4th graders in Virginia could learn from their history texts that thousands of African Americans formed battalions in the Confederate Army and fought to save the South, during the Civil War — entire battalions under Gen. Stonewall Jackson.
That’s what the book claims, anyway. It’s fiction. The author fell victim to a hoax.
Kevin Sieff exposed the book in The Washington Post last week. Virginia education officials quickly moved to discourage teachers from teaching the erroneous passages. Some education authorities pulled the books. The incident exposes problems in the textbook approval processes popular in southern states.
If you had hoped textbook craziness was confined to Texas, you know better now.
- Kevin Levin provided some of the best information and commentary about this incident, at Civil War Memory; see especially his rundown of the claims in the book, here
- Robert Mackey blogged about it at the Lede, at the New York Times site; some good discussion
- Valerie Strauss noted the “high irony” that the erroneous book was approved, while Joy Hakim’s outstanding series on U.S. history had great difficulty getting approval; Strauss also relates the history of why southern states have state textbook approval processes (hint: Think, “War of Northern Aggression”)
- The book’s author is not a historian, and conducted research on-line; history experts had not reviewed the book