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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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

We found 148 items that match your search

Who Fought for the Union?

In this activity students examine sheet music and letters from draft rioters to examine Union attitudes about the military draft during the Civil War.

An African-American Soldier Fights "In Defense of My Race and Country"

This letter was written by an African-American soldier of the Massachusetts 55th Regiment in the midst of a heated battle to take the Confederate fortifications on Folly Island, South Carolina. It conveys the determination of black soldiers in the [...]

A Georgia Soldier Condemns the Exemption of Slaveholders

In this letter to the editor, a Georgia soldier condemns the so-called "Twenty Negro Law" exempting large slaveholders from service in the Confederate Army. The anonymous soldier articulates the feelings of many poor Southern whites, most of whom [...]

A New York Rioter Explains His Opposition to the Draft

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 [...]

"Men of Color, To Arms!"

In this 1863 editorial, Frederick Douglass calls all able-bodied African Americans to take up arms in defense of the Union. He encourages them to travel to Boston in order to join one of the first regiments of black soldiers forming there.

African-American Victims Describe the New York City Draft Riots

On July 20, four days after federal troops put down the 1863 Draft Riot, a group of Wall Street businessmen formed a committee to aid New York's devastated black community. The Committee of Merchants for the Relief of Colored People Suffering from [...]

A Ride for Liberty

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 [...]

A Freedman Seeks to Reunite His Family

After emancipation, many former slaves immediately searched for family members who had been sold away during slavery. They used whatever scant information they had and frequently placed advertisements like this in southern newspapers.

Background Essay on the New York City Draft Riots

The worst episode of large-scale urban violence in American history, the New York City draft riots were sparked by the passage of conscription laws which made thousands of male New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 45 eligible to be drafted into [...]

Background Essay on the "Twenty Negro" Law

The so-called "Twenty Negro Law," enacted by the Confederate Congress in 1862, allowed an exemption from military service for slaveholders who owned twenty or more slaves. In effect, this allowed large plantation owners and overseers to avoid [...]

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