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Article

Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

Article

Rob Fink

As African Americans fought racial prejudice in the United States following the Civil War, some black leaders proposed a strategy of accommodation. The idea of accommodation called for African Americans to work with whites and accept some discrimination in an effort to achieve economic success and physical security. The idea proved controversial: many black leaders opposed accommodation as counterproductive.

Booker T. Washington served as the champion of accommodation. Born a slave in 1856 Washington received a degree from the Hampton Institute before being invited to head up the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama At Tuskegee Washington used industrial education to promote accommodation by African Americans Because of his background Washington recognized the difficulties faced by southern blacks in their quest for civil rights He knew firsthand that during the 1860s and 1870s whites in the South found it hard to accept African Americans as free No one argued against the ...

Article

L. Diane Barnes

Founded in December 1816, the American Colonization Society (ACS) was the first national organization to take on the problem of slavery in the United States. The ACS proposed an expatriation scheme to rid the nation of slavery and of free African Americans. The prominent founders Charles Fenton Mercer, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and others secured federal funding and in 1822 founded the colony of Liberia on Africa's west coast as the destination for America's blacks.

Even before the founding of the ACS, the colonization of African Americans was an issue that divided both whites and blacks. Some African Americans supported colonization, arguing that free blacks would never be fully included in the white-dominated society of the United States. Others argued just as forcibly that blacks were entitled to full rights as American citizens and should remain to fight on behalf of their race.

The ACS drew ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

The period in American history known as Reconstruction (1865–1877) gave emancipated slaves an unprecedented opportunity to participate in American society. Opportunities were opened in education, race relations, public facilities, and employment. Perhaps most important, African American men were given the right to vote and hold public office. By 1877, during the period referred to as Redemption, Southern whites began to wipe away many of these newfound freedoms, including the right to vote. By 1895, thirty-two years after emancipation, African Americans faced the virtual elimination of their freedoms and new challenges in their struggle for justice and equality.

In this context, Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), addressed the Atlanta exposition in 1895 Formally known as the Cotton States and International Exposition the exhibit provided Washington with the opportunity to address one of the most urgent issues facing ...

Article

Adam W. Green

was the second of three children born to two freed slaves, Eben Tobias, a farmer, and Susan Gregory, a mixed-race Pequot Indian, in Derby, Connecticut. An education proponent and political activist, Bassett became America's first black diplomat when he served as Resident Minister in Haiti for eight years, helping pave the way for those seeking opportunities in international diplomacy and public service.

Along with his mixed race birth and royal lineage that his family claimed from Africa Bassett whose surname came from a generous white family close to his grandfather s former owners also had elected office in his blood His grandfather Tobiah who won his freedom after fighting in the American Revolution had been elected a Black Governor as had Bassett s father Eben The largely nominal honorific was bestowed upon respected men in various locales via Election Days sometimes by a voice vote these Black Governors ...

Article

Bertis English

political activist and journalist, was a slave who belonged to an influential antebellum lawyer from South Alabama. Little else is known about his life prior to the Civil War; however, it is known that during the early years of the Civil War, Berry was sent to toil in a hazardous saltworks that the Confederacy operated in Clarke County. Berry survived three years of intense labor there, and he emerged from the ordeal more experienced, as well as more militant, than many of the other African Americans he knew. After moving to the Gulf Coast city of Mobile, Berry became a member of the vanguard of black leaders who would help the state's black masses achieve legal and psychological freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War.

The Union victory and the federal effort to alter the legal status of black people deepened white Alabamians resistance to change State lawmakers were ...

Article

Joseph P. Reidy

Bradley, Aaron Alpeora (1815?– October 1882), Reconstruction politician, was born in Edgefield District, South Carolina, the son of unknown slaves on the plantation of Francis Pickens, a prominent politician. Little is known of Bradley’s youth and early manhood other than that he was a shoemaker for a time in Augusta, Georgia, and that he escaped slavery and made his way to the North, apparently during the 1830s. He lived for a time in New York and in Boston. In the latter city he not only met abolitionists but also studied the law and eventually became a practicing attorney.

The Civil War opened new horizons. Bradley returned south late in 1865 and settled in Savannah, Georgia, intending, it seems, to open a law practice and a school. Drawn inexorably to the public arena, he began to champion the cause of freedpeople who were resisting President Andrew Johnson ...

Article

Eric Gardner

politician and activist, was born into slavery in North Carolina. Both he and his mother, Susan, were owned by the wealthy Thomas Burke Burton, who moved to Fort Bend County, Texas, from Halifax County, North Carolina, in the 1850s. Most accounts claim that the slaveholder favored Burton, taught him to read and write, and, after the Civil War, sold land to him; some accounts claim that Burton supported his former owner's wife when she was widowed during Reconstruction.

On 28 September 1868 Burton married Abba Jones (sometimes listed as Abby and sometimes as Hattie). The couple had three children, Horace J., Hattie M., and an unnamed child who died in infancy. Susan Burton lived with the young family until her death c. 1890.

Propertied, literate, and articulate, Burton quickly became active in the local Republican Party, the local Union League, and larger Reconstruction efforts. In 1869 ...

Article

Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property holder, and slave owner, was a resident of Natchez, Mississippi. Nothing is known about her early life. Her status at the time of her birth, free or enslaved, as well as her parentage, is undetermined. Butcher lived in Natchez for at least twenty years of her life and accrued property during that time due to a relationship with a white man, John Irby. She then came close to losing it when another white man, Robert Wood, attempted to wrest it from her by exploiting her vulnerability as a free woman of color.

In 1834John Irby wrote his last will and testament which clearly named Butcher as the administrator of his estate which consisted of the White House Tavern surrounding land buildings two horses and buggy household and kitchen furniture his bank deposits and two slaves Alexander and Creasy Two years later ...

Article

Agnes Kane Callum

slave, farmer, teacher, Reconstruction-era state legislator and lawyer, was born in South Carolina's famed Edgefield District. He was literate and the favored slave of Major Thomas Carwile the commissioner in equity of Edgefield Cain was probably raised much like other slave children on Edgefield plantations they would be cared for by an elderly lady while their mothers worked in the fields until the children were about six or seven years old when they were sent to work in the fields many serving as water carriers or weed pullers In some instances they were sent to work by the side of an adult Generally the children were called quarter workers since they produced about one fourth as much labor as an adult It is not known exactly how Cain learned to read and write but it is likely that he was taught by his owner as he was known as ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

blacksmith and state legislator, was born to slave parents whose names have not been recorded. Nothing is known of his childhood, other than that he had one brother, Sam. By the time he reached adulthood, Charles Caldwell was working as a blacksmith in Clinton, a small village in Hinds County twelve miles from Jackson, Mississippi. Given that Mississippi's slave population expanded rapidly in the three decades after 1830, it is quite possible that Caldwell was born in another state to planters who had then brought or sold him on the lucrative Mississippi market.

Caldwell s skilled trade provided him a degree of relative autonomy in his work and may have enabled him to travel with fewer restrictions than the average plantation slave Slave blacksmiths carpenters barbers and other skilled workers often learned to read and write as Caldwell did and generally enjoyed a high status within the African American ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

merchant, public official, religious leader, and longtime state legislator, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the eldest son of free, mixed-race parents John Cail (Cale) and Elizabeth Mitchell, a homemaker, who were married in 1827. His father worked as a miller, later as a fisherman, and moved his large family—as many as nine children—to Edenton in nearby Chowan County in the 1850s. Little is known of Hugh Cale's early life or education, although he had learned to read and write by the end of the Civil War.

After the Union army occupied much of northeastern North Carolina in early 1862, Cale began working as a manual laborer for federal installations at Fort Hatteras and Roanoke Island. In 1867 he moved to Elizabeth City North Carolina where he commenced a singularly successful career as a grocer and held a number of local offices during and after ...

Primary Source

David Augustus Straker 1842 1908 was part of the generation of black Republican political leaders who for a brief time following the Civil War tried to mobilize African Americans to become more involved in the political process Straker received his law degree from Howard University in 1871 and worked as a clerk for the US Postal Service In a two day lecture excerpted below dated 13 14 April 1874 Straker addresses the congregation at Israel A M E Church and an assembly at the Pioneer Lyceum in Washington DC In it Straker stresses the need for black unity and cooperation something that would be a theme throughout his long career as a congressman and jurist Indeed twenty years later after the Reconstruction had collapsed and the Jim Crow era had forced out almost all black politicians Straker helped to organize the National Federation of Colored Men a precursor of the ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

Immediately after the Civil War many of the defeated former Confederate states passed new laws known as black codes to control the recently freed slaves Some of the laws prohibited blacks from living in towns owning guns or dogs or testifying against whites in some trials Vagrancy laws required that former slaves have work contracts and allowed planters often their former masters to force them to labor if they did not have work contracts Blacks who committed minor crimes could be hired out to planters or forced to work on chain gangs If black parents were unemployed or deemed unfit in other ways their children could be seized and apprenticed until they turned eighteen The goal of all such laws was to reduce the freed people to a state as close to slavery as possible Congress authorized the Joint Committee on Reconstruction to investigate these laws as well as other ...

Article

Alicia J. Rivera

Charles Sumner's proposed civil rights bill aimed to ensure that the rights of African American freedmen would be honored. Placed before the Senate on 13 May 1870, it was the first national desegregation measure in U.S. history. To Sumner, the Reconstruction measures already adopted did not provide blacks with the full range of rights to which, in his view, they were entitled as citizens. Sumner's bill called for an end to segregation of public accommodations, schools, and church organizations and for the right of African Americans to serve on juries. The first section reads:

All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations advantages facilities and privileges of inns public conveyances on land or water theaters and other places of public amusement subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to ...

Article

James Brewer Stewart

Causes

Military and Diplomatic Course

Domestic Effects

Changing Interpretations

Article

Donna M. DeBlasio

Few events in American history are more significant than the Civil War. The four years of conflict from 1861 to 1865 changed the nation more profoundly than any other single event. The bloody war finally laid to rest the contentious issue of slavery, ending half the nation's horrendous reliance on the buying and selling of human flesh. The Union's industrial power, which the war only provided a glimpse of, grew and strengthened throughout the rest of the nineteenth century. The way Americans saw themselves also changed. The war brought a new sense of nationalism, especially to the Union; Americans began to refer to “The United States” as opposed to “These United States Americans also started to view the federal government and the presidency differently Instead of being some entity in far off Washington D C during and after the war the federal government came into much closer ...

Article

Elizabeth Regosin

During Reconstruction and for years afterward, African American women exercised their citizenship rights in a variety of ways, including pursuing military pensions from the United States Pension Bureau. The law of 14 July 1862 which was the basis of the Civil War pension system extended this fundamental right of citizenship recompense for serving one s country and the corollary right of widows and other dependent relatives to compensation for the loss of a provider to all eligible Union soldiers and their relatives regardless of race Considerable numbers of freedwomen and free women of color alike pursued pensions from the federal government However because the majority of African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War came from the South and had been enslaved the emphasis here is on the pension records of former slaves In significant ways freedwomen s experiences with the pension system reflected their experiences as citizens ...

Article

The American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, took more than 600,000 lives, but brought freedom to four million African American slaves. The immediate and primary cause of the Civil War was the South's support for slavery and the North's increasing opposition to the practice. Several other economic and political factors, however, had conspired to make the issue of slavery of utmost importance to the future of the nation.

Article

Frederick Douglass considered the Civil War to be both a millennial event and a regenerative force in American life. He believed that a redeeming God would use the war as a crucible to free the South's 4 million slaves. After years of personal and collective protest against slavery, Douglass framed the war's meaning—its suffering and its mandate—in apocalyptic terms.

Central to Douglass's understanding of the war was his vision of free blacks and former slaves' fighting to free their slave brethren. In May 1861 he clamored for “carrying the war into Africa [the South]”; he declared, “Let the slaves and free colored people be called into service, and formed into a liberating army.” In January 1862, while waiting impatiently for the government to free and arm the slaves, Douglass remarked, “Slavery has been, and is yet the shield and helmet of this accursed rebellion.” President Abraham Lincoln listened ...