African American Roles
by Bradley Fusco


In the nineteenth century, many problems arose between the North and the South resulting in the Civil War. The Civil War was started in 1861 because of many issues between the North and South, but the main issue was slavery. The North and the South were significantly different from each other before the war. The South’s flat terrain allowed them to have big farms and plantations. On these plantations, slaves harvest the crops, and did most of the work. The South’s plantations and farms covered a lot of area and allowed the South to focus on agriculture. Slaves were the main reason that the South’s agriculture grew so strong. The North didn’t have much farmland, so the North developed bigger cities and excelled in industry. Instead of slaves, immigrants form Europe worked in these factories. The North believed that everyone should get paid for their work, and in the South, none of the slaves got paid. Their many arguments lead to the start of the Civil War. The African Americans played a major role in the Civil War.

History of Slavery

After Christopher Columbus traveled to the New World, slaves started to be brought to the New World by the French and Spanish. Pon de Leon brought slaves with him to Florida in 1513, and many slaves arrived in chains to accompany him, but the first dark skin slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619. The slaves were boarded on a Dutch vessel.

During the American Revolution, less than 10% of the slave population was working with agriculture in the North, and most of the slaves were working on farms in the South. By 1680, less than one-tenth of the population was slaves, but the slave population grew rapidly. In 1777, Vermont abolished slavery, and they were the first Northern region to do so. Shortly after Vermont became free, the population of slaves starting growing. By 1790, one-third of the population was slaves. Shortly after the American Revolution, slavery started becoming more popular in the South. The population exploded, reaching 1.1 million in 1810, and over 3.9 million in 1860.
this is a chart that i made to show population in the United States from 1750-1860

This is a graph i made to show the population in the Untied States from 1750-1860 (based on chart)

Plantation Life

Slaves working on a plantation in the South

Life on the plantation was rough for slaves. They got no respect from their master, they were isolated from the outside world, and they had never ending work. Work was grueling for the slaves. They worked all day, and once they were done they didn’t have a bed to sleep on. They got one blanket, and usually, the woman and children didn’t get a blanket. All the slaves shared the same bed; the cold ground. The Adult males worked on fields, pastures and gardens. Overseers would ride horses, while carrying whips to punish the slaves that were slacking. If a male slave had any skill with blacksmithing or carpentry, they would be used to help their masters earn money. Females and children served their masters’ family, and most of the woman and children were starved and raped by their masters. Masters tried to “Christianize” their slaves, but music and religion were strengths for slaves, so many of them did not become Christian. Music and religion connected slaves with their African culture, and they tried to keep their customs alive. The slaves didn’t have much time to celebrate their culture due to the amount of work they were doing.

Black Rush to Arms

Black soldiers fighting for the Union

After the Battle of Fort Sumter, many black men set off to enlist in the U.S military units. They were all turned away because of a Federal law, dating form 1792, barred Negroes form bearing arms for the U.S army. Many Boston volunteers were outraged, and passed a resolution to ask the Government to modify its law and to permit their enlistment. Abraham Lincoln was concerned that with the Negroes enlisted that it would make the boarder states secede. By mid-1862, the former slaves, the declined white volunteers, and the pressing personnel needs on the Union pushed the government to reconsider removing the ban. On July, 1852, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, which freed slaves who had masters in the Confederate Army.

At the end of the Civil War, about 179,000 black men served as soldiers in the U.S army, and another 19,000 blacks served in the Navy. About 40,000 black soldiers died of the course of the war, and 30,000 died form infection. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause, while black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless served as nurses, spies, and scouts.

"Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship."- Frederick Douglass

Black Regiments

Newspaper article written in a Northern newspaper

During the Civil War, there were regiments that consisted of only black men. The most famous regiment was the 54 Massachusetts Infantry. It was one of the first black units organized in the Northern states. The regiment was composed of free blacks throughout the North, mostly Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Regiment 54 Massachusetts recruited Fredrick Douglass’ sons, Lewis N. Douglass and Charles Douglass. The regiment earned its greatest fame on July 18, 1863, when it led an assault on the Confederate positions at Battery Wagner. In the attack, the Fifty-fourth was placed in the vanguard and 281 men of the regiment became casualties. Fifty-four of the men were killed or wounded, and forty-eight were never accounted for. Another all black regiment was regiment 35. Unlike its more famous counterpart, regiment 54, the 35th U.S.C.T. did not experience combat right away. Most of the 35th's enlisted men were ex-slaves from coastal areas of Virginia and the Carolinas, while its officers came from various northern units. Colonel James Beecher commanded the regiment.

Freeing Slaves

During the Civil War, Lincoln had wanted to declare all slaves free, but he waited until the Union force had some decisive victories over the Confederacy. Holding off on declaring the slaves free was to prevent giving the South a rallying point, until it wouldn’t effect the outcome of the war. After the Confederacy defeated the Union, President Lincoln decided that it was a good time to announce his Emancipation Proclamation. He announced that on January 1, 1863, he would issue an order freeing the slaves in the states in rebellion. This issue was the Emancipation Proclamation. The Proclamation made the war less popular in the North, because they were now fighting only to free the slaves, and not to keep the Union together. The War ended two and a half years later, and the slaves were then free.

Slavery After War

After the Civil War the Blacks in the United States enjoyed many privileges. Blacks could then vote, hold office, and attend schools. New Orleans, Louisiana was one of the more integrated cities. They desegregated its streetcars in 1867. Also, New Orleans experimented with integrated public schools in 1869, and legalized interracial marriage between 1868 and 1896. In time, New Orleans elected a total of 32 black state senators and 95 state representatives, and had integrated juries, public boards, and police departments. But, life for Southern blacks was far from perfect. "Black Codes," designed to limit the opportunities of blacks, were passed in the South during Reconstruction. The Black Codes placed taxes on free blacks who tried to pursue nonagricultural professions, restricted the abilities of blacks to rent land or own guns, and even allowed the children of "unfit" parents to be apprenticed to the old slave masters. Black life wasn’t completely equal to whites until a few years after Martin Luther King Jr. died. Martin Luther King Jr. died in April, 1968.


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