Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War by Chandra Manning looks at black refugees

Pat Young

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Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War
by Chandra Manning published by Knopf (2016) 416 pages. $30.00 hardcover, $14.99 Kindle.

Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War
by Chandra Manning examines the interplay of black refugees who arrived by the thousands into Union army camps as the United States forces penetrated ever deeper into the empire of slavery and the Federal policies towards black people that evolved in response to the refugee crisis. Professor Manning provides revealing details of African American interactions with white Northerners which turned the Federal government from the stalwart protector of slavery into the defender of the rights of black men and women. For the first time in American history, the United States government became the protector of blacks fleeing slavery against the wealthy whites who hoped to re-enslave them.

The book provides background on the situation of refugees, the complete unpreparedness of the Federal government to receive them in 1861, and the evolution of refugee policies, laws, and agencies over four years of war. What began as chaos was given some sense of order after the Emancipation Proclamation when black male refugees became soldiers and insisted that their wives and children be protected while they fought.

This is not the definitive work on black refugees during and after the war. That study is yet to be written. It is a useful introduction to the topic for the serious student of the war.

Reviewed by Patrick Young, Esq. I am Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra University School of Law and Director of the Law School's Immigration Law Clinic as well as Program Director at the Central American Refugee Center.

(Note: Mike asked that we include a brief biographical note at the end of book reviews.)
 
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Dedej

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Thanks for sharing!

I really have an issue with calling those who were enslaved "refugees." I have noticed this trend resurfacing lately in the media, books, etc --- with the issue of immigration and bringing other refugees from other countries into the states. But, I do not find the word/term fitting or in the least bit the correct representation for those who were enslaved.

Per wikipedia -- "A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely (for more detail see legal definition)"

To label people who were unwillingly purchased and enslaved into the US and label them "refugees" due to crossing state lines in the same country -- only to enter into a lesser racism. Plus, the fact that a lot of these "refugees" at that time were born in the US while enslaved - is really disingenuous. These people were "enslaved Americans" and should be labeled as such.

Except from Jim Downs: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/books/sick-from-freedom-by-jim-downs-about-freed-slaves.html

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Bee

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I really have an issue with calling those who were enslaved "refugees." I have noticed this trend resurfacing lately in the media, books, etc --- with the issue of immigration and bringing other refugees from other countries into the states. But, I do not find the word/term fitting or in the least bit the correct representation for those who were enslaved.

Interesting that you should point out this use of refugees, because I bypassed this article in search of the video, and I had the same thought: a strange, use of the word "refugee" when compared to the larger world scale perception of the word.


We Had Our Own Refugee Crisis. You Know it as the Civil War.


History News Network
October 15, 2016

By Chandra Manning
Columns of smoke rose along the river’s edge as terrified children clung to the legs of women clutching a frying pan, a tattered basket, or nothing at all. Someone found an old skiff and the refugees climbed aboard, two or three at a time, to sail to a sandbar in the middle of the river. They improvised shelters out of brush, and huddled under them until the besieged city across the water finally fell. Once it did, they made their way in, looking for safety and opportunities to work for the occupying force. Some found both. Others, especially at first, found crumbling buildings without much to offer except a place to die. Still others found their way to nearby encampments at places like Yazoo River and Paw Paw Island. What all of them found were refugee camps, not in Dadaab, Kenya or Zatari, Jordan, but in and around Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1863. They were not alone. Over the course of the Civil War nearly half a million men, women, and children fled from bondage to the so-called “contraband camps” that sprang up wherever the Union Army infiltrated the Confederacy. Emancipation in the U.S. Civil War was, among other things, a refugee crisis. Complete article here: https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/news/in-news/we-had-our-own-refugee-crisis-you-know-it-civil-war
 

Dedej

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Joined
Mar 17, 2017

Interesting that you should point out this use of refugees, because I bypassed this article in search of the video, and I had the same thought: a strange, use of the word "refugee" when compared to the larger world scale perception of the word.


We Had Our Own Refugee Crisis. You Know it as the Civil War.


History News Network
October 15, 2016

By Chandra Manning
Columns of smoke rose along the river’s edge as terrified children clung to the legs of women clutching a frying pan, a tattered basket, or nothing at all. Someone found an old skiff and the refugees climbed aboard, two or three at a time, to sail to a sandbar in the middle of the river. They improvised shelters out of brush, and huddled under them until the besieged city across the water finally fell. Once it did, they made their way in, looking for safety and opportunities to work for the occupying force. Some found both. Others, especially at first, found crumbling buildings without much to offer except a place to die. Still others found their way to nearby encampments at places like Yazoo River and Paw Paw Island. What all of them found were refugee camps, not in Dadaab, Kenya or Zatari, Jordan, but in and around Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1863. They were not alone. Over the course of the Civil War nearly half a million men, women, and children fled from bondage to the so-called “contraband camps” that sprang up wherever the Union Army infiltrated the Confederacy. Emancipation in the U.S. Civil War was, among other things, a refugee crisis. Complete article here: https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/news/in-news/we-had-our-own-refugee-crisis-you-know-it-civil-war

Hi Bee, First, you're beautiful :smile:

But, I totally agree. The first time I saw the word being used late last year - I took a double take and had to re-read what I saw - because I didn't understand. I think the usage of "refugee" is s a way to to try to desensitize or remove/lessen any connection and/or responsibility to slavery. I don't know - but I don't agree with it at all.

Many have also liken "sanctuary cities" to the Underground Railroad - basically comparing slavery to voluntary migrants that never received US citizenship aka illegal immigration. Which is a gross misrepresentation of slavery. It's also really disrespectful to compare the two - but it's been happening a lot.

Even Before Sanctuary Cities, Here's How Black Americans Protected Fugitive Slaves

http://theconversation.com/even-bef...ack-americans-protected-fugitive-slaves-72048
 

Pat Young

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Location
Long Island, NY
Thanks for sharing!

I really have an issue with calling those who were enslaved "refugees." I have noticed this trend resurfacing lately in the media, books, etc --- with the issue of immigration and bringing other refugees from other countries into the states. But, I do not find the word/term fitting or in the least bit the correct representation for those who were enslaved.

Per wikipedia -- "A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely (for more detail see legal definition)"

To label people who were unwillingly purchased and enslaved into the US and label them "refugees" due to crossing state lines in the same country -- only to enter into a lesser racism. Plus, the fact that a lot of these "refugees" at that time were born in the US while enslaved - is really disingenuous. These people were "enslaved Americans" and should be labeled as such.

Except from Jim Downs: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/books/sick-from-freedom-by-jim-downs-about-freed-slaves.html

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I don't use the term to refer to enslaved people, rather I use it to refer to those who had either escaped slavery themselves or been assisted in escaping it by the advancing army.
 
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Pat Young

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I think the usage of "refugee" is s a way to to try to desensitize or remove/lessen any connection and/or responsibility to slavery. I don't know - but I don't agree with it at all.
Historians have typically referred to these individuals as "contrabands", following Gen. Butler's lead. The use of the term refugee may be more modern, but it recognizes those escaping slavery as persons fleeing persecution.
 

Dedej

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Joined
Mar 17, 2017
I don't use the term to refer to enslaved people, rather I use it to refer to those who had either escaped slavery themselves or been assisted in escaping it by the advancing army.

Wouldn't they just be "escaped slaves?" IMO, "Refugee" implies no connection to said country - which whether some like it or not - they had one -- an involuntary connection. It also takes away that enslaved person's nationality - which was "American" - since those in that era were born in the states -even though they didn't get the "legal" status. They were just as American as anyone else.

It's again -- at least to me - not wanting to claim them as American citizens --or-- give respectable honor to those who didn't choose to be here. America was their home. They couldn't go back to the continent of Africa - because the enslaved were mixed ancestry of many African countries/tribes. Which, many by the time of the Civil War -- if any known lineage info passed down from their family members were forgotten. "Refugees" CAN. They have a home - as they came to escape/safe haven.

Refugees - voluntary come to a country for a safe haven. That wasn't their story.

All and all - I just hope that the word "refugee" would stop being used in relation to the enslaved in America. If I can change someone's mind or opinion on why - that would be great.
 
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Dedej

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Joined
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Historians have typically referred to these individuals as "contrabands", following Gen. Butler's lead. The use of the term refugee may be more modern, but it recognizes those escaping slavery as persons fleeing persecution.

They were referred to as both "contraband" and "refugees" - but as it's noted in another excerpt below - many did not want to recognize the status of freed slaves or the enslaved in general - whether through escaping, joining the army -- nor being freed. Therefore, labeling them "refugees" still made them OTHER - and not Americans or equal/or apart of them.

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Bee

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Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Hi Bee, First, you're beautiful :smile:

But, I totally agree. The first time I saw the word being used late last year - I took a double take and had to re-read what I saw - because I didn't understand. I think the usage of "refugee" is s a way to to try to desensitize or remove/lessen any connection and/or responsibility to slavery. I don't know - but I don't agree with it at all.

Many have also liken "sanctuary cities" to the Underground Railroad - basically comparing slavery to voluntary migrants that never received US citizenship aka illegal immigration. Which is a gross misrepresentation of slavery. It's also really disrespectful to compare the two - but it's been happening a lot.

Even Before Sanctuary Cities, Here's How Black Americans Protected Fugitive Slaves

http://theconversation.com/even-bef...ack-americans-protected-fugitive-slaves-72048

Thank you for the kind words, Dedej -- I return the compliment now that you are not hiding in the corner of your avatar :wink:

Giving the term "refugees" more thought, and I realized what confused me when I first saw this term used for escaped slaves: I thought that it was referring to civilians who were fleeing the arrival of the war (Atlanta, the burning in Missouri, etc) I believe that cross-using the term "refugee" for both fleeing townspeople and escaped slaves creates an image that the two groups were one in the same.
 

KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
Wouldn't they just be "escaped slaves?" IMO, "Refugee" implies no connection to said country - which whether some like it or not - they had one -- an involuntary connection. It also takes away that enslaved person's nationality - which was "American" - since those in that era were born in the states -even though they didn't get the "legal" status. They were just as American as anyone else.

It's again -- at least to me - not wanting to claim them as American citizens --or-- give respectable honor to those who didn't choose to be here. America was their home. They couldn't go back to the continent of Africa - because the enslaved were mixed ancestry of many African countries/tribes. Which, many by the time of the Civil War -- if any known lineage info passed down from their family members were forgotten. "Refugees" CAN. They have a home - as they came to escape/safe haven.

Refugees - voluntary come to a country for a safe haven. That wasn't their story.

All and all - I just hope that the word "refugee" would stop being used in relation to the enslaved in America. If I can change someone's mind or opinion on why - that would be great.
I appreciate your perspective here, Dede, snce it's one that, frankly, I'd never thought of before. I guess when I hear the word "refugee," I think of anyone who has been displaced by war, such as the millions of what came to be called "DP's" in Europe after World War II -- displaced persons. Whether they remained in their own countries or had made their way to other ones, they'd been forced to leave their homes, and in many cases, their homes no longer existed. I guess I've always assumed that the term "refugee" was one that its users hoped would call forth sympathy from others and vigorous efforts to provide assistance. But the excerpt you've posted here shows a very different mentality. Maybe I've been guilty of projecting my 20th-century sensibilities back onto 19th-century people.

I would agree that the term sometimes gets applied these days to people who are not in the truest sense refugees, but that is a separate issue, and one that, because of the "No Modern Politics" Rule, cannot be discussed here.
 
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MattL

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Location
SF Bay Area
Thanks for sharing!

I really have an issue with calling those who were enslaved "refugees." I have noticed this trend resurfacing lately in the media, books, etc --- with the issue of immigration and bringing other refugees from other countries into the states. But, I do not find the word/term fitting or in the least bit the correct representation for those who were enslaved.

Per wikipedia -- "A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely (for more detail see legal definition)"

To label people who were unwillingly purchased and enslaved into the US and label them "refugees" due to crossing state lines in the same country -- only to enter into a lesser racism. Plus, the fact that a lot of these "refugees" at that time were born in the US while enslaved - is really disingenuous. These people were "enslaved Americans" and should be labeled as such.

Except from Jim Downs: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/books/sick-from-freedom-by-jim-downs-about-freed-slaves.html

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An excellent point I never really thought of.

To be clear I completely agree that labeling them "refugee" is yet another way to demean them (not meaning Pat of course since he's just referring to the usage of the term historically and in the book). Though to step back I can see two possible arguments for applying the term refugee in a technical sense

1) If you consider the Confederacy it's own Nation.
2) According to the Dred Scott ruling anyone descended from African slaves, free or not, were not and could not be citizens in the US. Technically the Dred Scott ruling was still the law of the land (it was never actually overturned, except in all practical purposes by the later 14th amendment)

Again I still believe it was usually used as a term to separate those freed slaves as not really belonging and certainly don't think we should use it now unless referring to a specific historic usage, though looking at it from a technical perspective I can at least consider those two potential arguments.
 

wausaubob

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The term refugee accurately depicts the physical circumstances these people who escaped slavery faced. In addition, their political status was unresolved. Refugees is also concise, if not exactly precise.
 

wausaubob

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White southerners were aware of how fragile slavery had become, but were surprised that the United States army became unwilling to enforce the rights of white slave owners. It had never happened before.
The African-Americans who were enslaved knew that only a slight change in the probability in success was necessary in order to make an attempted escape worthwhile.
White northerners were the most surprised by emancipation. They were the ones with the least knowledge of slavery, or African-Americans, or their own unwillingness to enforce slavery.
The book makes it clear that emancipation was not planned.
 

wausaubob

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After 21 months of war the default status for African-Americans changed from slavery to freedom and United States soldiers did not bother to read the fine print on the Emancipation Proclamation.
The time of emancipation was moved to some indefinite point in the future to the present, in 1862.
 

W. Richardson

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Plus, the fact that a lot of these "refugees" at that time were born in the US while enslaved - is really disingenuous. These people were "enslaved Americans" and should be labeled as such.


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I think the term "enslaved Americans" should be applied to only those born in America and into bondaged. For those in African slavery, and sold into American slavery should be termed "enslaved Africans" as that is what they were.

I wholeheartedly agree the term refugee is inappropriate..................

Respectfully,
William
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