Nelson W. Winbush

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Photo of Nelson Winbush at the 2013 Sons of Confederate Veterans Reunion in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Nelson W. Winbush (born 1929) is an educator who is notable as one of a handful of African-American members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), and for his controversial views, such as his support of the modern display of the Confederate flag.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Winbush was born in Ripley, Tennessee, in the Mississippi Delta region, to Isaac and Ganelle Nelson Winbush. His siblings included brothers Robert and Harold, and sisters Mary and Dorothy Jean.[3] His family grew up in the house built in 1908 by his maternal grandfather Louis Napoleon Nelson. As Nelson lived until 1934, Winbush had a few years as a young boy to absorb his vivid first-person accounts of slavery and service with the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

As a slave youth, Louis Nelson had accompanied his master James Oldham's sons as a servant when they went to war from their plantation. He eventually became part of Company M, 7th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment of the Confederate Army, first working as a cook. The regiment was one of many Confederate cavalry formations that fell under the overall command of the noted Confederate cavalry general Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest. In Winbush's speeches and writing he frequently discusses Nelson. In the late stages of the war, Winbush claims, Nelson was allowed to serve as a rifleman and later as chaplain to both blacks and whites; he had already memorized the King James Bible by heart. As a descendant from Nelson, Winbush later qualified for membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans.[1] He notes that his grandfather received a state pension from Tennessee for Confederate veterans beginning in 1920.[4] Existing records classify him as a cook and servant, [5] and his widow was denied pension as the State of Tennessee only paid a pension to veterans, their widows, and ex-servants, but not to the widows of ex-servants.[6]

Both Winbush's mother Ganelle and his maternal grandmother were teachers, and education was prized in their family. Winbush and his siblings all earned college degrees and some, like his sister Mary, also earned graduate degrees. She became a teacher and principal.[3] Winbush earned an undergraduate degree in science and a master's degree in physics education.

Marriage and children[edit]

Winbush married Naomi Daniel of Mounde Bayou, Mississippi. Mrs. Winbush passed in 1999. They have two children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.


Winbush became a teacher and later an assistant principal, having a career in education like his mother and grandmother. In 1955 he moved with his family to Florida where the public school system resisted integration and retained segregated schools for years past the US Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that declared them unconstitutional.

Opinions on Confederate history[edit]

In 1991, after the NAACP began a campaign against the Confederate flag being celebrated on public buildings, Winbush disagreed with such sentiment and efforts, and decided to join the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He is a member of the SCV's Jacob Summerlin Camp #1516 in Kissimmee, Florida.[7] As an adult he had learned more about his grandfather and his military service, and Winbush came to honor his support for the Confederacy.

With his retirement from teaching, Winbush felt ready to speak out on public issues. For instance, unlike many other African Americans, he considers the Confederate flag part of Southern heritage and appropriate for public display. He has said that the South seceded from the Union because of states' rights, not slavery. "He denies that President Lincoln freed the slaves, explaining that the Emancipation Proclamation affected only the Confederate states, which were no longer under his authority."[1]

Winbush has traveled widely visiting various SCV camps and other organizations willing to listen and consider his views about the Civil War and his heritage.[8] He has been known to sing a Confederate song including the line, "....Black is nothing other than a darker shade of rebel gray."[1]

In 1998 Winbush participated in making a video on Black Southern Heritage, directed by Dr. Edward Smith of American University, who is also an African-American SCV member. The video covers his grandfather's Confederate military service and qualification for a Confederate pension after the war, as well as elements of other African-American heritage.[2]

The NAACP and similar organizations have criticized Winbush for his support of what they believe are neo-Confederate causes; they think he misunderstands the history of the South.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Stephanie Garry, "In defense of his Confederate pride", St. Petersburg Times, 7 October 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Black History Month: Black Confederate Heritage", Sons of Confederate Veterans, 2004, accessed 22 March 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Obituary: Mary Arnold Winbush", Florida Times-Union, 20 October 2011, accessed 19 January 2012
  4. ^ Aaron Jerome Martin, Behind the Dixie Stars, video, accessed 19 January 2012
  5. ^ Simpson, Brooks D. "African Americans in Confederate Military Service: Myth and Reality" in Moody, Wesley, Alfred J. Andrea, and Andrew Holt, eds. Seven Myths of the Civil War. Hackett Publishing, 2017. p60
  6. ^ "Tennessee, Confederate Pension Applications, Soldiers and Widows, 1891-1965," images, FamilySearch (, Colored Troops > no 1-285 > image 272 through 283 of 2629; State Library and Archives, Nashville.
  7. ^ "Jacob Summerlin Camp", Official Website
  8. ^ Kollatz, Harry, Jr. "Sons of the Great Rebellion", The Metropolitan Monthly, August 1996, p. 62.

External links[edit]