A white man stepped up to the podium at a recent Clark County School Board meeting, claiming he was there to speak about “Black Confederate” history. The shenanigans don’t stop in February. In some ways, it seems like they get worse.
The man refers to a Black “boy” named Hulk Lawyer, who joined the Confederacy and served in the Civil War at the age of 14. But none of his facts, including the person’s name, were correct.
Comic book fans and Black history buffs might be wondering why students should learn about a Hulk Lawyer during Black history month. Marvel has a Hulk lawyer. But she’s not a historical Black figure. She’s Bruce Banner’s cousin and a criminal defense attorney.
Over the past year, the country has been plagued with poorly informed parents claiming to advocate for transparency and history but not seeming to understand the meaning of either word. According to civil war historian Kevin Levin, it is more likely that the person mentioned was Holt Collier.
“Hulk Lawyer sounds close to Holt Collier,” tweeted Levin. “The latter is often referenced as a Black Confederate soldier. He was not. Collier was a body servant or what I refer to in SEARCHING FOR BLACK CONFEDERATES as a camp slave. #BlackHistoryMonth meets the neo-Confederacy/Lost Cause.”
Levin is most known for his book “Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.” In a blog post, Levin explained the myth of the Black confederate “has nothing to do with diversity or history and everything to do with the continued attempt to drive a wedge between the Confederacy and slavery and protect the ‘honor’ of the common soldier.”
He also shared a 1916 pension application for Collier, which indicates he spent the entire war as the “servant” of Lieutenant Tom Hinds. Based on information available, Collier was born in 1848 in Mississippi. According to Confederate legend, Collier joined the Confederate Army in 1861.
While Black people did work under the Confederate flag, the romanticized version that has evolved serves as a distraction from the actual facts. Despite most if not all of his facts wrong, the man from the Clark County School Board meeting did make a good point about telling the stories of people like Collier, but not Hulk Lawyer.
A broken clock is right twice a day. People should learn about enslaved people as labor during a war; some claim had nothing to do with slavery.
Beyond the lives of enslaved people, children should also learn about Reconstruction and what it offered newly freed Black people and the steps white people took to limit progress. And not to mention the subsequent years of Jim Crow segregation enforced in states like Collier’s home of Mississippi and the lasting impact on access to rights even today.