Frederick Douglass Worried After the Civil War that the Role of Black Soldiers Would be Forgotten in Favor of Confederate "Heroes"

Pat Young

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I have an article on the scholarly Emerging Civil War site about Frederick Douglass after the Civil War. Douglass saw that the rewriting of the history of the Civil War in favor of the Confederacy erased the role of African Americans in reuniting the country and allowed Blacks to be marginalized in American memory of the conflict. If Robert E. Lee could be a national hero, what of the people he fought to keep slaves?
 

BuckeyeWarrior

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I have an article on the scholarly Emerging Civil War site about Frederick Douglass after the Civil War. Douglass saw that the rewriting of the history of the Civil War in favor of the Confederacy erased the role of African Americans in reuniting the country and allowed Blacks to be marginalized in American memory of the conflict. If Robert E. Lee could be a national hero, what of the people he fought to keep slaves?
Sad to say that Douglass was right. The reconciliation between the north and south was accomplished by abandoning the rights of black men.

Mr. Douglass certainly had a way with words thought. I love this quote on adulation of Lee;

“Is it not about time that this bombastic laudation of the rebel chief should cease? We can scarcely take up a paper…that is not filled with nauseating flatteries of the late Robert E. Lee.… Jeff Davis says that he “died of a broken heart…From which we are to infer that the liberation of four million slaves and their elevation to manhood, and to the enjoyment of their civil and political rights, was more than he could stand, and so he died!”
 

unionblue

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I have an article on the scholarly Emerging Civil War site about Frederick Douglass after the Civil War. Douglass saw that the rewriting of the history of the Civil War in favor of the Confederacy erased the role of African Americans in reuniting the country and allowed Blacks to be marginalized in American memory of the conflict. If Robert E. Lee could be a national hero, what of the people he fought to keep slaves?

@Pat Young ,

NEVER stop posting articles like this Pat.

Such history can never be repeated enough.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

jackt62

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The role of African American soldiers was so marginalized after the CW that it took about 130 years for it to be properly recognized. By that I mean it wasn't until the 1990's or so that meaningful scholarship and popular films (Glory, Ken Burns series), paid sufficient attention to the critical role played by the 180,000 Blacks that fought in the Union ranks. From my own perspective, becoming engrossed in the CW from the time of the 1961 Centennial, I can't recall any real attention paid to that important story in those days.
 

Rhea Cole

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Excising the role played by self-liberating people was a deliberate act. The Southern Historical Society led by the overtly racist Jubal Early, led the way. Historians at The University of the South & Vanderbilt actively distorted & erased them. A prime example of the kind of thing they championed is at the Tennessee Library & Archive.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, themilitary records of Tennesseans who served on the CW were copied & added to the library. & archive. Applications for TN State pensions for service in CSA army are a particularly rich source. It is all there... unless the soldier was one of TN’s 22,000 USCT members. Their records are in the National Archive, of course, but this was no mere oversight, not getting copies of USCT records in the Tennessee archive was a deliberate attempt to obscure the truth.
 
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Pat Young

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@Pat Young ,

NEVER stop posting articles like this Pat.

Such history can never be repeated enough.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
Thanks UB.
Sad to say that Douglass was right. The reconciliation between the north and south was accomplished by abandoning the rights of black men.

Mr. Douglass certainly had a way with words thought. I love this quote on adulation of Lee;

“Is it not about time that this bombastic laudation of the rebel chief should cease? We can scarcely take up a paper…that is not filled with nauseating flatteries of the late Robert E. Lee.… Jeff Davis says that he “died of a broken heart…From which we are to infer that the liberation of four million slaves and their elevation to manhood, and to the enjoyment of their civil and political rights, was more than he could stand, and so he died!”
cause of death
 
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Would think it had little to do with "Confederate" as weren't they also forgotten in favor of Grant, Sherman, McClellan, Custer? In reality the United States was writing a narrative and choosing who to elevate as heroes.

Realisticly in other wars besides ours it does seem the leaders on both sides that have been deemed historically significant.

After all part of a military hero, is he needs a equally capable "heroic" opponent....because a story of someone defeating an incompetent opponent, doesn't come across either all that heroic or noteworthy....
 
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19thGeorgia

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A prime example of the kind of thing they championed is at the Tennessee Library & Archive.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, the military records of Tennesseans who served on the CW were copied & added to the library. & archive. Applications for TN State pensions for service in CSA army are a particularly rich source. It is all there... unless the soldier was one of TN’s 22,000 USCT members. Their records are in the National Archive, of course, but this was no mere oversight, not getting copies of USCT records in the Tennessee archive was a deliberate attempt to obscure the truth.
Tennessee got the records for the purpose of proving service and awarding *state* pensions for Confederate service.

"...unless the soldier was one of TN’s 22,000 USCT members."

Tennessee didn't need the records of the USCT. Tennessee didn't award pensions for Federal service - the Federal government did.
 
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Stir the pot
??? What nation was left to write the history? Its rather evident.

Reality is ex-confederates would be around 5 million out of 31 million, for some "lost cause" narrative to catch on and become "mainstream", would indicate more then a group that was quite a bit less then 20% of population was somehow responsible for it becoming accepted, it would have had to had alot of support outside of those 5 million.

In the past have seen the comment "Confederates lost the war, but won the peace" for that comment to have any weight at all, would think one would have to recognise they certainly had substantial allied support among the former Union side for the narrative adopted.

Personally I would assume that's who Douglas was fruitlessly trying to appeal to, the northerners who were indeed on board with that narrative.
 
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Rhea Cole

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Tennessee got the records for the purpose of proving service and awarding *state* pensions for Confederate service.

"...unless the soldier was one of TN’s 22,000 USCT members."

Tennessee didn't need the records of the USCT. Tennessee didn't award pensions for Federal service - the Federal government did.
That is interesting... so why did they also get the records of white Union Tennessee veterans? I am very familiar with this issue because of the efforts of the late Dr George Smith & former head of the TN State Historical Commission, Norman Hill, among many others, who worked to raise the funds necessary to bring the records of patriotic USCT Tennesseans home. There is no debate about the intention of those who deliberately left out the USCT records. However uncomfortable it may be, it serves no purpose to ignore the blatant racism that tainted & distorted the history of the Civil War here in Tennessee & elsewhere.
 

C.W. Roden

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Unfortunately sir, American history and those who controlled the narrative have had a habit of forgetting the services of African-Americans in the military service of this nation since even before the founding of this country. The fact that the services of the USCT (and dare I say it, Black Confederates as well) were largely forgotten by the general population except by a very few tells a very unhappy narrative when it comes to American military academia.
In fact it wasn't until the 1970s and 80s that the military services of Black Americans from the French and Indian War till the Spanish-American War and the full story were even general public knowledge. It wasn't until the 1990s that the full story of that service and the role played by African-Americans in our nation's military history began to get its full recognition.
Douglass was correct in being concerned about the loss of memory on the subject of Black service for the Union -- this country has a very long and sad history of forgetting its veterans of color.
 

ForeverFree

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I have an article on the scholarly Emerging Civil War site about Frederick Douglass after the Civil War. Douglass saw that the rewriting of the history of the Civil War in favor of the Confederacy erased the role of African Americans in reuniting the country and allowed Blacks to be marginalized in American memory of the conflict. If Robert E. Lee could be a national hero, what of the people he fought to keep slaves?
As we know, Douglass' fears were well-founded. But how exactly how did this occur, this erasure of the wartime role of African Americans?

The subject of war memorialization is controversial, but I note the following. Although 75% of black enlistees were from states below the Mason-Dixon line; and states below the Mason-Dixon Line contained almost 95% of the African descent population per the 1860 census; only 4 of those states, and Washington, DC, had monuments to USCT before 1990, if my research is correct.

This includes: two monuments installed in cemeteries in VA; a monument in a cemetery in St. Louis, MO; a monument in a cemetery in Frankfort, KY; and a monument outside an African American Church in eastern NC. (That is, these are not situated in a public square or other site where they would have visibility to large groups of people.) A plaster cast of the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, whose original is is Boston, is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

The number of monuments to USCT has perhaps tripled since the 1989 film Glory was released. Academics had started giving USCT some attention prior to that, but that movie ~ a part of popular culture ~ did more to bring these men out of the shadows of our memory than anything else since the war ended.

- Alan
 

Rhea Cole

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As we know, Douglass' fears were well-founded. But how exactly how did this occur, this erasure of the wartime role of African Americans?

The subject of war memorialization is controversial, but I note the following. Although 75% of black enlistees were from states below the Mason-Dixon line; and states below the Mason-Dixon Line contained almost 95% of the African descent population per the 1860 census; only 4 of those states, and Washington, DC, had monuments to USCT before 1990, if my research is correct.

This includes: two monuments installed in cemeteries in VA; a monument in a cemetery in St. Louis, MO; a monument in a cemetery in Frankfort, KY; and a monument outside an African American Church in eastern NC. (That is, these are not situated in a public square or other site where they would have visibility to large groups of people.) A plaster cast of the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, whose original is is Boston, is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

The number of monuments to USCT has perhaps tripled since the 1989 film Glory was released. Academics had started giving USCT some attention prior to that, but that movie ~ a part of popular culture ~ did more to bring these men out of the shadows of our memory than anything else since the war ended.

- Alan
A decade or so ago a USCT statue was placed in the National Cemetery in Nashville. A statue is being prepared for the public square in Franklin TN.
 

atlantis

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Nov 12, 2016
Douglass was part of the problem. By rejecting the Liberia option he condemned the freedmen to a 100 years of Jim Crow.
 
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