By Sarah Anderson
Hundreds of African-American men marched to the White House this past Sunday. They were not wearing hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin. They were not making the “hands up don’t shoot” gesture in honor of Michael Brown.
They were wearing blue wool trousers and greatcoats, forage caps and cavalry boots—in honor of African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Their aim: to correct a wrong made in 1865, when black soldiers were left out of the Grand Review, the Union Army’s victory parade.
1865? Seriously? With all the critically important racial justice causes of 2015?
“Everything about the Civil War is present tense,” author C.R. Gibbs told me. “This is not settled. Ferguson and Baltimore are just match flares on a long historical fuse.”
One need look no further than the U.S. Supreme Court docket for evidence of the Civil War in our contemporary lives. In March, the court heard a case regarding a request by the Sons of Confederate Veterans for a special Texas license plate featuring a Confederate battle flag.
In 2010, the Virginia public school system introduced a 4th grade textbook with bogus claims about thousands of loyal slaves fighting on the side of the Confederacy. The source? The Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Such disinformation is part of a broader neo-Confederate movement to deny that slavery was a major factor in the conflict—and to bury the history of African-Americans’ active role in their own emancipation.