African Americans and the Civil War
This summer, I am teaching a (two-part) summer workshop for the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition (GLC) at Yale University. The workshop on the Black struggle for freedom and justice brings together teachers from Connecticut (and nearby states) and visiting teachers from Johannesburg, South Africa and Freetown, Sierra Leone. After sharing a photo on Twitter with David Blight (as seen on the left), many of you asked me to share resources on the session. The topic for the day was ‘The Aftermath of Slavery.’ In the morning, I lectured on African Americans and the Civil War and Blight lectured on Reconstruction in the afternoon. It was a very packed day, covering a lot of terrain but by all accounts, it was a fun and exciting one!
What follows is a list of the books, articles, and films I used for my lecture. I am also including a few key points that I emphasized in lieu of my full lecture notes. And you’ll find the list of readings I assigned for the day.
- Discuss the Major Developments Leading Up to the Civil War
- Describe how the Civil War was a window of opportunity for African Americans to seize their freedom
- Describe how African Americans contributed to the war effort
- Examine the war’s impact on the nation
- The Civil War was a “war for freedom”; it opened up a window of opportunity for enslaved men and women to seize their own freedom.*
- Enslaved people were the “prime movers” in securing their liberty; they did not wait for freedom to arrive.**
Recommended Books and Articles
- Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone:The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America
- Ira Berlin, Slaves No More: Three Essays on Slavery and Emancipation
- Ira Berlin, “Who Freed the Slaves? Emancipation and its Meaning” in David W. Blight and Brooks D. Simpson, eds., Union and Emancipation: Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era
- David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
- Tera W. Hunter, To Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War
- James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
Assigned Readings for Participants
- Tera W. Hunter, To ‘Joy My Freedom, Ch. 1: “‘Answering Bells is Played Out’: Slavery and the Civil War” & Ch. 2: “Reconstruction and the Meanings of Freedom,” pp. 4-43.
- Excerpt from Thomas C. Holt, Black Over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction in Charleston Syllabus, pp. 131-137.
- Frederick Douglass, “What the Black Man Wants” (1865) in Let Nobody Turn Us Around: An African American Anthology, pp. 122-128.
- Black Urban Workers During Reconstruction (‘Anonymous Document on the National Colored Labor Convention,’ 1869 & New York Tribune Article on African-American Workers, 1870) in Let Nobody Turn Us Around: An African American Anthology, pp. 132-135.
*See James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, which emphasizes the role that slavery played in the Civil War.
**Ira Berlin argued that “slaves were the prime movers in the emancipation drama.” See Berlin, “Who Freed the Slaves?”