Reminder: February is Black History Month!

February is Black History Month, and here at Emerging Civil War, we will be spotlighting African American History during the Antebellum, War, and Reconstruction Eras. From surviving and rebelling against the horrors of slavery to fighting as soldiers in the Union army and powerfully advocating for freedom and civil rights, African Americans took a significant and history-changing role in U.S. History and the World History saga. Watch for special blog posts throughout this month!

To begin, here’s a thought-provoking quote by Frederick Douglass about the war and its far reaching impact:

But we are not to be saved by the captain this time, but by the crew. We are not to be saved by Abraham Lincoln, but by that power behind the throne, greater than the throne itself. You and I and all of us have this matter in hand.

Men talk about saving the Union, and restoring the Union as it was. They delude themselves with the miserable idea that that old Union can be brought to life again. That old Union, whose canonized bones we so quietly inurned under the shattered walls of Sumter, can never come to life again. It is dead, and you cannot put life into it. The first shot fired at the walls of Sumter caused it to fall as dead as the body of Julius Caesar when stabbed by Brutus. We do not want it again. We have outlived the old Union.

We had outlived it long before the rebellion came to tell us – I mean the Union under the old pro-slavery interpretation of it – and had become ashamed of it. The South hated it with our anti-slavery interpretation, and the North hated it with the Southern interpretation of its requirements. We had already come to think with horror of the idea of being called upon here in our churches and literary societies, to take up arms and go down South, and pour the leaden death into the breasts of the slaves, in case they should rise for liberty; and the better part of the people did not mean to do it. They shuddered at the idea of so sacrilegious a crime. They had already become utterly disgusted with the idea of playing the part of bloodhounds for slave-masters, and watch-dogs for the plantations. They had come to detest the principle upon the slaveholding States had a larger representation in Congress than the free States. They had come to think that the little finger of dear old John Brown was worth more to the world than all the slaveholders in Virginia put together. 

What business, then, have we to fight for the old Union? We are not fighting for it. We are fighting for something incomparably better than the old Union. We are fighting for unity; unity of object, unity of institutions, in which there shall be no North, no South, no East, no West, no black, no white, but a solidarity of the nation, making every slave free, and every free man a voter.

Frederick Douglass, December 4, 1863, excerpt from a speech given at the meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

3 Responses to Reminder: February is Black History Month!

  1. For me, the feature film, “Glory,” captured the humanity, strength, courage, grit and spirit of Black troops determined to take matters into their own hands, and fight for their future. This movie is a great place to start, for anyone wanting to extend the education of a high school student, or rekindle their own passion for study of the Civil War.

  2. “I was at the extreme left of Company C, which was the leftmost company of the 81st Ohio. While loading and firing as fast as possible, I happened to glance to the rear, and from that direction came a black man with a gun in hand at “trail arms.” He had a cartridge-box buckled on and pulled around in front, ready for use. He came up on my left, gazed for a moment along the line of our blazing Enfields, then shouted, “Give ‘em Hell, boys!” and running forward to an oak tree standing a little to the left of our line of fire, he began to load and fire with an amazing rapidity… I wished to get the privilege of seeing him after the battle was over, and to shake hands with a man who seemed to have no fear of Rebel bullets.” [Observed on 7 April 1862, Day Two at Shiloh, and found on page 42 of A Corporal’s Story by Charles Wright ( 1887).]

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