Throughout the history of the United States, Africans and African-Americans have consistently been treated as second-class citizens. This prejudice is most apparent and appalling in the system of slavery that lasted for more than two hundred years in the United States. In the 1800's tensions over the issue of slavery divided the country into Free states and slave states. The Compromise of 1850 caused more tensions to boil, especially when Congress passed a tougher Fugitive Slave Law, to reduce the number of slaves escaping to the North, which many Northerners refused to follow. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise, which allowed there to be slave states north of the 36Â° 30' parallel through popular sovereignty (Nevins, 32). This caused people from all over to move to Kansas to fight to decide whether it would be a slave state or not. In 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown attempted to start a massive slave rebellion in Virginia, but failed and was hung, which caused more of a rift between abolitionists and Southerners. In 1960 Abraham Lincoln, whom the South viewed as an abolitionist, is elected, and subsequently, South Carolina secedes from the Union (Nevins, 47).
[...] Battles at Fort Hudson, Milliken's Bend, Honey Springs, Fort Wagner, and Petersburg in 1863 and 1864 all proved that the implementation of black troops was a smart and effective move. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a captain of the 51st Massachusetts Volunteers, expressed his surprise when he witnessed the capacity of black soldiers: do not as yet see the slightest obstacle, in the nature of the blacks, to making them good soldiers, but rather the contrary. They take readily to drill, and do not object to discipline; they are not especially dull or inattentive; they seem fully to understand the importance of the contest, and of their share in (Higginson, Dec 1862). [...]
[...] A mother of a black soldier in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment wrote President Lincoln to take proper care of soldiers like her son: son fought at Fort Wagoner but thank God he was not taken prisoner, as many were. I thought of this thing before I let my boy go but then they said Mr. Lincoln will never let them sell our colored soldiers for slaves . It must not be so. You must put the rebels to work in State prisons to making shoes and things, if they sell our colored soldiers, till they let them go Will you see that the colored men fighting now are fairly treated. [...]
[...] Although black soldiers were subject to prejudice and unfair treatment, their recruitment and involvement in the war not only undermined the Confederate war effort as well as significantly helped the Union side, but it also was a catalyst to change racist attitudes in both the North and South. When the South seceded, many Northern blacks welcomed the idea of disunion. Some were part of the Garrisonian wing of the abolitionist movement, which had been advocating the separation of North and South for almost 20 years (McPherson, 11). [...]
[...] Many of the arguments given supporting the use of black soldiers were very racist in themselves. rationale for the use of black troops was that they could perform better than whites in the Southern climate, which may of course have been the cause for freedmen who lived there but not for Northern blacks. Strangely enough, these men unwittingly relied on the same argument that slaveholders used to justify the enslavement of blacks in the United States. Another popular reason for black enlistment, even among their future commanders, was that they could serve as Confederate targets as well as whites could, and that each black casualty spared a white one.” (Glatthaar, 31) Lincoln by this time was more concerned with keeping the Border States from seceding, and still was wary to allow black soldiers to fight for the Union. [...]
[...] Eventually Congress granted black soldiers equal pay in June 1864, retroactive to the beginning of that year, but only after months of suffering. Besides the inequalities and discrimination black soldiers faced in their own army, they also faced prejudices in the battlefield: “Southern whites were accustomed to looking upon black men as slaves, and it was hard for them to accept the idea that black soldiers were free men who must be treated according to the laws of war, not the laws of slavery. [...]
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