Black Confederates: Stan Armstrong
Let me shed some more light on the origin of the “Black Confederates” documentary and on producer Stan Armstrong.
Stan Armstrong, the African-American producer of the film, lived as a young child in Louisiana and grew up in Nevada. He attended UNLV, majoring in film production. One of his required courses was of course
American History, in which his professor quickly recounted the CW and mentioned that Blacks participated in many battles, one of which was the battle of Fort Pillow. This sparked a side interest for Stan because he
had been once told that he had an ancestor who fought during the war, envisioning that the ancestor was in the USCT. Maybe the ancestor had even served at Fort Pillow.
After college graduation Stan embarked upon his film-making career, but he still harbored an interest in the CW and a curiosity to discover more about his heritage and his ancestor-soldier. Stan did some research on
Ft Pillow and thought that if this was such a controversial event then there should be a documentary film done about the battle (since none had ever been done). He contacted PBS and was encouraged by their receptiveness to purchase such a film and add it to their CW library, depending on if a series of episodes could be built around it (which they chose not to follow up on). Stan brought his film crew to Memphis to begin the project.
I, as a Ft. Pillow (& Forrest) expert, was recommended to Stan as a knowledgeable historian to be contacted for advice and consultation, and we hit it off immediately. He came into the project with the usual preconceived notions that the war was fought for slavery, that Gen’l Forrest was evil, and that scores & scores of blacks were massacred at Ft. Pillow. It was the proverbial “field day” for me. Stan received a very thorough Southern education and was quite receptive to it. Besides seeing the sites around here I also took him to a Forrest Camp
meeting, and he was enthralled at the vigor of these fellow historians towards our heritage. The stage was set.
We completed the Ft. Pillow documentary, including the mention of Black troops who fought for Forrest, and the film turned out a GREAT deal differently than what Stan had imagined upon going in to it at the beginning. The film was a very balanced account and, most importantly, a very truthful account of the battle, and no yankee propaganda.
And, as y’all are aware, Pvt. Louis Napoleon Nelson, the grandfather of Nelson Winbush, was a black trooper in Forrest’s 7th Tennessee Cavalry, which later led Stan to befriend Nelson and rely on one of the SCV’s
most esteemed members for later historical advice.
Likewise during this project we helped Stan fulfill his family search and we traced his ancestry and found his roots – and his ancestor: his g-g-grandfather was indeed a soldier in the Civil War and in the army – the CONFEDERATE army. At this point in Stan’s education he was truly overjoyed at this discovery and welcomed the news. It didn’t take him long to become an SCV member and a member of the Forrest Camp.
With the successful completion of “Fort Pillow” Stan now embarked upon a new project: bringing to life the forgotten heroes of the war, which would ultimately become a series of PBS-style documentaries. The first
would be “Black Confederates – Forgotten Heroes”, later to be followed by (not yet released) “Native Americans”, “Women of the War”, and others.
Stan and crew again (several times) came to Memphis from Las Vegas for interviews, filming, footage, etc. Much research went in to “Black Confederates” and it seemed like the more we recorded, the more that was
turned up. It is a huge story, and even though there are now several books on Black Confederates (by the noted Kelly Barrow & others), the story is still pretty much a historical secret. But this documentary can wake people up, especially the historically-challenged and the under-educated masses. And believe me, our entire school system qualifies in the latter.
When our camp does school programs we discuss Blacks that fought for the North, and then reveal that Blacks fought for the South too. And then this rhetorical question: “If the war was fought over slavery then why
did Black Southerners join the Confederate Army?” And the answer is, of course, that the war was NOT fought over slavery. Blacks fought because this was their home too, etc.
But the point of this is, that a typically well-educated African-American film-maker came to learn the truth about the War for Southern Independence and has now made a documentary on the important contributions of Black Southerners in fighting for that very cause. He now too is a defender of Southern heritage.
This man not only learned about it, and then documented it, but also became such a believer that he joined.
What more need be said?
Perhaps one more thing — somewhat similar to H. K. Edgerton. Stan has been a member of the NAACP in Las Vegas for many many years, and now he has the tools to further educate those fellow members.
Forrest Camp 215