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History Textbook Contains Controversial Civil War Claims

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In Virginia, a new history textbook for fourth-graders claims thousands of African-Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. It's a controversial notion that has irritated the school system--and the author.

The book is called Our Virginia, Past and Present. The disputed passage also claims two black battalions, who fought for the South, did so under the command of Stonewall Jackson. Most historical scholars say the account is a misrepresentation.

Charles Pyle, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education, admits the textbook was not properly vetted.

"...Occasionally, as with any process involving humans, there will be things that are overlooked, and unfortunately that's what has happened in this case," Pyle says.

Published reports claim the author of the textbook, Joy Masoff, sourced her work through a variety of sources but primarily through the Internet and a group called Sons of the Confederate Veterans.

Masoff says that's just not true.

"The source of this information was an American University professor: Dr. Edward Smith. There's a book called African Americans at War, an encyclopedia, it's written by Jonathan Sutherland," Masoff says. "That fact appears in it--This is a pretty well respected book and it was corroborated by something I read from Dr Smith."

Smith, the founder and co-director of American University’s Civil War Institute was unavailable for comment. Masoff says she's more than happy to omit the passage in future versions.

Meanwhile, officials at the Virginia Department of Education are in the process of notifying teachers and urging them not to teach the assertion to students.

WAMU 88.5

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