• 43°

Should African-Americans commemorate the Civil War?

By Reginald W. Brown
For the Salisbury Post
The American Civil War and the fight for civil rights began 150 years ago. The sesquicentennial finds many American descendents of enslaved Africans shrugging their shoulders and saying, “So what?”
When told that the war freed over 4 million of our ancestors, added constitutional amendments abolishing their enslavement and promised full and equal citizenship, many of today’s young folks respond with skepticism, scorn and indifference.
“What citizenship?” they retort. “We had the amendments and no civil rights for a century after ratification.” “Emancipation was Abraham Lincoln’s idea when he thought efforts to preserve the Union would fail.” “Lincoln didn’t intend to give black folks any civil rights and would deport them to Africa or the Caribbean islands.” “Yes, Lincoln authorized the enlistment of black soldiers and sailors during the war … So what?” “After the war ended, we had a century of Jim Crow, segregation and the KKK.”
Unless we understand that the Civil War united a divided nation and started the struggle for universal civil rights, we will be unable to fully appreciate the sacrifices our ancestors made for the rights we take for granted. Some of us will venerate those who rest in military places of honor with ceremonies. Some of us will re-enact battles in full battle dress, commemorating those who fought for or against a way of life. Some will attend symposiums and present exhibits.
Should black folk commemorate the Civil War? Absolutely! Americans on all sides of the conflict made gut-wrenching sacrifices for a united republic. Should skeptics and ideologues be challenged for their spin on history? Absolutely!
Abraham Lincoln’s effort to preserve the Union does not mean he didn’t want to end slavery. Probably one reason the 11 seceding Southern states excluded Lincoln from their 1860 presidential ballots was his well-known opposition to enslaving human beings. If the seceding states that formed the Confederacy won their independence, Lincoln would be powerless to free its enslaved population. The legal tool he used was a “war powers” proclamation authorizing him as commander-in-chief to issue an order to free the enslaved in Confederate-held territories. More than a year and a half after his first inauguration, the Emancipation Proclamation took effect January 1, 1863.
In 1864, the U.S. Senate approved the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery after Lincoln’s attempt to establish a colony for black volunteers in Haiti and Panama. Following a period of frustration, he had them returned to the United States and abandoned the idea of colonization. In April 1865, before his assassination, Lincoln delivered a speech that called for postwar Southern governments to grant equal civil rights to African-Americans.
Under no circumstance should the sacrifices of more than 200,000 African-American Union volunteer soldiers, sailors and spies be overlooked. Most were fugitives from slavery. Others were free people of color. Both waged war against hostile southerners and racist northerners and fought in battles from Milliken’s Bend to Appomattox. Some like Thomas Hawkins died at Fort Gilmore, Va., and others like Moses Smith died in Confederate prisons. The fate of captured Union soldiers who were once enslaved is unknown. However, African-American Union volunteers such as Sgt. William Carney and Col. William H. Singleton received Medals of Honor and officers’ commissions. Spies like Mary Elizabeth Bowser, a servant in the Jefferson Davis Confederate White House, rendered Union intelligence.
Unfortunately, black folks won their freedom but lost the Reconstruction that followed the war. A new tale of woe known as the Jim Crow era began and lasted for nearly 100 years. That’s another story.
Fortunately, the sesquicentennial provides opportunities to learn and honor shared remembrances, reconcile misperceptions and remove old scars.A visit to the “When We Fought Ourselves” exhibit at the Rowan Museum is a good start in commemorating and reflecting upon the Civil War and its legacy. The exhibit shows and explains the Civil War roles played by all of America’s descendants.
The Rowan Museum is in the Old Court House at 202 North Main Street in Salisbury. The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Please sign the guest book.
• • •
Reginald W. Brown lives in Salisbury.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

City approves DOT agreement, Salisbury Station project could begin next year

Local

County plans to use vulture effigy, enforce violations to remedy animal carcass feeding problem

Education

Two weeks after ending enhanced protocols, Catawba has no COVID-19 cases

News

Council to hear revised version of Downtown Main Street Plan

News

Political Notebook: Majority of likely voters, local legislators support school reopening bill

Coronavirus

COVID-19 vaccinations in Rowan top positives since start of pandemic

Crime

Man faces drug charges after breaking and entering call

Lifestyle

Waterworks schedules 2021 Summer ARTventures

Crime

Blotter: Man faces drug charges after being found passed out in vehicle

Ask Us

Ask Us: What programs exist for litter cleanup?

Business

County begins accepting restaurant grant applications

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with nine more felony sex offenses

Nation/World

Biden team readies wider economic package after virus relief

Nation/World

Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings

Nation/World

Cuomo sorry for remarks aide ‘misinterpreted’ as harassment

Nation/World

Trump calls for GOP unity, repeats lies about election loss

Education

Rowan County administers 700 vaccines, with majority going to local educators

Crime

Shoplifting at Walmart presents challenge for Salisbury police

Local

Commissioners will hear details about changes to solar energy policies

Business

After overcoming obstacles, local barber Daniel King earns registered status

Lifestyle

39th annual K12 student exhibitions go virtual

Business

Biz Roundup: Chamber of Commerce to host ‘Salute to Agri-Business’ at March Power in Partnership

Local

Local legislators back bills ranging from new restrictions on sex offenders to Holocaust education

News

After surviving COVID-19 scare, Lois Willard set to celebrate 100th birthday