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Black History Month

2011 - African Americans and the Civil War


The Perry Library offers this Web exhibit as a starting point for learning about the vast contributions made by African Americans during the Civil War. An exhibit is available near the Circulation Desk on the 2nd floor of Perry Library through the month of February 2011.

From the Web site of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History:

In 1861, as the United States stood at the brink of Civil War, people of African descent, both enslaved and free persons, waited with a watchful eye. They understood that a war between the North and the South might bring about jubilee--the destruction of slavery and universal freedom. When the Confederacy fired upon Fort Sumter and war ensued, President Abraham Lincoln maintained that the paramount cause was to preserve the Union, not end slavery. Frederick Douglass, the most prominent black leader, opined that regardless of intentions, the war would bring an end to slavery, America’s “peculiar institution.” Over the course of the war, the four million people of African descent in the United States proved Douglass right. Free and enslaved blacks rallied around the Union flag in the cause of freedom. From the cotton and tobacco fields of the South to the small towns and big cities of the North, nearly 200,000 joined the Grand Army of the Republic and took up arms to destroy the Confederacy. They served as recruiters, soldiers, nurses, and spies, and endured unequal treatment, massacres, and riots as they pursued their quest for freedom and equality. Their record of service speaks for itself, and Americans have never fully realized how their efforts saved the Union. In honor of the efforts of people of African descent to destroy slavery and inaugurate universal freedom in the United States, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History has selected “African Americans and the Civil War” as the 2011 National Black History Theme. We urge all Americans to study and reflect on the value of their contributions to the nation.

Web Sites

African Americans in the Civil War. National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior

The Civil War. African American Odyssey. American Memory. Library of Congress.

Photographs of African Americans During the Civil War: A List of Images in the Civil War Photograph Collection. American Memory. Library of Congress.

African American Civil War Museum and Memorial (Spirit of Freedom)

Civil War. PBS: Africans in America.

African American Soldiers. PBS: The Time of the Lincolns.

Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor. Stanford University.

African American Civil War Soldiers: Research Links. Princeton University

Selected Books in the ODU Library

Blight, David W. Beyond the battlefield: race, memory & the American Civil War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, c2002. E468.9 .B57 2002.

Blight, David W. Frederick Douglass' Civil War: keeping faith in jubilee. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c1989. E449.D75 B55 1989.

Blight, David W. Race and reunion: the Civil War in American memory. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001. E468.9 .B58 2001.

Blight, David W. A slave no more: two men who escaped to freedom: including their own narratives of emancipation. Orlando: Harcourt, c2007. E450.W325 B58 2007.

Foner, Eric. Forever free: the story of emancipation and Reconstruction. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. E668.F655 2005.

Forbes, Ella. African American women during the Civil War / Ella Forbes. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998. E540.N3 F67 1998.

Frankel, Noralee. Freedom's women: Black women and families in Civil War era  Mississippi. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c1999. E185.93.M6 F73 1999.

Jenkins, Wilbert L. Climbing up to glory: a short history of African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Wilmington, Del.: SR Books, 2002. E185.2 .J46 2002.

McPherson, James M. The Negro's Civil War: how American Negroes felt and acted during the war for the Union. New York: Pantheon Books, [1965]  E540.N3 M25.

Mushkat, Jerome, ed. A citizen-soldier's Civil War: the letters of Brevet Major General Alvin C. Voris. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, c2002. E525.5 67th .V67 2002.

Newby-Alexander, Cassandra.  An African American history of the Civil War in Hampton Roads. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010. F232.H23 N49 2010.

Nolen, Claude H. African American southerners in slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, c2001. E185.6 .N83 2001.

Nudelman, Franny. John Brown's body: slavery, violence, & the culture of war.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, c2004. E468.9 .N84 2004.

Shifflett, Crandall, ed. John Washington's Civil War: a slave narrative. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c2008. E450.W325 A3 2008.

Ward, Andrew. The slaves' war: the Civil War in the words of former….. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. E464.W29 2008.

Wesley, Charles H. and Patricia W. Romero. Negro Americans in the Civil War; from slavery to citizenship. New York, Publishers Co. [1968] E540.N3W4 1968.

Westwood, Howard C. Black troops, white commanders, and freedmen during the Civil War. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, c1992. E540.N3 W47 1992.

Williams, George Washington. A history of the Negro troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865; preceded by a review of the military services of Negroes in ancient and modern times. Bergman Publishers [1968]. E540.N3W7 1968.

Yacovone, Donald, ed.  Freedom's journey: African American voices of the Civil. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, c2004. E540.N3 F73 2004.

Exhibit Photo

table exhibit detail

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