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The American Civil War is one of the deadliest in US History, and let's just get this out of the way: it was about slavery. In the more than 150 years since the end of the Civil War, there have been many attempts to litigate the reasons for the war, but the reality is that the root of the division was slavery. As such, Black Americans experience in that war is particularly interesting. Today, we'll learn about how Black people fought and participated in the war, the Emancipation Proclamation, and lots more.

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Sources and References

-Deborah Gray White, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin, Freedom on My Mind : A History of African Americans, with Documents Second edition. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2017)
-Kevin Levin, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth (UNC Press, 2019).
-Ira Berlin et. al., Slaves No More: Three Essays on Emancipation and the Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 1992).


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#crashcourse #blackhistory #civilwar
Hi, I’m Clint Smith, and this is Crash Course Black American History.

Today we will be discussing the bloodiest war in American history, one that many historians now claim took the lives of over 750,000 people, more than the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish American War, the Korean War, the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan all combined. It is war that would change and define the trajectory of this country: we’re talking about the Civil War.

You’ve likely heard stories about the Civil

War: About the so-called-great generals, the gory battles, the decimated cities. It has been the subject of thousands of books, documentaries watched by millions around the world, and is even the inspiration for a vast community of people who enjoy reenacting the great battles of the war. But something that does not get as much attention, at least not as much attention as it deserves, is the role that Black soldiers, and more generally Black people, played in the war. But today, that’s going to be the center of our attention. [Intro] For such an important and consequential moment in American history there sure are a lot of different interpretations about what the Civil.

War was fought over. So we should be clear, from the very beginning, about why the southern states seceded and why the Civil War came to be fought. You ready?

The Civil War...was about slavery. Some people might say states rights...well yea, the southern states’ rights to keep their enslaved workers. Some people might say, economics...yes, the desire for southern planters to maintain an economy that relied on the labor of millions of enslaved people.

But don’t take my word for it, all we have to do is look at statements different governments and government representatives made as they were leaving the

Union:. A state like Mississippi said: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.” A state like Louisiana felt: “The people of the slaveholding States are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery.” Or Texas, who said: “the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependant [sic] race”. Or we can take the word of the vice-president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, who in his infamous Cornerstone speech in 1861 stated that slavery was “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution” and the Confederacy was founded on “the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.” To understand what the Confederacy was fighting for, all we have to do, is look at what they said for themselves. On the opposite side of the Confederacy was the Federal army, who was fighting to preserve the Union after the southern states had begun seceding.

And while the army was not stating outwardly at the beginning of the war that they were fighting to free the enslaved, the shadow of slavery hung over every battle and every decision. Over the course of the conflict, the tenor of the war and the reason it continued, evolved and became clearer over time. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

When the war first broke out at Fort Sumter in April of 1861, Black people didn't just want to sit by and watch because they perhaps had the most to lose. Thousands volunteered to fight on the side of the Union when the war first erupted, but they were turned away. A Federal law dating back to 1792 barred Black people from bearing arms for the U.

S. Army (even though they had served in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812). The Lincoln administration debated the idea of recruiting Black troops into the Union forces, but they were concerned that such a move would prompt the border states to secede.

Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri were these kind of in between players in the war because they stayed in the Union but also kept their enslaved workers. Additionally, beliefs of Black inferiority were widespread amongst white military officials, both on the Union and Confederate side. They believed Black men to be too cowardly, too weak-minded, and likely to give away sensitive military information under pressure.

There was also a fear that if you gave Black men guns, they would desert and perhaps use those weapons to attack white people. Regardless of the military shutting Black Americans out, many who wanted to fight banded together on their own terms, forming groups in places like New York, Pennsylvania, and. Ohio.

A few brave Black men and women in the south also joined military units. In South Carolina, General David Hunter put an order in place that organized a group of runaways to become a part of the First South Carolina Regiment. In Missouri, General John C Frémont did something similar.

But both units were quickly disbanded by the government. But over the course of the war Lincoln’s position on the role of Black soldiers began to change. The Union was having a more difficult time recruiting white volunteers to serve in the.

Union army for a war that many in the country initially thought would only last a few weeks. And Black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass had long been pushing Lincoln to make Black soldiers a part of the war effort. Additionally there were shifting international dynamics shaping Lincoln’s calculus.

All of this led us to the Emancipation Proclamation. A document that is widely misunderstood, Lincoln’s proclamation was a military strategy with multiple aims. It prevented European countries from supporting the Confederacy by framing the war in moral terms and making it explicitly about slavery, something Lincoln had previously backed away from.

As a result, France and Britain, which had contemplated supporting the Confederacy, ultimately refused to do so because of each country’s anti-slavery positions. The proclamation allowed the Union Army to recruit Black soldiers, and it also threatened to disrupt the South’s social order, which depended on the work and caste position of enslaved people. Lincoln had actually presented the proclamation to his cabinet in July of 1862, but William.

H. Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, told the president that if they announced it at that moment, it would look like a sign of weakness and desperation. Instead he urged Lincoln to wait until the Union won a significant victory on the battlefield.

This made sense to Lincoln, so he waited. The moment came on September 17, 1862, when Union troops halted the advance of Confederate forces in the Battle of Antietam. Just a few days afterwards, Lincoln publicly announced a preliminary version of the Emancipation.

Proclamation, which told the Confederate states that they had 100 days—by January 1, 1863—to rejoin the Union. And if they didn’t, their slaves would be declared “thenceforward, and forever free.” The Confederacy, obviously, didn’t listen. And on January 1st, Lincoln signed the proclamation.

The document transformed the war effort and people like Frederick Douglas went to work recruiting Black soldiers. "A war undertaken and brazenly carried on for the perpetual enslavement of colored men,". Douglass wrote in a broadside in 1863, "calls logically and loudly for colored men to help suppress it." By the end of the war, the Union had more than 186,000 Black volunteers, 134,000 of them coming from slave states. What’s more, over the course of the war over 70% black men in the north who were of age would serve in the union army.

The truth of the matter is Black people had been fighting for freedom long before the war. Still, the civil war did open up a whole slew of new opportunities for them to seize freedom. Untold numbers of runaways would find their way to Union Army camps to seek refuge.

Even before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, the Confiscation Acts passed by. Congress in 1861 and 1862 made it possible for Black people to obtain freedom if they joined these camps. Runaways helped the Union war effort by joining units in unofficial capacities, working as servants, and some were even able to work on land in Union strongholds for a wage.

The Confiscation Acts got that name because acquiring runaways meant capturing enemy property. Accordingly, the camps became commonly known as contraband camps. Speaking of contraband camps, that brings us to Mrs.

Susie Baker King

Taylor: the only Black woman to publish a book reflecting her time spent in contraband camps during the civil war. The book was called Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33rd United States Colored. Troops, Late 1st S. C.

Volunteers. The book itself details her many adventures, facing death on several occasions, and the work she did as an educator. Taylor was the first Black American to teach formerly enslaved people publicly in a school in Georgia – a school that she helped to found.

As Black men either fought or provided manual labor toward the war effort, Black women would often do medical work, cook for soldiers, or take care of children. But the story of a woman named Harriet Tubman makes it evident that Black women's contributions were numerous, and that they were engaged in both combat and non-combat roles. Let's go to the Thought

Bubble: Harriet Tubman is widely remembered for her work leading people to freedom via the Underground Railroad. And not only was she someone who helped enslaved people forge a path to freedom, by going back and forth between the North and South on multiple occasions, she also served as a spy during the Civil War. Like a legit spy! Tubman was paid by the Secret Service, and used those funds to recruit other Black folks to join and help gather information about the Confederates.

Black people made great spies during the war even if it was because of some not-so-great reasons. Like I said earlier, white people (especially, but not exclusively, southerners) really underestimated. Black people's intelligence.

Not only did they think enslaved Black people weren’t brave enough or clever enough to be spies, but often they simply treated Black people, especially Black women, like they were invisible. As a result Black folks would sometimes be in the room where military officers were discussing war strategy or while they were sharing new developments with their families over dinner. Through her intel, Tubman discovered and alerted the Union army of where Confederate enemies were hiding along the shore and where they planted torpedoes in the water.

On top of being a spy, Tubman led a covert military operation, helping Colonel James. Montgomery plan a raid to free enslaved people along the Combahee River in South Carolina. On the morning of June 2, 1863, Tubman and three gunboats full of soldiers set fire to the buildings and bridges near the river so the confederates couldn't use them.

They ended up freeing 750 enslaved men, women, children, and babies. AND...they didn't lose a single soldier in the fight. Thanks, Thought Bubble.

After being allowed to serve in the Union army by the Emancipation Proclamation, Black soldiers would make up 10% of the Union forces and fought valiantly throughout the remainder of the Civil War. Seeing these Black soldiers fight and die for the union changed the minds of many, including. President Lincoln, about whether Black people deserved full citizenship in this country.

As our go to guy Frederick Douglass said (it feels like Douglass has a quote for everything) "Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U. S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship." The war effectively ended in April 1865 when General Robert E Lee of the Confederate Army surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Countless Black Americans remained in bondage until June 19th of 1865, or what we know now as Juneteenth, when General Gordon Granger let 250,000 enslaved people in Texas know through general Order #3 that they were free. And some, in states like Kentucky and Delaware, were still waiting even after that, as historian. W.

Caleb McDaniel has said about the days, weeks, and years following Juneteenth, “Slavery did not end cleanly or on a single day. It ended through a violent, uneven process.” The war was done, but the struggle for Black freedom was in many ways just beginning. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next time.

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