I’m a native of Atlanta and a lifelong liberal. My dad was born in Birmingham. His mother’s family owned a plantation in South Carolina before the Civil War. I don’t know how many people they owned. They owned people is the important thing. I don’t know what they were like outside of those facts. They fought for an evil cause. Still, history books assure me that they fought bravely.
No one says that about the Nazis. You might hear statements about the effectiveness of the German army, but you don’t hear talk about their honor or valiance in mainstream history classes. The way American history is taught in the South, at least, shuts African Americans out of the Civil War. In the early 90s at a majority black high school, I learned that many factors whose roots all returned to slavery caused the war, and I learned about Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, but the war itself was presented (though never explicitly stated to be) a whites against whites affair. In other parts of the South, students learn that two virtuous armies fought and by the way slavery is bad. Again, it’s generally presented as whites against whites. The movie Glory came out while I was in high school, and it was the first significant representation of African American participation in the war.