and books like: “Forgotten Confederates—An Anthology about Black Southerners” by Barrow, Segar’s and Rosenburg opened our eyes about Black Confederates.
The War Between the States was tragic but also an important time in America’s past. Young people once knew who Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Joshua Chamberlain were and sang songs of the war that included Dixie and Goober Peas. It is very unfortunate that "Dixie", the song loved by President’s Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, has been banned by many institutions.
A newspaper reported that during February 2012 the Colonel Joseph Norton Camp No. 45 Sons of Confederate Veterans honored Henry Craig a Black Confederate Soldier who was born in South Carolina in the 1840s. Henry was a Servant of the Craig family of Pickens and Oconee County. When war broke out in 1861 he joined the Craig Brothers in enlisting in ‘Orr’s First South Carolina Rifles.’
On August 6, 1864, John Craig was wounded at Gravely Hill, Virginia and lost his arm. Henry brought his Master and childhood friend back to Pickens, South Carolina where he continued to serve the Craig family until his death in 1927.
South Carolina Senator Robert Ford of the 42nd District, a Black Southerner, is reported to have spoken at the service honoring Henry Craig of his desire to honor the heritage of all people.
In Mississippi on February 1, 1890, an appropriation for a monument to the Confederate dead was being considered. A delegate had just spoken against the bill, when John F. Harris, a Black Republican delegate from Washington County, rose to speak:
"Mr. Speaker! I have risen in my place to offer a few words on the bill.
I have come from a sick bed. Perhaps it was not prudent for me to come. But sir, I could not rest quietly in my room without contributing a few remarks of my own.
I was sorry to hear the speech of the young gentlemen from Marshall County. I am sorry that any son of a soldier would go on record as opposed to the erection of a monument in honor of the brave dead. And, Sir, I am convinced that had he seen what I saw at Seven Pines, and in the Seven Day’s fighting around Richmond, the battlefield covered with mangled forms of those who fought for this country and their country’s honor, he would not have made the speech.
When the news came that the South had been invaded, those men went forth to fight for what they believed, and they made not requests for monuments. But they died, and their virtues should be remembered.
Sir, I went with them. I, too, wore the gray, the same color my master wore. We stayed for four long years, and if that war had gone on till now I would have been there yet. I want to honor those brave men who died for their convictions.
When my Mother died I was a boy. Who, Sir, then acted the part of Mother to the orphaned slave boy, but my old Missus! Were she living now, or could speak to me from those high realms where are gathered the sainted dead, she would tell me to vote for this bill. And, Sir, I shall vote for it. I want it known to all the world that my vote is given in favor of the bill to erect a monument in HONOR OF THE CONFEDERATE DEAD."
When the applause died down, the measure passed overwhelmingly, and every Black member voted "AYE."
A fact sheet has been prepared by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Education Committee for distribution to professors, teachers, librarians, principals, ethnic leaders, members of the press, and others interested in promoting an understanding of Black contributions to United States history. See fact sheet at:
The War Between the States Sesquicentennial, 150th Anniversary, runs 2011 through 2015. The Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans joins the nation in remembering this historic time in our nation’s history. See more information at: http://www.150wbts.org/
Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.