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28.08.2015 Feature Article

Re: Nkrumahism, The Can Of Worms I Opened–Slavery and Racism 5 (Updated)

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Quite apart from what Mr. Philip Kobina Baidoo, Jr. wants his unsuspecting readers to believe, others think the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are alike in many important ways (Note: For those interested in why Brazil came to lag behind the United States in wealth and industrialization during the colonial period (despite the fact that the former had more slaves than the latter), please see the books “How Latin America Fell Behind: Essays on The Economic Histories of Brazil and Mexico (Stephen Haber),” “Brazil in the New America: How Brazil Offers Upward Mobility in a Collapsing World (James Davidson),” “The Economic Growth of the United States: 1790-1860 (Douglass North, 1993 recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences),” “The Progress of America: From the Discovery By Columbus to the Year 1846, Vol. 1, Part 2 (John Macgregor),” “Brazil: Five Centuries of Change, 2nd (Thomas Skidmore),” “Brazil: The Forging of a Nation, 1798-1852 (Roderick Barman)” and the paper “”Order, Disorder and Economic Change: Latin America Vs. North America (Douglass North and Co). Our submission is that Mr. Baidoo needs a firm grounding in cliometrics in order to appreciate the methodological depth of some of the arguments advanced in these texts and paper).

Most significantly, it does not matter what Mr. Baidoo says because we have not labeled either Republicans or Democrats racist (none of them is strictly free from their involvement in slavery one way or the other. Note: Reader may want to visit the website of “Saving America’s Civil War Battlefields: Civil War Trusts” and read the piece “Civil War History: How the Cotton Gin Contributed to the Civil War” for information on how Eli Whitney’s invention cotton gin transformed the American South, thus contributing to the expansion of slaves and cotton production. The website says (Note: For additional information on how the institution of slavery contributed to the intellectual and scientific revolution of America, particularly of the American North, see “Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery (Anne Farrow) and “Ebony & Ivory: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of American Universities (Craig Wilder)):

“Eli Whitney invented the gin in 1794, and by 1850 the tool had changed the face of Southern agriculture...Before Whitney’s gin entered into widespread use, the United States produced roughly 750,000 bales of cotton, in 1830. By 1850 that amount had exploded to 2.85 million bales. This production was concentrated almost exclusively in the South...Faster processing of cotton with the gin meant it was profitable for landowners to establish previously-unthinkably large cotton plantations across the south. But harvesting cotton remained a very labor-intensive undertaking. Thus, bigger cotton farms meant the need for more slaves. The slave population in the United States increased nearly five-fold in the first half of the 19th Century, and by 1860, the South provided about two-thirds of the world’s cotton supply. Southern wealth had become reliant on this one crop and thus was completely dependent on slave-labor…”

These facts contradict Mr. Baidoo’s revisionist distortions on the role Eli Whitney’s cotton gin played in the American South, facts representing the exact opposite of his [Mr. Baidoo’s] uninformed stance on basic historical facts; the cotton gin underwrote slavery’s preservation in America. That aside, our reservations notwithstanding, and for a good article that describes what Republicans have been doing to reverse all the accomplishments of the 1960s, see Bob Burnett’s “Reversing the Sixties: The 2012 Republican Agenda,” Huffington Post (2012). See also Jim Rutenberg’s New York Times article (2015) “A Dream Undone” for information on What Republicans are doing to roll back the achievements of the Voting Rights Act. Why are Democrats fighting Republicans over the latter’s attempt at reversing the gains of the Civil Rights era? Have Mr. Baidoo’s Republicans suddenly switched positions with Democrats?

Since when did this switch occur? The so-called Southern Strategy; the racially motivated politics of Garry Goldwater, a UFO aficionado, and of Richard Nixon; and the Democratic Party’s support for civil rights (1948) and the Civil Rights Movement (1960s), Civil Rights Act (1964), Voting Rights Act (1965, 1968) positively affected the political fortunes of the party (the Democratic Party). Are the Republicans racist now? Study upon study reveals how the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a terrorist organization affiliated with the Democratic Party, eventually became an instrument of the Republican Party in the 1960s on account of the Civil Rights Movement (see “Political Polarization As a Social Movement Outcome: 1960s Klan Activism and Its Enduring Impact on Political Realignment in Southern Counties, 1960-2000,” American Sociological Review (Dec. 2014), Vol. 79, p. 1144-1171. Authors: David Cunningham, Rory McVeigh, & Justin Farrell). David Duke, a former Grand Wizard (KKK)/National Director (Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKKK)), was a Democrat before he became a Republican (1989).

On the other hand if Mr. Baidoo is a Republican, then that is his cup of tea. We are neither Republican nor Democrat. We look at the historical record. That is what matters to us the most. Hence, our contention that both benefited from the institution of slavery (See Leon Litwack’s book “North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860). Julia Ott notes in her article “Slaves: The Capital That Made Capitalism: “Even as Northern States and European empires emancipated their own slaves, investors from these regions shared in the profits of the slave-labor camps in the Cotton Kingdom…By mid-century, racialized chattel slavery had built not only a wealthy and powerful South. It had also given rise to an industrializing and diversifying North. In New England, where sharp Yankees once amassed profits by plying the transatlantic slave trade— and continued to profit by transporting slave-produced commodities and insuring the enslaved— new industries rose up alongside the textile mills.” Again, that is what matters to us the most. The scholarship of Sven Beckert and other scholars on slavery points to how the institution of slavery largely benefited White America, Republicans and Democrats included.

Oddly enough, the Republican Party itself was founded in the Northern States where slavery enjoyed institutional entrenchment. According to the late historian Howard Zinn, two Northern liberal historians “saw slavery as perhaps the Negro’s ‘necessary transition to civilization.’”

Even more surprisingly, Zinn quoted John H. Franklin (Book: “From Slavery to Freedom”) to the effect that “perhaps 250,000 slaves were imported illegally before the Civil War” (This was the case even after Mr. Baidoo’s philanthropic British had stamped out slavery, some 54 years after the Slave Trade Act (1807) and some 28 years after the Slave Abolition Act (1833), and the American government had banned importation of slaves into America in 1808. Note: Harriet Tubman was active was active during the Civil War). See Chapter 9 (“Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom”) of his book “A People’s History of the United States.” Is it any wonder ex-Indiana Governor/President of Purdue University Mitch Daniels wanted to ban Zinn’s best-selling and widely used classic “A People’s History of the United States” from classrooms? See Andrea Germanos’ “Censorship Backfire: Surge of Interest in Zinn’s “People’s History,” Common Dreams, Aug. 14, 2013. See also Douglas Blackmon’s “Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War 11 and Brundage W. Fitzhugh’s review of the latter in the “Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.” Fitzhugh makes a startling connection between Nazi Germany and Southern slavocracy with respect to corporatized exploitation of slave and convict labor).

There seems to be additional empirical support for Zinn’s and Hope’s contentions. In fact Julia Ott writes: “Five times more slaves lived in the United States in 1861 than in 1790, despite the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1808 and despite the high levels of infant mortality in the Cotton Kingdom. Slavery was no dying institution.” She writes elsewhere: “In the antebellum period, the United States supplied most of the world’s most traded commodity, the key raw ingredient of the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to cotton, the United States ranked as the world’s largest economy on the eve of the Civil War…slave-labor…allowed the United States to achieve dominance in the world market for cotton, the most crucial commodity of the Industrial Revolution. At that date, U.S. cotton was the world’s most widely traded commodity. Without those exports, the national economy as a whole could not acquire the goods and the credit it required from abroad…But up to that point, slave-capital proved indispensable to the emergence of industrial capitalism and to the ascent of the United States as a global economic power.”

Let us continue from our diversions. One American historian wrote: “The effects of the New England slave trade were momentous. It was one of the foundations of New England's economic structure; it created a wealthy class of slave-trading merchants, while the profits derived from this commerce stimulated cultural development and philanthropy” (Lorenzo Greene, “The Negro in Colonial New England: 1620-1776,” p. 319. See the book “Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery”). Thus the so-called Republicans could not be isolated from the institution of slavery. Three American scholars note: “But abolitionists failed to sway the two major parties toward more vigorous opposition to slavery, since both needed southern slaveholders to build a coalition capable of winning national elections” (see the two-volume set “The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History” edited by Rebecca Edwards, Adam Rothman, and Michael Kazin).

Mr. Baidoo always makes it seem so simple. For instance, he does not delve into how the Liberty Party and its anti-slavery crusade shaped American politics in the 1880s, particularly the Republican Party, whether the Liberty Party had members from the Democratic Party; how certain Democrats (David Wilmot) later switched parties (became members of the Republican Party) and their ideas (Wilmot Proviso, for instance) shaped the politics of the Civil War; why the so-called Barnburners (in the Democratic Party (or anti-slavery Democrats who radically opposed slavery) left the latter [Democratic Party] to join the Free Soil Party (the ex-Democrat David Wilmot was a member of Free Soiler) which in turn joined the Republican Party; or that Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President Hannibal Hamlin (during the Civil War) and that Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s Vice President, was a Democrat; and that there a faction of Democrats called War Democrats (War Democrats and Republicans later merged and called their party Unionist Party) who supported Lincoln and his Civil War programs.

The question is: Did Lincoln select Johnson, a pro-slavery and pro-Union politician, to be his running just because he wanted votes from the Democrats? What is more, three signatories (six in all) to the document “Appeal of the Independent Democrats” were former members of the Democratic Party (Alexander Dewitt, Charles Sumner, and Salmon Chase). Aside that Jacob Brinkerhoff, the author of the so-called Wilmot Proviso, was originally a Democrat, so too were Barnburner Democrats such as John P. Hale, Hannibal Hamlin, Marcus Morton, Gideon Welles and many others either resisted the expansion of slavery or fought against the Confederates–namely, they were democrats first before they became Republicans. In other words there were overlaps between Republicans and Democrats as the controversies over the fate of slavery gained traction. However, Mr. Baidoo overlooks the subtitles and instead lurches aimlessly at the overly simplistic formulations. Yet the historical record is clear on this.

All in all, they directly benefitted from the institution of slavery as their Democratic brothers and sisters. How many of the 30 states which threatened to secede from the Union should Pres. Obama win reelection belong to the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and in between? (See Les Fabian Braithwaite’s “Over 30 States Have Applied For Secession from the US Following Election.” As for Thomas Piketty’s classic best-selling book “Capital in the Twentieth-First Century we promise to do an in-depth review for our readers when time allows. At this point in time we shall not say much because we know Mr. Baidoo has not read it, let alone review the more than two-century data Picketty used across continents, etc. The data are too much for Mr. Baidoo’s overly simplistic prattle.).

In fact Mr. Baidoo is merely dabbling in needless divergences and irrelevancies. That said, Mr. Taylor Tyler, one such writer, demonstrates in 100 ways how the two are alike in spite of their “minor” difference (see William Domhoff’s “Who Rules America? Challenges to Corporate and Class Dominance”). Finally, conservative Republicans from Pat Buchanan, Art Robinson, Rep. Jon Hubbard, Rev. Jesse L. Peterson, Rick Santorum, David Horowitz, Trent Franks, Michele Bachmann, Wes Riddle, Rep. Loy Mauch, and Ann Coulter all have said slavery was good for the forbears of African Americans (see Mark Howard’s “Ten Conservatives Who Have Praised Slavery,” Salon, Oct. 12, 2012). Hubbard writes:

“The institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth,” p. 183-89 of his book “Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative; “Jon Hubbard, Arkansas Legislator, Says Slavery May ‘Have Been A Blessing’ in New Book,” John Celock, Huffington Post, Nov. 8, 2012). Let us see what the others have to say about the institution of slavery as being a “blessing” to enslaved Africans (courtesy of Mark Howard) but not to Western Europe and the US that made all the money:

PAT BUCHANAN: “America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.”

MICHELE BACHMANN & RICK SANTORUM (Bob Vander Plaats got Santorum and Bachmann to sign on to the following): “A child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”

ART ROBINSON: “The negroes on a well-ordered estate, under kind masters, were probably a happier class of people than the laborers upon any estate in Europe.”

REV. JESSE LEE PETERSON: “Thank God for slavery, because if not, the blacks who are here would have been stuck in Africa.”

DAVID HOROWITZ: “If slave labor created wealth for Americans, then obviously it has created wealth for black Americans as well, including the descendants of slaves.”

WES RIDDLE: “Are the descendants of slaves really worse off? Would Jesse Jackson be better off living in Uganda?”

TRENT FRANKS: “Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.”

ANN COULTER: “The worst thing that was done to black people since slavery was the great society programs.”

REP. LOY MAUCH: “If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the Constitution and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?”

These are statements coming from civil libertarians. Yet Mr. Baidoo, himself a neo-Confederate civil libertarian, says “Slavery was an evil of unimaginable proportion.” And, of course, such are those who will also argue that slavery made the psychological and material conditions of slaves in the American South better to an extent that freemen from the North trooped there to be enslaved in order to improve their lot. Mr. Baidoo may not bother to advance a similar argument. The question is: What do Mr. Baidoo’s Republican civil libertarians know about the institution of slavery that Mr. Baidoo does not know? Rather strangely, Mr. Baidoo goes on to state that “in America, one life for six slaves freed.” The Ku Klux Klan and some American civil libertarians have been advancing the same argument as Mr. Baidoo’s. And thus his place might as well be among his clique of ideological Klansmen (Kluxer). More so other White Supremacist organizations have been making the same arguments as Mr. Baidoo’s. That is why a slave or a newly freed slave may never want to be a civil libertarian.

But then also, Thomas Sowell, one of Mr. Baidoo’s idols and a scholar described as “idiot emeritus” by one online commentator, carries the same argument around his neck.

Many arguments Mr. Baidoo advances in his articles can easily be traced to Sowell and other right-wing writers, websites, and institution. It is why we have been repeating the mantra that nothing Mr. Baidoo says is new to our ears. In fact we know some of these right-wing personalities and their academic and research work. Ironically the warped thinking of the likes of Mr. Baidoo may be why Rocky Mountain Knights, a splinter group of the KKK, is opening its doors to African Americans (Jews, Hispanics, and Catholics). Mr. Baidoo may have done his unsuspecting readership a big favor by exposing the present Republican Party’s association with racist organizations such as the Council of Conservative Citizens (C.C.C.) (see “Council of Conservative Citizens Promotes White Primacy, and G.O.P. Ties,” The New York Times, June 22, 2015. Authors: Lizette Alvarez & Michael Wines).

John Cassidy writes (see “The G.O.P.’s Ties to Extremism Go Beyond the Confederate Flag,” The New Yorker, June 23, 2015. For additional information on racist group such as the C.C.C. financial donations to Republicans and their party, see “Leader of Group Cited in 'Dylann Roof Manifesto' Donated to Top Republicans,” The Guardian, June 22, 2015. Author: Jon Swaine):

“Links between the C.C.C. and G.O.P. politicians emerged in 1998, when it was reported that Congressman Robert Barr, of Georgia, had delivered the keynote address at the C.C.C.’s national convention. After that revelation prompted some negative publicity, the then chairman of the Republican National Committee, Jim Nicholson, called on his fellow party members to resign from the C.C.C., saying, ‘‘A member of the party of Lincoln should not belong to such an organization.’’

“According to Cohen, the ties persisted. In 2004, his organization revealed that thirty-eight politicians—“the vast majority of them Republicans,” including Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee—had attended C.C.C. events during the previous four years. In South Carolina, members of the C.C.C. participated in the political campaign to keep the Confederate flag flying from the dome of the State Capitol…More recently, in 2013, it emerged that a prominent South Carolina Republican, Roan Garcia-Quintana, was a longtime member of the C.C.C. and a member of its national board…”

Mr. Baidoo did not discuss the late Senator Strom Thurmond, a former Democrat who later became a Republican simply because he opposed the Democratic Party’s support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, all these in spite of the fact that he had a secret daughter (Essie Mae Washington-Williams) with an African-American woman (Carrie Butler). Even more surprisingly is the fact that Mr. Baidoo did not mention or discuss scalawag Democrats who later joined the Republican Party and worked towards the “emancipation” of slaves. Or that Southern Democrats (whites) passed laws to disenfranchise both whites and blacks, though such laws were successfully targeted at mostly blacks. It bears pointing out that in all these events government did play a major role in enacting civil rights legislation protective of African-Americans and enforcing social order, with neo-Confederate civil libertarian Mr. Baidoo acting out on the neglected intellectual fringes of anecdotal revisionism as the slave-owner in Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” and as the central message of Thomas Dixon, Jr.’s “The Klansman” (later adapted into a movie by D.W. Griffith) that the KKK rescued the American South from black governance.

One wonders what Mr. Baidoo makes of this since he is dead set against state or government intervention as a civil libertarian, whatever that means. He is quick to give credit to Republicans for at least doing something about black “emancipation” but is, as expected, shamelessly silent on the role of government intervention in enforcing social justice and a semblance of racial-social equity. Both Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant used the power of the state and state institutions (army, etc.) to enforce order, with the latter going so far as to use the army to reconstitute the Republican Party in the American South. How could it have been possible for the British state (and pressure groups) rather than Mr. Baidoo’s free-market fundamentalism to “abolish” slavery? Having said that, one may want to ask: Did the forbears of African Americans ask to be enslaved by Europeans? How many slaves died in proportion to Mr. Baidoo’s one life? Was that one lost life more precious than six freed slaves? How many enslaved Africans died during the Middle Passage in proportion to white lives?

How many enslaved African women were raped by Europeans as opposed to white women? How many enslaved African men were lynched, castrated, and burnt to death as opposed to white males? How many “freed” slaves were subjected to the hardships of Jim Crowism in proportion to whites?

Granted, if approximately 198,000 blacks joined the Union Army and 40,000 died (20%; the African American pollution stood roughly at 14% of the nation’s population. Note: (1) Note: Readers should visit the website of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database for “authoritative” data on enslaved Africans shipped to each colony in the Americas. The website is edited by David Eltis & David Richardson)–Mr. Baidoo may not have been aware of the “estimated” number of enslaved Africans who were shipped to Brazil. We are more concerned about his uninformed position that the number of enslaved Africans shipped to Brazil was “twice as much.” Of course he did not provide any reference(s) for his claim. Certainly Mr. Baidoo had no clue what the data say and if he in fact did, he would avoided making that specious claim. That said, he also failed to discuss the procreative capacities and mortality rates for Brazilian slaves and other slave demographics against the backdrop of those of their counterparts in the United States.

(Note: “Recent studies show that North American slave women had fewer months separating the births of their first and subsequent children than did those in Latin America and the Caribbean…The average life expectancy of native-born Latin American slaves was in the low 20s. This contrasts with a U.S. slave life expectancy in the mid-30s. In both cases, the slave rates reflected local free populations, with free Latin Americans having a lower life expectancy than did North Americans. These figures are estimates and are not the same for slave women and slave men. They may also vary from region to region in the Americas. See the books “African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean (Herbert Klein & Ben Vinson) and “Slavery in Brazil (Herbert Klein & Franscico Luna) and the paper “Fertility Differentials Between Slaves in the United States and the British West Indies: A Note on Lactation Practices and Their Implications (1978)). See also “Brazilian and United States Slavery Compared,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 11, No. 4 (1922). Mr. Baidoo overlooked master-slave ratios between the US and Brazil).

For instance, the website of the The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History notes: “…by 1860, approximately two thirds of all New World slaves lived in the American South.

“Death rates among slaves in the Caribbean were one-third higher than in the South, and suicide appears to have been much more common

“The slave population in Brazil and the West Indies had a lower proportion of female slaves, a much lower birthrate, and a higher proportion of recent arrivals from Africa. In striking contrast, southern slaves had an equal sex ratio, a high birthrate, and a predominantly American-born population.

“Slavery in the United States was especially distinctive in the ability of the slave population to increase its numbers by natural reproduction. In the Caribbean, Dutch Guiana, and Brazil, the slave death rate was so high and the birthrate so low that slaves could not sustain their population without imports from Africa. The average number of children born to an early nineteenth-century southern slave woman was 9.2—twice as many as in the West Indies…”

Note: (2) There were more enslaved Africans illegally imported into America during the Civil War than there were of blacks who fought in the war (250,000 versus 198, 0000) at the end of the Civil War, how does that figure into Mr. Baidoo’s “In America, one life for six slaves freed? And who says slaves were freed after the Civil War? Was the Civil War not a war primarily fought between the Northern states (with the Union on their side) and the Southern states (Confederates), though both sides benefitted from the institution of slavery, again with both sides also recruiting slaves and freemen to fight alongside them against a backdrop of either side promising post-war freedom to slaves? What, if we may add, Mr. Baidoo did not say was that strategic inclusion of slaves and freemen in the Union Army may have been the decisive factor that turned the Civil War in the Union’s favor. At least this is the position taken by some Civil War historians.

What Mr. Baidoo also did not say was that black Union soldiers earned lower pay than their white counterparts, with the highest-paid black Union soldier earning nearly 50% of what their lowest-paid white counterparts earned per month (see the book “The Civil War: Exploring One Week at A Time.” Authors: Peter Gaffney & Dennis Gaffney). Notwithstanding all the above, Mr. Baidoo did not find it necessary to discuss logistical problems such as the documentation of soldiers (and civilians associated with the war), deaths, casualties, and the like (one Civil War website “Saving America’s Civil War Battlefields: Civil War Trust” says “Confederate enlistment rolls are virtually non-existent”), or that most of the combat death resulted from diseases. And he leaves so much out of his crooked revisionist manipulation of facts to suit his warped political philosophy and grossly emotional libertarianism which, alas, we also think is not our responsibility to educate or enlighten him.

We shall not waste our time on an individual who obviously, for all intents and purposes, does not want to learn (Lest we forget, French, Polish, German, Italian, Scottish, and other European immigrants fought in the Civil War. There were a few Chinese (and non-Chinese Asians) who fought in the Civil War (and in the American Revolutionary War) but were denied citizenship because the law at the time allowed naturalization for only whites. Native Americans also fought in the Civil War–read more about Ely Samuel Parker, a Seneca Native American and his role in drafting the surrender of the Confederates at Battle of Appomattox Court House, Virginia). We bring out these facts in order to avoid the impression that only whites played a central in the Civil War. We conclude thus:

“The issues of emancipation and military service were intertwined from the onset of the Civil War. News from Fort Sumter set off a rush by free black men to enlist in U.S. military units. They were turned away, however, because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred Negroes from bearing arms for the U.S. army (although they had served in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812). In Boston disappointed would-be volunteers met and passed a resolution requesting that the Government modify its laws to permit their enlistment.

“The Lincoln administration wrestled with the idea of authorizing the recruitment of black troops, concerned that such a move would prompt the Border States to secede. When Gen. John C. Frémont (photo citation: 111-B-3756) in Missouri and Gen. David Hunter (photo citation: 111-B-3580) in South Carolina issued proclamations that emancipated slaves in their military regions and permitted them to enlist, their superiors sternly revoked their orders. By mid-1862, however, the escalating number of former slaves (contrabands), the declining number of white volunteers, and the increasingly pressing personnel needs of the Union Army pushed the Government into reconsidering the ban.

“As a result, on July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, freeing slaves who had masters in the Confederate Army. Two days later, slavery was abolished in the territories of the United States, and on July 22 President Lincoln (photo citation: 111-B-2323) presented the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet. After the Union Army turned back Lee's first invasion of the North at Antietam, MD, and the Emancipation Proclamation was subsequently announced, black recruitment was pursued in earnest. Volunteers from South Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts filled the first authorized black regiments. Recruitment was slow until black leaders such as Frederick Douglass (photo citation: 200-FL-22) encouraged black men to become soldiers to ensure eventual full citizenship. (Two of Douglass's own sons contributed to the war effort.) Volunteers began to respond, and in May 1863 the Government established the Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the burgeoning numbers of black soldiers.

“By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in artillery and infantry and performed all noncombat support functions that sustain an army, as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly 80 black commissioned officers. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless served as nurses, spies, and scouts, the most famous being Harriet Tubman (photo citation: 200-HN-PIO-1), who scouted for the 2d South Carolina Volunteers.

“Because of prejudice against them, black units were not used in combat as extensively as they might have been. Nevertheless, the soldiers served with distinction in a number of battles. Black infantrymen fought gallantly at Milliken's Bend, LA; Port Hudson, LA; Petersburg, VA; and Nashville, TN. The July 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, SC, in which the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers lost two-thirds of their officers and half of their troops, was memorably dramatized in the film Glory. By war's end, 16 black soldiers had been awarded the Medal of Honor for their valor.

“In addition to the perils of war faced by all Civil War soldiers, black soldiers faced additional problems stemming from racial prejudice. Racial discrimination was prevalent even in the North, and discriminatory practices permeated the U.S. military. Segregated units were formed with black enlisted men and typically commanded by white officers and black noncommissioned officers. The 54th Massachusetts was commanded by Robert Shaw and the 1st South Carolina by Thomas Wentworth Higginson—both white. Black soldiers were initially paid $10 per month from which $3 was automatically deducted for clothing, resulting in a net pay of $7. In contrast, white soldiers received $13 per month from which no clothing allowance was drawn. Black soldiers received the same rations and supplies. In addition, they received comparable medical care. In contrast, white soldiers received $13 per month from which no clothing allowance was drawn. In June 1864 Congress granted equal pay to the U.S. Colored Troops and made the action retroactive. Black soldiers received the same rations and supplies. In addition, they received comparable medical care.

“The black troops, however, faced greater peril than white troops when captured by the Confederate Army. In 1863 the Confederate Congress threatened to punish severely officers of black troops and to enslave black soldiers. As a result, President Lincoln issued General Order 233, threatening reprisal on Confederate prisoners of war (POWs) for any mistreatment of black troops. Although the threat generally restrained the Confederates, black captives were typically treated more harshly than white captives. In perhaps the most heinous known example of abuse, Confederate soldiers shot to death black Union soldiers captured at the Fort Pillow, TN, engagement of 1864. Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest witnessed the massacre and did nothing to stop it…”

(See “Re: Nkrumahism, The Can Of Worms I Opened–Slavery and Racism” for more information on racial wage gap in the United States and other such questions; see also For additional information on how much African Americans contribute to America’s GDP, society, and the world at large, see Amos Wilson’s “Blueprint for Black Power: A Moral, Political and Economic Imperative for the Twenty-First Century”).

We shall return…

Francis Kwarteng
Francis Kwarteng, © 2015

The author has 580 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: franciskwarteng

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