The G.A.R and black veterans.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Aug 25, 2012
The G.A.R. formed in 1866. It was one of the earliest patriotic societies that was integrated. However, this was done differently in different places. Some posts were integrated, while there were posts that self-segregated. Some areas had G.A.R. post that were all white, while another post was all black. Still it can not be denied that the G.A.R. was not segregated as a society. There are photographs of G.A.E. posts showing black members mixed with white members. The G.A.R. also supported voting rights for black veterans.
 

John Hartwell

Major
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Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Local G.A.R. posts were autonomous as to who they accepted for membership, so local sentiment made the decision. The National organization accepted all Union veterans, as did most regional Departments. A few Departments (mainly in the South & Midwest) specifically forbade integrated posts, at least for a time.

In only one case I've seen (late 1880s, iirc) when colored veterans in the Department of the Gulf (La./Miss.) could find no local posts that would accept them, they organized four posts of their own. The Department Commander, Capt. Jacob Gray, refused to grant any of them a charter. When they appealed to the National Organization, they received strong support from posts across the country, and Cmdr. Gray (over his vehement objections) was forced to grant charters to all new posts that fulfilled the established qualifications.

[Incidentally: Jacob Gray, was later “court martialed” by the G.A.R. for attending the funeral of Jefferson Davis in uniform, and telling other members that if they didn’t do likewise, he’d “make them march with the negroes” at the next Department Encampment.]​

BTW: None of Boston's 14 G.A.R. posts was segregated; even the 'colored' Robert A. Bell, Post No. 134, welcomed white officers and "special friends of the colored soldier."
 
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John Hartwell

Major
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Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
See also: The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic by Barbara A. Gannon.
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"In the years after the Civil War, black and white Union soldiers who survived the horrific struggle joined the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)--the Union army's largest veterans' organization. In this thoroughly researched and groundbreaking study, Barbara Gannon chronicles black and white veterans' efforts to create and sustain the nation's first interracial organization.​
"According to the conventional view, the freedoms and interests of African American veterans were not defended by white Union veterans after the war, despite the shared tradition of sacrifice among both black and white soldiers. In The Won Cause, however, Gannon challenges this scholarship, arguing that although black veterans still suffered under the contemporary racial mores, the GAR honored its black members in many instances and ascribed them a greater equality than previous studies have shown. Using evidence of integrated posts and veterans' thoughts on their comradeship and the cause, Gannon reveals that white veterans embraced black veterans because their membership in the GAR demonstrated that their wartime suffering created a transcendent bond--comradeship--that overcame even the most pernicious social barrier--race-based separation. By upholding a more inclusive memory of a war fought for liberty as well as union, the GAR's "Won Cause" challenged the Lost Cause version of Civil War memory."​
 

Fairfield

Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
The GAR posts in Maine (and probably in the entire country) took a biographical census of member. It must have been rather open in format because entries for this town's post range from "name, rank and regiment" to full descriptions of their days during the war (often along with the names of their closest companions). Those surveyed were members in 1890--many of whom were "from away" (@John Hartwell will know what this means). For local historians and genealogists it is wonderful. If these summaries were nationwide, they will provide an intimate picture of the entire army.
 

Championhilz

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 18, 2011
Location
Clinton, Mississippi
Local G.A.R. posts were autonomous as to who they accepted for membership, so local sentiment made the decision. The National organization accepted all Union veterans, as did most regional Departments. A few Departments (mainly in the South & Midwest) specifically forbade integrated posts, at least for a time.

In only one case I've seen (late 1880s, iirc) when colored veterans in the Department of the Gulf (La./Miss.) could find no local posts that would accept them, they organized four posts of their own. The Department Commander, Capt. Jacob Gray, refused to grant any of them a charter. When they appealed to the National Organization, they received strong support from posts across the country, and Cmdr. Gray (over his vehement objections) was forced to grant charters to all new posts that fulfilled the established qualifications.

[Incidentally: Jacob Gray, was later “court martialed” by the G.A.R. for attending the funeral of Jefferson Davis in uniform, and telling other members that if they didn’t do likewise, he’d “make them march with the negroes” at the next Department Encampment.]​

BTW: None of Boston's 14 G.A.R. posts was segregated; even the 'colored' Robert A. Bell, Post No. 134, welcomed white officers and "special friends of the colored soldier."
After the Black G.A.R. posts were admitted to the Department of Louisiana and Mississippi, a number of the white posts in the department turned in their charters and disbanded. Among those that disbanded was Vicksburg Post #7, the first G.A.R. post in Mississippi, and the only white post in the state. Soon after, many of the former members of Vicksburg Post #7 joined the Union Veterans Association.
 

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