Nelson W. Winbush

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Nelson Winbush (child) with Confederate veteran grandfather Louis Nelson

Nelson W. Winbush (born 1929), is an educator and retired assistant principal. He is notable as one of the few African-American members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. (SCV), and for his support of controversial issues such as public display of the Confederate battle flag.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Winbush was born in Ripley, Tennessee, the Mississippi delta area, 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 stories of slavery and service with the Confederates 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 Co. M, 7th Tennessee Cavalry of the Confederate Army, first working as a cook. The company was led by General Nathan Bedford Forrest. In the late stages of the war, Nelson was allowed to serve as a rifleman, and later served as chaplain to both blacks and whites; he had already memorized the King James Bible by heart. As a descendant from Nelson, a recognized Confederate veteran, Winbush later qualified for membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans.[1] He notes that his grandfather received a pension from Tennessee for Confederate veterans, beginning in 1920[4]

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. Resisting integration, the public system 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 and decided to join the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He is a member of the SCV's Jacob Summerlin Camp #1516 in Kissimmee, Florida.[5] 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 to SCV posts and other organizations to speak about his views and heritage.[6] 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. ^ "Jacob Summerlin Camp", Official Website
  6. ^ Kollatz, Harry, Jr. "Sons of the Great Rebellion", The Metropolitan Monthly, August 1996, p. 62.

External links[edit]