Friday, August 3, 2012
How to Scare White Folks - and Other Important Ideas
A black man, armed, in Federal uniform, holding a captured Confederate at the point of a bayonet. Is this an image of the white South's worst nightmares come true? From a Confederate perspective, yes. Many feared exactly this scenario: armed blacks turned loose against their former masters. Of course there is more to the image than that. A black man taking up arms to risk his life for the Union suggests something much more profound. Oh sure, imagery such as this certainly struck fear into the hearts of whites in the South. But it also helped to ensure that blacks could claim basic citizenship rights at war's end. How could one deny rights to a man who had shouldered a musket for and helped secure the national integrity of his country?
While many, both black and white, asked exactly that, the truth is that blacks' rights - even those who were veterans - were often denied in the postwar nation. In this sense, do the postwar decades represent a lost chance to capitalize on Union victory? Your comments, as always, are welcome.