News / USA

African Americans Reflect on US Civil War

Black soldiers during the US Civil War
Black soldiers during the US Civil War

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Chris Simkins

The U.S. Civil War began 150 years ago this week and became the deadliest conflict in U.S. history. More than a century later, people are debating the reasons for the war, slavery versus states' rights. Some historians and civil rights leaders suggest the legacies of the Civil War still have an impact on African Americans today.

These are the faces of black soldiers during the American Civil War. They're rare photographs of some of the 200,000 who fought in the Union army against the southern Confederacy. The pictures offer slices of life that many Americans may not be aware of.  Stories like that of Adele Logan Alexander 's great grandfather, John Robert Bond. He was born in England in 1846.

"When he was 17 years old, hearing about the struggle for Africans freedom in the United States, the story my mother told me was that he got on a fishing boat and came to Massachusetts because he wanted to help free the slaves," she said.

Adele Alexander is a historian. She says her great grandfather joined the Union navy and was almost killed in a battle.

It's just one of the many facts Alexander uncovered about her family. She says her great grandfather sacrificed to help future generations.

"What a remarkable thing that this boy in England who heard the debate over slavery would disrupt himself from family there and cross an unknown ocean to take this great step in his life and this great step which changed life for him and his descendants," she said.

And that inspired Alexander to write a book about the Bond family post-Civil War.    

"Hard line segregation kicks in, and blacks are worse off in many instances than they were in the period immediately after the Civil War during the reconstruction period. Starting in the late 1800s early 1900s, you begin to see the great migration north and this was enormously disruptive to African Americans. This was people who had been a peasant population, who had lived on plantations, were moving into modern industrialized cities and they were very poorly equipped to deal with the challenges of that. In turn that caused new breakups of families, and I think we are still seeing the results of this today," she said.  

During her research, Alexander learned more about her grandfather, Warren Logan, born into slavery in Virginia.  

"He was born to a woman whose name was Pocahontas who was a slave, possibly of Native American background, and his father was a white man, probably his owner, but like ((African American leader)) Booker T. Washington, he had the opportunity to go to school," she said.

Alexander says the Civil War not only freed the slaves, it empowered African Americans to take control of their lives.

"It has been a long and painful process and I don't think that it is over because I think that we have legacies of racism and economic disparities in our country. But certainly just ending the institution of slavery was enormously important to this country," she said.

Alexander says the Civil War defined the United States as the most multi-racial democracy in the world.

But there's a down side.  For example, census data in 2005 show that at least half of African American children were being raised by a single parent.  

And black unemployment is at 15.5 percent, almost double the national average.

"The Civil War itself was a part of the great legacy of slavery in this country and we ((African Americans)) still live with that every day," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization.  

"The NAACP was founded by Republicans. It's the party of ((President)) Lincoln, and it has a great tradition of inclusion. And in this moment, we would hope that all people in this country, would be using this (( the Civil War anniversary )) as a moment of national reflection about the need for us to reunite ourselves and move beyond old divisions," he said.

While many people share his hopes, others feel much needs to be done before the dreams that evolved after the Civil War become reality.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid