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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

  • Historical Eras > Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1877) (x)

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Marriage of a Colored soldier at Vicksburg by Chaplain Warren of the Freedmen's Bureau

Because marriages between slaves before emancipation had no legal standing, many couples rushed to have their marriages officially registered and made solemn during Reconstruction. The Freedmen's Bureau along with African-American ministers became [...]

Zion School for Colored Children, Charleston, South Carolina

During slavery, planters had tried to keep African Americans from learning to read and write, sometimes even passing laws against educating slaves. After Emancipation, freedpeople displayed a tremendous desire to learn. Some wanted to read the [...]

An Ex-Slave Protests Eviction from "the Promised Land"

In the speech below, Bayley Wyat, an ex-slave, protests the eviction of blacks from confiscated plantations in Virginia in 1866. Like so many other nineteenth-century Americans, white and black, freed people wanted to work the land as [...]

"God Save Our Noble Union"

The Staunton Spectator was a Whig newspaper that opposed Virginia's secession from the Union. Despite their state's subsequent status as the seat of the Confederacy, Virginians, like many residents of the Upper South, remained divided over the issue [...]

"Aunt Chloe's Politics" (Excerpt)

Francis Ellen Watkins Harper's career spanned the critical period in American history from abolition to women's suffrage, and she cared deeply about both. Harper frequently centered her writing on political issues and, conversely, incorporated her [...]

A Union Army Captain Testifies Before the Freedman's Commission

In May, 1861, Union General Benjamin Butler offered military protection to runaway slaves in Virginia, declaring them wartime "contraband." In every region touched by the war, African-American men, women, and children flocked to the protection [...]

The Emancipation Proclamation (Excerpt)

In addition to abolishing slavery in the rebellious Confederate states on January 1, 1863, Lincoln's Proclamation announced that the Union Army and Navy would accept black men in their ranks. Nearly 200,000 African Americans joined Union forces by [...]

"The Age of Progress"

The optimism and hope of "The Age of Progress" is expressed in these song lyrics published in 1860 by H. De Marsan. In typically grandiloquent Victorian style, the author extols recent technological advancements, including the Pacific Railroad and [...]

"No Irish Need Apply"

The Irish often faced discrimination when seeking jobs upon their arrival in the United States. Although historians have been hard-pressed to identify an actual sign bearing the notorious legend "No Irish Need Apply," contemporary newspaper [...]

"Wanted, a Substitute"

This Civil War-era song sheet refers to a provision in the draft laws passed by Congress in March of 1863 which allowed men to either pay $300 or provide a substitute to avoid serving in the Union Army. The provision was a source of resentment for [...]

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