News / USA

African Americans Reflect on US Civil War

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

Multimedia

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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More