31 Jan 2018

Celebrate Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month

The American Civil War is often conceptualized as a conflict between white northerners and white southerners, during which African American slaves waited on the sidelines for their fates to be decided. The slaves themselves knew better, recognizing the true stakes of the war from the very beginning.

In 1861, Harris Jarvis, an enslaved man on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, found himself laboring under a particularly cruel master. Reflecting back later in life, he said that his master “was the meanest man on all the Eastern Shore, and that’s a heap to say...It was bad enough before, but after the war came, it was worse than ever. Finally, he shot at me one day, and I reckoned I’d stood it about as long as I could.”

Jarvis fled and made his way to Fortress Monroe, where he spoke to Union Gen. Benjamin Butler. “I went to him and asked him to let me enlist, but he said it wasn’t a black man’s war. I told him it would be a black man’s war before they got through.” After Butler’s rejection, Harry Jarvis emigrated to Africa for a time before deciding to return to the United States. After landing in Boston in 1863, he “found that it had got to be a black man’s war for sure.” Enlisting in the 55th Massachusetts, the sister regiment of the famous 54th, Harry Jarvis served in the Union army until losing a leg at the Battle of Folly Island, near Charleston, South Carolina.

This February, celebrate Black History Month by taking part in numerous events around the country and visiting museums and sites highlighting stories like Harry Jarvis’s.

Help us Save New Market Heights

For their heroism at the 1864 Battle of New Market Heights, fourteen African American soldiers received the Medal of Honor. Help us preserve the land where they fought by supporting our campaign to save three Virginia battlefields.

Quiz: African Americans in Civil War History

Interested in testing your knowledge and learning more about a critical but often unheralded aspect of the American Civil War? Take our African Americans in Civil War History quiz and see how well you do!

Learn About the Life of Harriet Tubman

It wasn’t just African American men who played critical roles in the American Civil War. Courageous black women such as Harriet Tubman made vital contributions as well, both at home and at the front.

War Department: Frederick Douglass
Few people lived more impressive lives than Frederick Douglass. Lincoln once described him as “one of the most meritorious men, if the most meritorious man, in the United States.” Learn more with our War Department video.

Preserving the Land Where the USCT Fought

The Civil War Trust is proud to honor the legacy of heroes like Harry Jarvis by fighting to preserve land hallowed by the exploits of the United States Colored Troops. With your help, we have saved land at sites such as New Market Heights in Virginia, Fort Wagner in South Carolina, and Port Hudson in Louisiana.

In4: Black Soldiers in the Civil War

In the second half of the Civil War, roughly 180,000 African American soldiers donned blue uniforms and grabbed muskets to fight for the freedom of their people and the survival of the Union. The Civil War Trust’s friend Hari Jones tells their stories in our In4 video, “Black Soldiers in the Civil War.”


American Battlefield Trust

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