African American History

Seizing – and Speaking Out for – Freedom

By John M. Coski, Historian


The Museum’s April “House 200” program, “Seizing Freedom,” offered an immersive tour of the Confederate White House that considered the motivations and actions of African-Americans who escaped enslavement from the Confederate executive mansion.  One of the historical actors featured in that program not only seized his own freedom, but spent the remainder of the Civil War working in the North and in England for the cause of African-American freedom generally.

Freedom Fighters at Rest

Welcome guest bloggers, Brian Palmer and Erin Hollaway Palmer. The Palmers moved to Virginia in 2013 from Brooklyn to produce "Make the Ground Talk," a documentary that traces their journey to reveal the story of a vanished black community near Williamsburg. It was this project that led them to East End Cemetery, an African American burial ground that has suffered from decades of neglect. 

On Monument Avenue | "An Avenue for All People:" How Arthur Ashe Came to Monument Avenue


“Richmond is known as a city of monuments. And the marquee street for monuments is Monument Avenue,” declared Richmond sportswriter Paul Woody in a 1995 column. “But the unfortunate impression left on some by the statues is that the street is reserved for Confederate leaders and Matthew Fontaine Maury. This impression should be changed. What better way to bring about change than by having a statue of [Arthur] Ashe on the city’s grandest boulevard?”

Myths & Misunderstandings | Black Confederates


By John Coski

Myth: Thousands of enslaved and free African American soldiers fought for the Confederacy

For several decades, the question of whether or not there were “Black Confederates” has been one of the most controversial issues in the study of Civil War history.  The disagreement arises in part from rival ideological positions, but also traces to different definitions of key terms, especially “soldier.”

Myths & Misunderstandings | Stonewall Jackson's Sunday School


By Chris Graham
Mellon Curator

In 1891 the pastor of Thomas Jonathan Jackson’s Lexington Presbyterian Church, William S. White, declared that the Virginia Military Institute professor had been “the black man’s friend.” White said so because of Jackson’s supervision of a “Colored Sunday School” between 1855 and the outbreak of the Civil War.

Myths & Misunderstandings | Lee as a slaveholder


Earlier this summer, comments on one of our Facebook posts sparked a larger conversation about recurring debates about the Civil War. We asked our visitors, social media audiences, and staff to generate a list of the questions or topics about the Civil War that they think are the most misunderstood. In providing answers to these, our goal is to do the research for you, consulting with primary sources, leading historians, and the latest scholarship, and distill it into something you can read quickly over a cup of coffee.


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