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In 1862, American painter Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) made trips to Union encampments to witness and sketch the war's events. Throughout the war, African-American men, women, and children escaped slavery by fleeing to Union encampments. Union commanders referred them as wartime "contraband," or property forfeited by the rebellious Confederates.…

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Item Type: Painting
Date: 1862

In 1863, Congress issued a Conscription Act to draft more people into the army to fight the Civil War. The draft law also included a provision that allowed wealthy men to pay $300 to a substitute, thus avoiding military service. In response, in New York City protesters led four days of violent attacks against African Americans, draft officials,…

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Item Type: Newspaper/Magazine
Date: 1863

This Civil War-era lithograph, circulated in the North, lampoons the idea that the Confederate Army was composed of southern "volunteers." A conscript is compelled by force to fight for "King Cotton," despite his protests that he is a "Union man." In reality, both the Union and Confederate Armies relied on conscription to fill their ranks, and in…

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Item Type: Cartoon
Date: Circa 1862

In this activity students research roles as either Irish immigrants or African-American residents in the midst of the New York City Draft Riots that took place in July 1863. Students gather evidence from primary sources to develop their characters, based on actual census records, and then enact a role play debating whether to stay in the city or…

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Item Type: Teaching Activity
Date: 2008

In this activity students analyze visual and textual evidence about "contraband" African-American slaves during the Civil War era. They compare the roles of African Americans, the Union military, and the policies of the Republican party in emancipating slaves. They determine the extent to which African Americans freed themselves versus the extent…

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Item Type: Teaching Activity
Date: 2011

This ink-and-wash drawing depicts Lincoln's dramatic entry into Richmond, Virginia on April 4, 1865, only a day after it had fallen to Union troops in the last major battle of the Civil War. The President and his son Tad made the short journey from Washington, D.C. to the former Confederate capital to tour the ruins and celebrate victory. Although…

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Item Type: Poster/Print
Date: 1865

In this journalistic sketch, a group of African American soldiers liberates a plantation in eastern North Carolina. The troops were the so-called "African Brigade" composed of black recruits from Massachusetts and newly freed contraband slaves from Union-occupied territories of North Carolina. Like all black troops in the Civil War, the African…

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Item Type: Poster/Print
Date: 1864

This worksheet helps students analyze an 1864 sketch of African-American troops, many of whom were former slaves, liberating slaves on a North Carolina plantation.

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Item Type: Worksheet
Date: 2011

Harriet Tubman was among the best known conductors of the Underground Railroad, a network of enslaved people, free blacks, and white sympathizers that assisted thousands of runaway slaves escape north. During the Civil War, Tubman offered her services to the Union army, first as a nurse and cook, and later as an armed scout and spy. In the allegory…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1862

Harriet Tubman was among the best known conductors of the Underground Railroad, a network of enslaved people, free blacks, and white sympathizers that assisted thousands of runaway slaves escape north. During the Civil War, Tubman offered her services to the Union army, first as a nurse and cook, and later as an armed scout and spy. In the…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1862