Black Agency in the Civil War Era

“I learned about black Union soldiers from the movie ‘Glory’, but I had no idea how massive their numbers were. I also knew nothing about ‘Contraband’ until visiting Fort Monroe for the first time in 2012."
~ Erin, 41
 

What the Lost Cause said.

The authors of the Lost Cause portrayed Black people as part of Civil War history, but in a very specific way....
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Historians portrayed slavery as a benign--even beneficial--institution that Black people were content in.
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Writers claimed that Black appreciation for slavery and the benevolence of White masters manifested in a steadfast loyalty during the Civil War when the temptations of freedom beckoned.
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Afterwards, writers like Thomas Nelson Page and Sallie May Dooley wrote fiction about freedpeople who longed for the days of slavery because freedom and political participation had been too difficult to navigate.
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How did that change?

Two intertwined developments after World War II began to change the visibility of Black people in American history. 
The Civil Rights Movement not only advocated for Black political rights, but for the dignity of Black stories in American history. Americans looked into the past to see historical political struggles and civil rights leaders to better understand the causes of current unrest.
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Social historians beginning in the 1950s and peaking in the 1980s began to excavate the stories of ordinary people, and to analyze and take seriously those who struggled to challenge those in power. Deep scholarship on the lives of enslaved people and Black people in the Civil War revealed so much about this past.
 

Now You Know.
What else can you do? 

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