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Why are African Americans at war Essay

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The idea of African Americans at war during the Civil War is an answer that can be found in the crescendo of abolitionist speeches. Freed blacks wished to be at war to free their brothers and sisters who were still slaves; they were at war for many reasons. The call to war could not have been met with any more gusto than it was meet in the black community, as McPherson (1965) quotes You, white fellow-citizens, constitute a very large majority of the voters… Therefore we appeal to you to stand by us, and see that we are not unjustly punished…We are weak-you are strong.

We are few in numbers – you are numerous.

O, men of Massachusetts! Tell us not that there are two kinds of rights; rights of the rich, which you respect because you must; rights of the poor, on which you trample because you dare… Freedom has been your legacy from birth; by some of us it has been achieved.

We know what oppression is; protect us from this political oppression…Some of us have experienced the unutterable anguish of leaving our dear ones for the sake of freedom. We appeal to you to secure and protect us in the freedom which we have sought. Let us not be exiled form the State of our adoption… (15). [1][2]

McPherson goes on to state that in the freed blacks their was a ferocity to be done with the injustice delivered to them, and the outlet for such animosity could be found in Lincoln’s call to arms for volunteers to staunch the south rebellion. The Union could only be re-united through war; African American roles were pivotal in the outcome. There could be no compromise in the issue of slavery; men were born free, not sold, not bartered. The African American influence in this regard was their quick approval of such sentiment and their quick action to restore themselves as human.

McPherson further emphasizes the innate reaction for action on the part of free blacks, As we sympathize with our white fellow-citizen at the present crisis, and to show that we can and do feel interested in the present state of affairs; and as we consider ourselves American citizens and interested in the Commonwealth of all our white fellow-citizens, although deprived of all our political rights, we yet wish the government of the United States to be sustained against the tyranny of slavery, and are willing to assist in any honorable way or manner to sustain the present Administration.

We therefore tender to the state the services of the Hannibal Guards (20). There should be not question as to why African Americans so whole-heartedly participated in the Civil War. In the following pages, their participation as soldiers, as Underground Railroad conductors and as a race ready to be educated and rid of the fetters that shackle them, will be explored, explained, and expounded upon. Black Soldiers It is often misjudged the amount of free blacks who participated in their own emancipation.

As slaves, African Americans were subject to ineffable amounts of torture and pain:  Mothers and sisters were forced into prostitution, men were separated from their families and the entire race was thought of as less than human, a savagery of mankind. With these sentiments and the labor forced upon them, the simple act of combat in rebellion against such strife and animosity should come as little surprise when reading the history books. The driving force of export in the South was built upon black labor, and the disillusionment that such labor could be forever enslaved was ludicrous.

The types of influence that African Americans had during such a time were found in the ever-popular blues music, and gospel. While working in the fields it was song that men, women, and children would turn to, to pass the time and feel united. This however is only a small scope of the participation African Americans played during the infant conception of our country[3]. During the Civil War, blacks were enlisted as soldiers. The sentiment was very diverse in this subject.

Some Northern whites did not agree with blacks participating with them, they held a dichotomy of views between wanting the blacks to be free and having them serve with them. In this regard, black regiments were incepted and it was agreed that the commanders of these regiments would be retired white military leaders so that the general populace still felt the commodity of ‘safety’ when thinking about blacks serving in the war with whites. Thus prejudice is proved to be very much alive even in the cultured North. In McPherson’s book The Negro’s Civil War (1965), he states.

Despite the fact that Negro soldiers had fought for the United States in the Revolution and in the War of 1812, a federal law barred colored men from serving in state militias, and there were no Negroes in the regular United States Army. A group of Boston Negroes met in the Twelfth Baptist Church on April 23 to call for the repeal of laws that kept colored men out of the army. Robert Morris, a Negro lawyer in Boston, declared that ‘if the Government would only take away the disability, there was not a man who would not leap for his knapsack and musket, and they would make it intolerable hot for Old Virginia’.

On April 29 a Negro drill company was organized in Boston, and in subsequent weeks the colored men of Massachusetts sent several petitions to the legislature praying for the repeal of discriminatory militia laws (20). [4] In this quote is found the discriminatory actions of the side of the war that is supposed to be sympathetic towards the plight of African Americans. Though it could not considered direct hostility, the fact that at first blacks were denied to participate physically in their own emancipation was a deterring event in the process of freedom.

During the course of the war it should also be cited the black regiments proved themselves with valor and without trepidation. It is documented that the Secretary of War denied the right of blacks to participate in fighting[5]. The general fears of the Northern states were negated, and this fact is found especially true for the victory in Port Hudson. Colonel Higginson’s regiment on May 27, 1863 (a black regiment) fought against a Confederate stronghold, and though they were not victorious, they gained the accolades of the white regiments for their bravado during the battle.

As McPherson quotes of this episode, “ ‘The self-forgetfulness, the undaunted heroism, and the great endurance of the negro, as exhibited that day, created a new chapter in American history for the colored man’” (185)[6]. In this event, prejudice was all but vanquished from the white soldiers’ minds.

The influence witnessed and recorded here proves undeniably that African Americans were essential in the fight against slavery, and the eventual event of their own freedom as well as staunching the belief system of the majority Northern sentimentality.

[1] Speech given by George T. Downing, a wealthy Negro restaurateur on February 14, in Massachusetts in the Joy Street Baptist Church of Boston. The citizens used the manifesto for freedom purposes. [2] “Douglass declared that the Union could never be preserved without the abolition of slavery” (17). [3] Such songs included one like this, My true believers, fare ye well,/ Fare ye well, fare ye well,/ Fare ye well, by de grace of God,/ For I ‘m going home.

/ Massa Jesus give me a little broom / For to sweep my heart clean, / And I will try, by de grace of God,/ To win my way home, from http://xroads. virginia. edu/~hyper/TWH/Higg. html [4] Legislature postponed action on these petitions. [5] Offers of blacks to assist in co-colored fighting was disregarded. “The Secretary of War replied to Jacob Dodson’s note, that ‘this Department has no intention at present to call into the service of the Government any colored soldiers” (21). [6] Written by William Wells Brown on the account of the Port Hudson assault.

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