Blair Academy was pleased to welcome Kevin Levin to the Society of Skeptics on March 16 at 7 p.m. His presentation, "The Controversy Around Black Confederates and Questions of How We Remember the Civil War,” was moderated by history department chair and Skeptics coordinator Jason Beck. To view his full presentation, please click below:
Mr. Levin is an award-winning educator and historian based in Boston, Massachusetts. Over the years he has worked extensively with schools across the country to help students better understand challenging subjects surrounding the Civil War. He has led history education workshops with a number of organizations including the National Park Service, Civil War Trust, Organization of American Historians, Ford’s Theatre, John Brown Lives!, the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, Georgia Historical Society and Massachusetts Historical Society.
Mr. Levin has written extensively about the American Civil War and spoken across the country, with features in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and NPR, as well as numerous international newspapers. He has appeared on the Black News Channel, C-SPAN, NPR, Al-Jazeera, BackStory With the American History Guys and Vox. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Smithsonian, The Civil War Monitor and the Civil War Times.
The author of “Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth” and “Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder,” Mr. Levin is the editor of “Interpreting the Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites.” He is currently co-editing and filing the Civil War letters of Confederate States Army captain John Christopher Winsmith.
Over the past 20 years, Mr. Levin has taught a variety of courses in American history on both the high school and college levels. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy from William Paterson University, as well as a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in history from the University of Richmond.
Mr. Levin’s Skeptics presentation gave attendees a better understanding of the Civil War myth that African Americans fought as soldiers in the Confederate States Army. He noted that this topic has become popular in recent years with the attention put on Confederate flags and monuments.
“This is a myth that grew out of the 1970s that has flourished recently with help from the Internet,” he said. “This question of so-called African American Confederate soldiers is a window into the controversy that exists over 150 years later, and it’s a chance to better understand the meaning and legacy of the Civil War.”
Mr. Levin hoped his talk would help the audience understand why Americans still have difficulty coming to terms with the Civil War and the long history of racism in the United States.
History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.