In Search of African America:  One Collector's Experience January 17-March 21, 2004

It started as a war to preserve the union, but ended as a war of liberation. Within months after Abraham Lincoln's election as president, nine southern states had succeeded from the union. Fearful that this Republican from Illinois would abolish slavery, the south rallied around the leadership of Jefferson Davis and declared itself the Confederate States of America. Slavery would remain a cherished institution in this new nation.

The north would not tolerate a split nation and a four year war of attrition started with the first battle at Manassas in 1861 and continued until Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomatox in 1865. In the process of combat, the war shifted from a conflict over states' rights to a campaign to liberate a people. In the process, millions of Americans - both black and white - bravely acquitted themselves in battle.

The document that changed the focus of the war was the charter of freedom known as the Emancipation Proclamation. It was shortly after the victory at the Battle of Antietam in September of 1862 that President Lincoln granted freedom to slaves in states in rebellion against the United States as of January 1, 1863. It was at that moment that African Americans could mark as their first step toward freedom.

Blacks fought hard to win this freedom. At the time the war began it is estimated that there were about 500,000 free blacks and several million slaves in the continental United States. It is known that over forty percent of the free blacks joined the Union Army and hundreds of thousands of southern slaves were saboteurs. Against such odds, the Confederacy was doomed.

Whenever and wherever they were allowed to join the combat, African Americans fought with courage and bravery. The stories of the fabled 54th Massachusetts Infantry and their service at Fort Wagner in South Carolina were passed from soldier to soldier and were but one example of black heroism.

The Civil War

the Civil War section of the exhibit

In this photo:
--The Civil War section of the exhibit


This exhibit is divided into 10 sections

1. Introduction
--The James Hicks Collection

2. The Burden of Slavery, 1619-1861

 3. The Civil War, 1861-1865 (you are here)
4. The Price of Freedom: Reconstruction, 1865-1877

5. Say Hello To Jim Crow, 1878-1897

6. Up From Slavery: The Self Help Period 1898-1919
7. The Harlem Renaissance, 1920-1946
8. The Civil Rights Era, 1947-1968
9. The Black Power Movement, 1968-1980
10. The Turn of the Century, 1981-2004
Return to the Exhibits Main Page