North & South's Black Confederate problem

A couple of folks have asked for details on the North & South editorial mentioned yesterday. I see it posted online here.

An earlier article opposing the idea of black Confederates is not online, nor are this month's letters reacting to the article. One of them is referenced by editor Keith Poulter in his editorial, however:
One of our correspondents in this issue’s Crossfire column expresses the view that for any historian to claim that an issue is definitively settled is a mark of arrogance. And he explicitly points the finger at Bruce Levine’s conclusions regarding “black Confederates” as an instance of this.
Poulter then explains why that arrogance rule does not apply to him and concludes "I find myself regarding Sasquatch and black Confederates in much the same light."

Poulter's discussion of evidence confuses me: "...there are instances where the evidence is so overwhelming that, after careful consideration, only those with a perverse axe to grind will fail to acknowledge it. Such a case, I believe, is the one concerning black Confederates."

He has confused arguments with evidence and might better say "...there are instances where the argument is so overwhelming ..."

Evidence is what it is; you evaluate it on its own terms. This evidence does not negate that evidence (except in rare cases of forensics) but this evidence can weigh more heavily than that evidence. Or there can be more of it. The major part of the discourse is arguing how and why you weigh the evidence that you do the way you do. To take a short cut through that tangle by resorting to polemic is not history but pure Usenet horrorshow.

Poulter refers readers to a retort from his author, Bruce Levine, responding to correspondence criticizing his debunking of black Confederates. Poulter says, "don’t take my word for it [on the subject]. Simply read Bruce’s letter in this issue, with an open mind, and draw your own conclusions."

That letter is a polemic. It compares Levine's critics to "phony seers, psychics, levitators, spoon-benders" but that's not the main reason it cannot help Poulter. Instead of addressing the strongest evidence there might be for black Confederates, Levine (appropriately) answers pell mell whatever points writers to the letters column chose to make in their attacks on his work. Levine's hodgepodge is a rant keyed to whatever the letter writers imagined to be evidence and argument.

An editor has to understand the difference between evidence and argument and, if he wants to close the door on a subject, as he does here, he has to first analyze the evidence with us, his customers, and then make his case to us, the customers.

I am not interested in the subject of black Rebels, I'm interested in evidence handling and the behaviour of an editor of a popular Civil War magazine. This is not Kevin Levin or myself sounding off in a blog about how we feel about a body of nonfiction; N&S is a forum that aspires to the production of useful history.

As editor of CWBN, I am aware of the relevant titles: Black Southerners in Confederate Armies; Black Southerners in Gray; Black Confederates; Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia. These are "sitting ducks," all lined up for serious analysts. They marshal evidence - whatever it is - and make their case - as best they can. Address that case. Analyze that evidence. Stop flaming your own readers.

You don't get to sit on the sidelines and jeer, Poulter. That's my job. Your part is the hard work.