Dolen Perkins-Valdez in THE BUTTER



When I asked an employee at a hotel in Richmond, Virginia for directions to the Museum of the Confederacy, he gave me a strange look. “Are you sure you want to go there?” I understood the skepticism of this African American man in his smart bellman’s uniform. Black folks generally tend to stay away from memorials to the “Lost Cause.”

“Yes, I’m sure. Can you please tell me how to get there?” I said with appropriate southern politeness.

I was in Richmond attending an “African Americans and the Civil War” conference and researching for my new novel about people rebuilding their lives after the war. I took off for the museum on foot. As I walked, I could feel that tingle I get when I am about to do research. I would get a chance to see some muskets up close, some uniforms. For a historical novelist, a museum is the best opportunity to confirm accurate period details.

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