Ending slavery one nibble at time.

major bill

Colonel
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Prior to the Civil War one of the paths chosen to end slavery was to earn full citizenship for free blacks The concept being that if free blacks could enjoy the full rights of citizenship, this would impact the continued enslavement of blacks in the United States. So if the citizenship rights denied free people of color could be nibbled away, this would aid in ending slavery.

Gaining the right to vote is some states was one of these small steps. So too was the right to serve on juries. But the right I am focusing on tonight is the right to serve in the militia. If blacks served in the military forces that defended a state, they should also be allowed to vote, serve on juries, and enjoy the other citizenship roles denied them.

Even in the North states, militia laws either did not allow blacks to serve in the militia or was not clear on the subject. Backs had served in some militias in the War of 1812 era, but this practice had basically ended by the 1820-1830s. At the New York State Convention held in Syracuse in 1845, demands to allow blacks to serve in the militia caused a clash. The issue being that training in arms was the right and duty of all citizens. After New York support the concept, the topic came under consideration in other places.

The 1850s was the decade that this began to bear fruit. In some states blacks began to form militias. These was often done as independent militia companies. In many cases the state militia law denied blacks the right to serve in the organized state militia, but the laws covering independent militia units were often not clear.

Let is look at a few of these. In 1857 the Attucks Blues were active in Cincinnati. In Reading Pennsylvania, the Douglas Guards was active as were the Garnet Guards in Harrisburg. By the start of the Civil War, New York, Michigan, and other Northern states had seen the formation of black militia companies.

The movement to form black militia companies did not go unnoticed in the South. This was seen as a threat and fears grew after the John Brown raid. Armed black militias learning the arts of war in the North, was not a welcome concept in the South. Visions of trained, armed blacks invading the South was a scary thought.
 

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