First-time event focuses on black Confederate soldiers
By Gerald Ensley
DEMOCRAT SENIOR WRITER
February 26, 2010
It’s not your average Black History Month topic: Blacks in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. But an area chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy believe it’s an integral part of black history. That’s why it will host its first-ever Black History Month event Saturday in Cairo, Ga.
"We believe history is history and you can’t do anything about it; you just improve the future by what you learn from history," said Annette Harrell, president of the UDC’s Anna Jackson 224 chapter. "Some (blacks) lost their lives for the Confederacy and we feel it’s time somebody honored them."
Saturday’s event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Delicious Delights, a black-owned sandwich and pastry shop in Cairo. A documentary about black Confederate soldiers, "Forgotten Men In Gray," will be shown.
There will be readings from a book about black Confederate soldiers. Retired Tallahassee black educator, Florida Parker, will read letters from her great grandfather, a slave who accompanied his master into the Confederate Army. There will be a question and answer period.
Civil War historians agree several thousand black men served in the Confederate Army as cooks, servants, and laborers — but say there is evidence of fewer than 100 actually serving as soldiers in combat. Nearly 200,000 blacks served in combat with the Union Army.
The event is cheered by the black woman who — somewhat inadvertently — spurred it. Tallahassee marketing specialist Priscilla Hawkins circulates an annual list of local Black History Month events.
Last fall, she sent out e-mail inquiries to local organizations — a list that included a few Confederacy-oriented groups. Though "my initial thought" was to exclude the Confederate groups, Hawkins decided to let those groups decide if they were interested.
Harrell, who spoke about blacks in the Confederacy at two Cairo schools this month, was the only one of those contacts to respond.
"I think this is a wonderful way for all of us to learn how African Americans fit into that part of history," Hawkins said. "There probably will be some folks who don’t agree. But sometimes we reject stuff before we understand what we are rejecting.
"Blacks who fought on the Confederate side had their reasons for doing it, same as blacks who fought on the Union side."
Parker agreed the event could be "enlightening."
"At least it’s creating an awareness that (blacks) had our share of contributions to different things," she said. "Considering the times, (her great grandfather) was doing what was feasible."