Did Black People Own Slaves?

“How Many Slaves Did Blacks Own?

So what do the actual numbers of black slave owners and their slaves tell us? In 1830, the year most carefully studied by Carter G. Woodson, about 13.7 percent (319,599) of the black population was free. Of these, 3,776 free Negroes owned 12,907 slaves, out of a total of 2,009,043 slaves owned in the entire United States, so the numbers of slaves owned by black people over all was quite small by comparison with the number owned by white people. In his essay, ” ‘The Known World’ of Free Black Slaveholders,” Thomas J. Pressly, using Woodson’s statistics, calculated that 54 (or about 1 percent) of these black slave owners in 1830 owned between 20 and 84 slaves; 172 (about 4 percent) owned between 10 to 19 slaves; and 3,550 (about 94 percent) each owned between 1 and 9 slaves. Crucially, 42 percent owned just one slave.

Pressly also shows that the percentage of free black slave owners as the total number of free black heads of families was quite high in several states, namely 43 percent in South Carolina, 40 percent in Louisiana, 26 percent in Mississippi, 25 percent in Alabama and 20 percent in Georgia. So why did these free black people own these slaves?”

Source: Did Black People Own Slaves?

Civil War massacre launched reparations debate – The Washington Post

Civil War massacre launched reparations debate

A group of “contrabands,” between 1861-1865. A stereograph showing a group of seven African American men, former slaves, dressed in old Union uniforms standing in front of a wagon and shack. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)By Gillian Brockell September 11, 2014On a rainy night in early 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton arrived in Savannah, Ga. — which the Union had captured weeks earlier — with a question: What should become of newly free black people? It was a question that many in power had been asking for some time. What was different this time was to whom the question was posed: the newly free black people themselves.It was a visit born of a massacre about a month before, and it launched a debate that continues to this day.The issue of where these people should go had dogged Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, too, as he marched through Georgia in the fall of 1864. Sherman had expected to pick up able-bodied black men to assist his troops (but not to join them; Sherman would not allow that). An unintended consequence of his scorched-earth policy was that all manner of freed slaves — including women, children and the elderly — abandoned the plantations and fell in behind him.More than 10,000 black refugees followed Sherman’s March to the Sea. That many mouths to feed would have proved challenging for a well-stocked force, but for an army that survived by foraging, it was nearly impossible. James Connolly, a 21-year-old major in the Illinois Volunteer Infantry (and future congressman), wrote that the refugee camps were so numerous that they often ringed the camps of the corps. The “contrabands,” as they were called, regularly wandered into Union camps to beg for food. And as Sherman’s force approached the sandy and less fertile Georgia coast, it became even more difficult to accommodate them.There was one corps, however, the refugees seemed to avoid: the 14th Corps, led by a brigadier general with a most unlikely name: Jefferson Davis. Davis — derisively called “General Reb” not only for having the same name as the Confederate president but also for his hatred of black people — had become notorious two years earlier when he shot dead a superior officer, Maj. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson, during an argument at a hotel. He escaped punishment only because the military couldn’t afford to lose an experienced field commander.Davis blamed the 600 or so black refugees following his unit for slowing down his 14,000 men in the closing weeks of the march. But from other accounts, it seems that the problem was the relentless winter rain. “At one time an officer counted 24 wagons sunk to their beds in mud,” writes Jim Miles in “To the Sea: A History and Tour Guide of Sherman’s March.” “He witnessed several mules sink out of sight.”Speed was vital. Davis knew that Lt. Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry was hot on their heels.For several days in early December, Davis drove the 14th Corps nearly nonstop, resting for two or three hours a night. One soldier reported falling asleep in the middle of “a fearfully hard march” and found himself in lock step upon jerking awake. Little more than coffee sustained them.On the night of Dec. 8, the corps arrived at the western bank of Ebenezer Creek. The bridge had been destroyed, in anticipation of their arrival, and the frigid waters had swollen to 10 feet deep and 165 feet wide. Scouts from Wheeler’s cavalry harassed Union troops in the rear.A pontoon bridge was in place by midnight, and Davis ordered the corps to cross the creek in silence and under the cover of darkness. According to Miles, a single Confederate cannon could have destroyed the bridge and stopped the entire corps, then only 18 miles from Savannah.But in this tenuous artery, Davis saw an opportunity.“On the pretence that there was likely to be fighting in front, the negroes were told not to go upon the pontoon-bridge until all the troops and wagons were over: a guard was detailed to enforce the order,” recalled Col. Charles Kerr of the 16th Illinois Cavalry in a speech 20 years after the incident. “As soon as we were over the creek, orders were given to the engineers to take up the pontoons and not let a negro cross. . . . I sat upon my horse then and witnessed a scene the like of which I pray my eyes may never see again.”Just before sunrise, the refugees cried out as their escape route was pulled away from them. Moments later, Wheeler’s scouts rode up from behind and opened fire. Hundreds of refugees rushed forward into the icy current. Several Union soldiers on the eastern bank tried to help, pushing logs out to the few refugees still swimming.Some of the refugees were crushed under the weight of the stampede. Most slipped under the water and drowned. Those who remained onshore were either shot or captured and re-enslaved.And when Wheeler’s men began shooting across the creek, the Union soldiers helping the black people were ordered to rej

Source: Civil War massacre launched reparations debate – The Washington Post

The Forgotten Preacher

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DISUNION October 21, 2013, 12:25 pm Comment

The Forgotten Preacher



Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.

Henry McNeal Turner, the first black chaplain in the Union Army and one of the most prominent religious and political leaders of Civil War era black America, was born a free black on Feb. 1, 1834, in New Berry Court House, S.C. Turner was the oldest child of Hardy Turner and Sarah Greer Turner, and while we do not know much about Turner’s other siblings, we do know that Turner’s father died while he was still young.

Even though born as a free person, Turner still experienced the harsh reality of prejudice and racism; he worked in cotton fields alongside enslaved people as well as in a blacksmith shop under some of the harshest overseers.

When Turner was “eight or nine years old,” he later recalled, he had a dream that placed him in front of a large crowd of both blacks and whites who looked to him for instruction. The dream not only became a guiding light for Turner, but it also gave Turner a desire for education. However, state laws at the time did not allow blacks, enslaved or free, to attend school or to learn how to read and write. After obtaining a spelling book, Turner attempted to learn how to read and write with the help of several people in his community. But each time Turner would begin to study, others would find out and have the teaching stopped. Having learned only a little from his teachers, Turner attempted to learn to read and write on his own — by the time he was 15, he had read the entire Bible five times and started a habit of memorizing lengthy passages of scripture, which helped him develop a strong memory.

Turner attended revival services with his mother and finally joined the Methodist church in Abbeville, S.C., in 1848. His “conversion,” as he called it, came in 1851 under the preaching of plantation missionary Samuel Leard in a camp meeting at Sharon Camp Ground. In his conversion experience, Turner remembered rolling on the ground, foaming at the mouth and agonizing under conviction until he felt the presence of Christ in his life. Soon after, Turner became convinced that the dream he had earlier was a call to preach the gospel.

Licensed to preach in the mixed-race Southern Methodist Church at 19 years old, Turner spoke before to large integrated audiences. But he found it frustrating that the Southern Methodist Church would never ordain him, and that as a licensed exhorter he had already achieved the highest level a black person could attain in the denomination. Instead, he joined the all-black African Methodist Episcopal church in 1858. Four years later he became pastor of Israel A.M.E. church in Washington.

Not long after, Abraham Lincoln commissioned Turner to the office of chaplain in the Union Army, making him the first black chaplain in any branch of the military. In this capacity, he also became a war correspondent, writing articles for The Christian Recorder newspaper about the trials and tribulations of the First Regiment, United States Colored Troops. When the war ended, he found himself assigned to the Freedmen’s Bureau in Georgia as a chaplain.

Leaving the military for good in 1866, Turner turned his attention to politics. During the period of Reconstruction, and while still working with the Freedmen’s Bureau, Turner became a Republican Party organizer and helped recruit and organize black voters throughout Georgia. He helped establish the first Republican state convention, and helped draft a new Georgia state constitution. Elected later as one of the first African Americans in the Georgia Legislature, Turner believed that change had finally come. He garnered support and respect from black people by organizing Loyal Leagues and Equal Rights Associations.

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However, any excitement that Turner or black people in general had for ushering in a new day after the Civil War disappeared quickly when white members of the state legislature voted in 1868 to disqualify blacks from holding elected office. After his ouster from the Georgia state legislature, Turner became the postmaster in Macon, Ga., the first African American to hold that position. However, pressures began to mount on the federal government to dismiss Turner based on trumped-up improprieties. Fired after only two weeks in office, Turner then took a position as a customs inspector in Savannah, Ga. He held this position for several years, but eventually resigned from this position because of increasing demands of the church.

Turner then focused his efforts on building the A.M.E. Church in the South; by 1876, he had become the church’s publications manager. This allowed him to travel to all the districts and meet the pastors and leaders of local churches. During the next four years, he developed a following that led to his election in 1880 as one of the bishops of the church. Turner finally had a national platform to espouse his ideas on race, politics, lynching and other issues of the day. However, as racism became more of an issue for blacks, Turner increasingly became a proponent of emigration.

Toward the end of the 19th century, after several failed attempts at an emigration plan and with the rise of a new generation of black leaders like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, Turner’s influence started to wane. He edited two newspapers — The Voice of Missions, from 1893 to 1900, and The Voice of the People, from 1901 to 1904 – served as chair of the board of Morris Brown College from 1896-1908, and kept a busy schedule up to the end of his life. He was in Windsor, Ont., at the general conference of the A.M.E. church in 1915 when he suffered a massive stroke. He died hours later at a Windsor hospital.

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Andre E. Johnson is an associate professor of rhetoric and religion and African American studies at Memphis Theological Seminary. He is the author of “The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American prophetic Tradition.”