Experiences of African Americans during the Civil War period
Seet Seng Liang, Jonathan
“I acknowledge that this research is the product of my own work. All materials consulted have been duly cited and credited.”
The 1860s and 1870s were particularly trying times for African Americans. The Civil War which lasted from 1861 to 1865 saw America undergo social and political change as Americans struggled to redefine their idea of race and face the question of slavery. More importantly still were the experiences of blacks during and after the war as they fought to be accorded the same rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In the early days of the war, the issue of slavery was avoided vehemently by Lincoln and Davis (Norton et al., 2008) despite it being an essential issue in the war between the North and South. In fact, freeing the slaves was never an agenda of the North. The North was against slavery because they perceived the South, who was pro slavery, as a threat to the North’s social and political order (Norton et al., 2008). Consequently, being against slavery did not necessarily mean Northerners were not racist. In fact, many still saw themselves as racially superior to the blacks. Despite the apparent racial prejudice, blacks in the South still saw in the Union army their route to freedom. After Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation allowing blacks to serve in the Union cause, thousands of slaves, amongst them, one John Boston (Linden & Pressly, n.d), fled their masters and joined the Union army in their fight against the South. Many blacks sought to assert their manhood despite discrimination in the army through the display of bravery and valor. Still more died, like the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts regiment, in their fight for equality. Therefore, although Lincoln had given them a motive to break free, it was the blacks’ own
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