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To what extent did African Americans shape the coming, scope, and consequences of the Civil War? Candidate number: 112265 Word count: 5,980 1 List of abbreviations: P. S. Foner (ed.), The Voice of Black America: Major Speeches by Negroes in the United States, 1797-1971, (New York, 1972) = VOBA I. Berlin, B.J. Fields, S.F. Miller, J.P. Reidy, and L.S. Rowland (eds.), Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom and the Civil War (New York, 1992) = FAL R. M. Myers, ed., The Children
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  1 To what extent did African Americans shape the coming, scope, and consequences of the Civil War? Candidate number: 112265 Word count: 5,980  2 List of abbreviations: P. S. Foner (ed.), The Voice of Black America: Major Speeches by Negroes in the United States, 1797-1971 , (New York, 1972) = VOBA I. Berlin, B.J. Fields, S.F. Miller, J.P. Reidy, and L.S. Rowland (eds.), Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom and the Civil War   (New York, 1992) = FAL R. M. Myers, ed., The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War   (New Haven, 1972) = COP    3 In late 1863 and early 1864, Frederick Douglass toured the North, calling for ‘no war but an abolition war; no peace but an abolition peace; liberty for all, chains for none; the black man a soldier in war, a laborer in peace; a voter at the South as well as at the North; America his permanent home, and all Americans his fellow countrymen 1 ’. His message was clear –  for the black community, this war could only be won with an end to slavery and the black vote. The American Civil War held its own distinct meaning for all involved, but central to its conceptualisation was the idea of freedom, whether that was freedom from the Slave Power, Black Republicans, male oppression, white oppression, or European invaders, all parties were concerned with being free in the way they wanted to be. Thus the American Civil War was fought on multiple fronts, between different aggressors: in addition to fighting Union troops, the Confederates (and Union slaveholders) were forced to fight their slaves, who rebelled on an unprecedented scale, making the American Civil War part of the largest slave revolt in US history, and integral to Union victory. Arguably, the motivations of enslaved people in the American south were different but connected to the motivations of the free blacks in the North; this essay will thus consider first the role of slaves in the coming, scope and consequences of the civil war, before moving on to discuss the role of free blacks. In many ways, the African American war began before the American Civil War, which was shaped considerably by African Americans for their own purposes. ‘Slaves, horses and other cattle to be sold at 12 O’ Clock’ 2 , proclaimed one slave market advertisement, showing how, at least in the eyes of many slave holders and traders, they had reduced the humans they claimed to own to the status of animals. The historiography surrounding black involvement in shaping the American Civil War had followed the 1   VOBA , pp.299-300. 2  P. Johnson, Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market   (Harvard, 2000), p.218.  4 principles of the Southern planters by seeing the war as a ‘white man’s war’, perhaps with the exception of Cornish’s The Sable Arm . Work from the 1860s onwards from historians such as Genovese and Blassingame has done much to change contemporary views on black involvement in the coming, scope and consequences of the civil war, and most historians now take a more positive view. Though some historians debate the extent to which slaves freed themselves 3 , this essay takes the view that they did. Slave resistance was central to the American Civil War. It started as a personal act: to deny owners their labour and control their own lives, slaves resorted to a variety of methods, from running to the swamps for a period of time 4 , where slaves would support themselves through hunting and exchange with plantation slaves, to more extreme acts such as self-mutilation 5 , infanticide, suicide or murder. Often resistance was far more subtle. Slaves would ‘forget’ to complete tasks, or would work slower, or hide their children until the threat of sale had passed 6 . Once the war started, they would threaten to run to Union lines, or actually run to Union lines, as one woman did repeatedly  –  each time she returned her workload was lowered 7 . Resistance became political: enslaved people knew that by doing this they were undermining the institution of slavery. They had established networks 8 , listening to white’s conversations, illicitly reading white newspapers and spreading knowledge around their local communities 9 . Whites were aware of this and tried to stop it: 3   I . Berlin, ‘ Who Freed the Slave s? Emancipation and Its Meaning’  in David Blight and Brooks Simpson (eds.), Union and Emancipation: Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era  (Kent, OH, 1997) 4   FAL , p.51 . On maroons see J.H. Franklin; L. Schweninger, ‘The Quest for Freedom: Runaway Slaves and the Plantation South’ in  G. Boritt; S. Hancock eds. Slavery, Resistance, Freedom  (Oxford, 2007) p.26. 5  Johnson, Soul by Soul  , p.33. 6   Ibid. , p.32. 7  T. Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: the transformation of the plantation household   (Cambridge, 2008), p.110. 8  S. McCurry, Confederate reckoning: power and politics in the Civil War South  (Cambridge, Mass., 2010) pp.226-7. 9  S. Ash, The black experience in the Civil War South  (Santa Barbara, 2010), pp. xvii-xviii.
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