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Freedom's Journey
Cover of Freedom's Journey
Freedom's Journey
African American Voices of the Civil War
The men and women represented in this book had the extraordinary opportunity of witnessing the end of a 200-year struggle for freedom: the Civil War. Gathered here are the stirring testimonies of many...
The men and women represented in this book had the extraordinary opportunity of witnessing the end of a 200-year struggle for freedom: the Civil War. Gathered here are the stirring testimonies of many...
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  • The men and women represented in this book had the extraordinary opportunity of witnessing the end of a 200-year struggle for freedom: the Civil War. Gathered here are the stirring testimonies of many African Americans including slaves who endured their last years of servitude before escaping from their masters, soldiers who fought for the freedom of their brethren and for equal rights, and reporters who covered the defeat of their oppressors. These African American voices include the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass on the meaning of the war; Martin R. Delany on his meeting with Lincoln to gain permission to raise an army of African Americans; Susie King Taylor on her life as laundress and nurse to a Union regiment in the deep South; Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress, on Abraham Lincoln’s journey to Richmond after its fall; Elijah P. Marrs on rising from slave to Union sergeant while fighting for his freedom in Kentucky; and letters from black soldiers to black newspapers. Each testimony is presented unabridged, allowing the full flavor of these voices to be heard, and each is supplemented with introductions and notes that provide rich context.

Excerpts-

  • Freedom's Journey

    1
    What Is at Stake: Black Abolitionism, Politics, and Lincoln's Election

    "They differ only in the method" Thomas Hamilton MARCH 17, 1860

    American politics offered few options to African Americans. Most blacks could not vote, and in some states, such as Pennsylvania, where they had exercised the franchise, whites took the privilege away from them. In New York, where the great journalists Thomas and Robert Hamilton spent their lives, property qualifications reduced the number of voting blacks. Despite these restrictions, African Americans took a keen interest in politics and participated wherever they could, even if that participation was restricted to the local level. They followed national politics closely and were careful to note how the principles and practices of the Democrats and Republicans affected black rights and the institution of slavery. Two decades of antislavery politics had taught blacks that they could not place their trust in a political party. Party principles and platforms certainly mattered, but the ability to advance abolitionism and equality mattered more. While black leaders like Thomas Hamilton might find some satisfaction in the rise of third party antislavery politics and be heartened by white political abolitionists such as Joshua Giddings in the House of Representatives or Charles Sumner in the Senate, in I860 the progressive few were vastly outweighed by the intolerant many. The Democratic Party offered nothing for African Americans; it represented the slave power of the South and the bitterest racial prejudice of the North. The new Republican Party convinced some black leaders that it embodied the progressive force in the nation and held out the best "practical" hope of becoming a bulwark against the institution of slavery. But its racist campaigns, its insistence on enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law, its preference for colonizing blacks, and its limited commitment to opposing only the spread of slavery, proved inadequate for the hour. Only three years earlier, the Supreme Court of the United States had ruled that black men had no rights that whites were bound to respect. Republican states like Illinois offered no rights to blacks, not even to testify in court. What could African Americans expect from a man like Lincoln, who publicly declared his belief that blacks could never be the equal of whites? To many, his victory in the fall elections represented nothing more than the "fag end of a series of pro-slavery administrations."

    Thomas Hamilton (1823-1865), son of William Hamilton (who believed he descended from Alexander Hamilton), began his career in reform and antislavery journalism in 1837, when he worked for the Colored American. He also worked for a variety of other papers before establishing his first newspaper, the People's Press, in 1841. One of New York's most important black leaders, he spoke out for temperance, black suffrage, equal rights, and resistence to the Fugitive Slave Law. He and his brother Robert published the Anglo-African Magazine and the New York Weekly Anglo-African, the leading black newspaper of the Civil War era, which ran from 1859 to the close of 1865. While Hamilton's views were decidedly pessimistic, many agreed with him that in 1860, "We have no hope from either [Democrats or Republicans] as political parties." Ripley et al., The Black Abolitionist Papers, 3:42-54, 359, 5:27-28; Yacovone, Voice of Thunder, 12-13.

About the Author-

  • Donald Yacovone is the senior associate editor at the Massachusetts Historical Society and editor of the Massachusetts Historical Review. His books include a collection of essays on the 54th Massachusetts Regiment and an edition of the Civil War letters of George E. Stephens. He also helped edit the Black Abolitionist Papers. He lives in Medford, Massachusetts.

Reviews-

  • Booklist

    February 15, 2004
    Aside from providing the kind of authoritative insight that primary sources always afford, this collection of African American perspectives on the Civil War by people who experienced it shows yet again the breadth and depth of African American letters of the time and of the struggle against racism--not just slavery--that African Americans then waged. The South considered slavery a cornerstone of the Confederacy, and far too many in the North felt that trusting a colored man with a weapon would lead to the unthinkable equality of races. Although much has been and continues to be written about the war, and about the participation of--to use the contemporary term--" colored" troops, not many collections of material by those troops are readily available, and " Free"dom's Journey probably fills a gap in most general collections. An excellent compilation, not least because its contents directly refute any notion that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2004, American Library Association.)

  • Dallas Morning News "Yet another outstanding anthology from Lawrence Hill Books in its Library of Black America series."

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African American Voices of the Civil War
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