When did official documentation stop referring to black people as Negros in the States?

When did official documentation stop referring to black people as Negros in the States?

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Watching Why does the US have so many child brides?, there was an interesting part where marriage licenses were shown:

where under race, in two places, it is clearly written as:


The specific date is not clear but it is most likely '71.

When did official documentation stop referring to black people as Negros?

I would have thought before '71, surely…

It seems that the term was used on a number of pieces of legislation as late as the 1970's. In 2016, President Obama signed legislation into law which struck outdated racial terms such as “Oriental” and “Negro” from federal laws. As this article observes:

Two sections in the U.S. Code written in the 1970s governing public health and civil rights attempted to define minority groups by using the outdated terms.

For those who are interested, the two sections of the U.S. code mentioned above are:

  • Section 211(f)(1) of the Department of Energy Organization Act (42 U.S.C. 7141(f)(1))


  • Section 106(f)(2) of the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976 (42 U.S.C. 6705(f)(2))

Even more recently, the term "Negro" was included in the 2010 U.S census:

However, in 2013 the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the term will not appear in future censuses.

The US Army stopped using the term "Negro" in November of 2014.

See U.S. Army apologizes, will drop term 'Negro' from policy document

However, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) still has a document, originally published 12 April 2015, Racial and Ethnic Categories and Definitions for NIH Diversity Programs and for Other Reporting Purposes, appearing as current policy, which states:

"Negro" can be used in addition to "Black or African American."

Additionally, since the question is specifically referring to 1971, I would point out that the 1971 NASA report Contextual planning for NASA - A second handbook of alternative future environments for mission analysis discusses the fact that "Negro" was the term preferred by blacks at this time. Specifically:

Percent of Blacks preferring to be called the following terms (April 1970):

"Negro" 51%

"Colored" 11%

"Black" 8%

"Afro-American" 8%

Other 4%

No difference 16%

No opinion 3%

The Original Constitution and the Three-Fifths Myth

Lanny Davis is a lawyer, a graduate of Yale Law School and from 1996 to 1998 he served as a special counsel to President Bill Clinton. He and Jay Sekulow appeared together on “The Sean Hannity Show” to discuss the reading of the Constitution by the new Congress. Davis wanted to know if the “three-fifths” clause would be read, implying that it was a racist part of the Constitution. Mr. Sekulow did not have time to take on this issue, but he shouldn’t have had to. Mr. Davis should know that the “three-fifths” clause has nothing to do with the idea that black slaves were being described as “three-fifths” of a white person. If he doesn’t know this, then he shouldn’t be practicing law, and if does know this and perpetuates the falsehood in order to gain some political edge, then he shouldn’t be practicing law.

The issue of slavery was a major concern at the Constitutional Convention and was discussed at length in the debates. A significant minority of the delegates to the Federal Convention were staunch opponents of slavery, primarily those who adhered to the Federalist philosophy. Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton opposed slavery. John Jay, who would become the first Chief Justice of the United States, was president of the New York anti-slavery society. Northern Federalist leaders Rufus King and Gouvernour Morris were outspoken opponents of slavery and the slave trade.

Elias Boudinot (1740–1821), who was a lawyer, served three congressional terms representing New Jersey (1789–1795), was a delegate to the Continental Congress, and presided as President of the Continental Congress from 1782 to 1783, making him the chief executive officer of the United States. Boudinot signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that ended the Revolutionary War. He was an early opponent of slavery. “Southern and Border State Federalists also openly opposed the institution.” ((Nathaniel Weyl and William Marina, American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1971), 48.)) Many people do not know that the original Constitution words “race,” “slavery,” “slave,” “white,” or “black.” Such omissions are curious since there are many who view the Constitution as a racist document. Actually, the word “slavery” did not enter the Constitution until after the War Between the States in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.

The so-called racist intent of the Constitution is seen by some (many?) in the “three-fifths clause” found in Article I, section 2, clause 3. Contrary to what some historians claim, the “three-fifths clause” is a clear indication that a number of our constitutional founders wanted to end slavery it is not a statement about personhood. The Northern states did not want to count slaves. The Southern states hoped to include slaves in the population statistics in order to acquire additional representation in Congress to advance their political position.

It took 30,000 people to get one congressman, and slaves outnumbered whites in slave states. It was the Democrat hope that with enough pro-slavery congressmen, they could overturn much of the abolitionist legislation Northern Republicans had previously passed.

However, there was one philosophical problem: blacks in Southern states had no rights thus The North deemed it a joke they only be counted when beneficial to Democrats. Northern abolitionists argued that since the South considered blacks their property, all ‘property’ should be counted for the purpose of determining congressional representation. Thus the Northern abolitionists would include their property: horses, cattle, homes, furniture, pets, etc. in their population tallies.

The South denounced the proposal, so anti-slavery northerner James Wilson of Pennsylvania came up with a compromise. Blacks in the Southern states would be counted as “three-fifths” of a person. That way, it would take 50,000 people (instead of 30,000) in a district to earn congressional representation. That had the effect of limiting the power of the slave states.

The compromise was to count slaves as “three-fifths” of a person for representation purposes. The fewer slaves counted the fewer number of representatives. “It had NOTHING to do with the worth of a person and EVERYTHING to do with diminishing the power of” the pro-slavery Southern states.

The goal of the Northern delegates was to dilute Southern voting strength so as to outlaw slavery by constitutional means. “The struggle that took place in the convention was between the Southern delegates trying to strengthen the constitutional supports for slavery and the Northern delegates trying to weaken them.” ((Robert A. Goldwin, “Why Blacks, Women & Jews Are Not Mentioned in the Constitution,” Commentary (May 1987), 29.)) If none of the slaves had been included in the population count for representation, as Northern delegates wanted, the slave states would have had only 41 percent of the seats in the House. If all the slaves had been included, as the pro-slave states wanted, the slave states would have had 50 percent of the seats. By agreeing to count slaves as three-fifths of a person for representation purposes, the slaveholding states ended up with a minority voting position—47 percent. Robert L. Goldwin concludes:

[T]he point is that the “three-fifths clause” had nothing at all to do with measuring the human worth of blacks. Northern delegates did not want black slaves included, not because they thought them unworthy of being counted, but because they wanted to weaken the slaveholding power in Congress. Southern delegates wanted every slave to count “equally with the Whites,” not because they wanted to proclaim that black slaves were human beings on an equal footing with free white persons, but because they wanted to increase the pro-slavery voting power in Congress. The humanity of blacks was not the subject of the three-fifths clause voting power in Congress was the subject. ((“Why Blacks, Women & Jews Are Not Mentioned in the Constitution,” 30.))

Was it right for the Northern delegates to agree to this compromise? We will never know. Second guessing the actions of men who lived two-hundred years ago is a waste of time and energy. Distorting the facts of history is reprehensible. Lanny Davis should know better.

Tulsa race massacre of 1921

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Tulsa race massacre of 1921, also called Tulsa race riot of 1921, one of the most severe incidents of racial violence in U.S. history. It occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, beginning on May 31, 1921, and lasting for two days. The massacre left somewhere between 30 and 300 people dead, mostly African Americans, and destroyed Tulsa’s prosperous Black neighbourhood of Greenwood, known as the “Black Wall Street.” More than 1,400 homes and businesses were burned, and nearly 10,000 people were left homeless. Despite its severity and destructiveness, the Tulsa race massacre was barely mentioned in history books until the late 1990s, when a state commission was formed to document the incident.

On May 30, 1921, Dick Rowland, a young African American shoe shiner, was accused of assaulting a white elevator operator named Sarah Page in the elevator of a building in downtown Tulsa. The next day the Tulsa Tribune printed a story saying that Rowland had tried to rape Page, with an accompanying editorial stating that a lynching was planned for that night. That evening mobs of both African Americans and whites descended on the courthouse where Rowland was being held. When a confrontation between an armed African American man, there to protect Rowland, and a white protester resulted in the death of the latter, the white mob was incensed, and the Tulsa massacre was thus ignited.

Over the next two days, mobs of white people looted and set fire to African American businesses and homes throughout the city. Many of the mob members were recently returned World War I veterans trained in the use of firearms and are said to have shot African Americans on sight. Some survivors even claimed that people in airplanes dropped incendiary bombs.

When the massacre ended on June 1, the official death toll was recorded at 10 whites and 26 African Americans, though many experts now believe at least 300 people were killed. Shortly after the massacre there was a brief official inquiry, but documents related to the massacre disappeared soon afterward. The event never received widespread attention and was long noticeably absent from the history books used to teach Oklahoma schoolchildren.

In 1997 a Tulsa Race Riot Commission was formed by the state of Oklahoma to investigate the massacre and formally document the incident. Members of the commission gathered accounts of survivors who were still alive, documents from individuals who witnessed the massacre but had since died, and other historical evidence. Scholars used the accounts of witnesses and ground-piercing radar to locate a potential mass grave just outside Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery, suggesting the death toll may be much higher than the original records indicate. In its preliminary recommendations, the commission suggested that the state of Oklahoma pay $33 million in restitution, some of it to the 121 surviving victims who had been located. However, no legislative action was ever taken on the recommendation, and the commission had no power to force legislation. The commission’s final report was published on February 28, 2001. In April 2002 a private religious charity, the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, paid a total of $28,000 to the survivors, a little more than $200 each, using funds raised from private donations.

In 2010 John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park was opened in the Greenwood District to memorialize the massacre. Named for historian and civil rights advocate John Hope Franklin, whose father survived the massacre, the park features the Tower of Reconciliation, a 25-foot- (7.5-metre-) tall sculpture that commemorates African American struggle. Greenwood Rising, a history centre honouring Black Wall Street, memorializing the victims of the massacre, and telling its story, was established in 2021 by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, founded in 2015.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.

This Massacre of Black Soldiers During the Civil War Is Reason Enough to Bring Down the Confederate Statues

Alan Singer, historian, is a Professor of Education at Hofstra University, and the author of the forthcoming book, New York’s Grand Emancipation Jubilee (SUNY Press). Follow Alan Singer on Twitter.

The war in Tennessee : Confederates massacre Union soldiers after they surrender at Fort Pillow, April 12th, 1864.

April 12 is the 154th anniversary of the Civil War battle and massacre at Fort Pillow, located on the Mississippi River near Henning, Tennessee. It was a strategic location, held by United States (Union) forces just north of Memphis and controlling river access to and from St. Louis and the Ohio River Valley.

On April 16, 1864, the New York Times reported that rebel forces under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, after twice using a “flag of truce” to maneuver prior to attack, overwhelmed defenders. After taking the fort, “the Confederates commenced an indiscriminate butchery of the whites and blacks, including those of both colors who had been previously wounded.” Black women and children in the fort were also slaughtered. “Out of the garrison of six hundred, only two hundred remained alive.” In the same issue, the Times published an account of events from a “correspondent of the Union, who was on board the steamer Platte Valley at Fort Pillow.” This correspondent “gives even a more appalling description of the fiendishness of the rebels.”

“On the morning after the battle the rebels went over the field, and shot the negroes who had not died from their wounds . . . . Many of those who had escaped from the works and hospital, who desired to be treated as prisoners of war, as the rebels said, were ordered to fall into line, and when they had formed, were inhumanly shot down. Of 350 colored troops not more than 56 escaped the massacre, and not one officer that commanded them survives.”

The Black soldiers who were butchered in cold blood by the Confederate troops were regularly enlisted in the Union army, were in full uniform, and were defending the United States flag.

General James Ronald Chalmers explained to the Times correspondent that the Confederate troops were following orders. It was official policy to kill wounded Black Union soldiers and anyone who surrendered, as well as White officers who served with Black troops.

In battle dispatches, General Forrest wrote, “The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners."

In response to the massacre, Congress passed a joint resolution demanding an official inquiry, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton initiated a military investigation, and Abraham Lincoln ordered General Benjamin Butler, who was negotiating prisoner exchanges with the Confederacy, to demand that captured Black soldiers be treated the same as White soldiers, a demand that Confederate negotiators rejected.

An enraged Lincoln issued a resolution that for every “soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed,” but it was never been implemented.

Black lives mattered, at least publicly, for about a month, and then the incident was forgotten. There was never a federal response even though the massacres did not stop. In July 1864, Confederate forces under the command of General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of the Crater in Virginia massacred Black United States soldiers who were trying to surrender.

In 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center, in an admittedly incomplete list, identified over fifteen hundred Confederate “place names and other symbols in public spaces” in the United States. Lee’s legacy, status and statues have continually been debated. We are now witnessing an attempt to correct history that includes removing some of the monuments that honor Confederate leaders and the Confederacy in general, including Robert E. Lee.

After the Civil War, Nathan Bedford Forrest helped found, and then served, as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in its campaign to terrorize newly emancipated Southern Blacks into submission. Astoundingly, there are still Forrest monuments and memorials across the South, including a bust in the state capital of Tennessee and a Forrest County in Mississippi. A monument in the Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama, describes Forrest as “Defender of Selma, Wizard of the Saddle, Untutored Genius, The first with the most.”

The effort to portray the Civil War as somehow a glorious “Lost Cause” dates back to the 1890s campaign for Jim Crow laws, the legalization of racial segregation, and the lynching of Black men in the South to terrorize people into acceptance of second-class citizenship. It was promoted by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), their children’s auxiliaries, Children of the Confederacy, and the United Confederate Veterans (UCV).

A major part of their campaign to rewrite history was pressuring textbook companies and libraries to purge books that “calls a Confederate soldier a traitor, a rebel and the war a rebellion that says the South fought to hold her slaves that speaks of the slaveholder as cruel or unjust to his slaves that glories Lincoln and vilifies Jefferson Davis.”

The American Civil War was not a glorious lost cause. It was a war by the South to preserve slavery. The Civil War was not an unfortunate battle between brothers – Southern Whites never considered Blacks or their White supporters to be their brothers.

“Remember Fort Pillow!” became a battle cry for Black troops in the United States Army for the rest of the Civil War. As the United States confronts the legacy of discrimination and continuing police violence against Black Americans, and debates removing statues and renaming places honoring racists and traitors, this country needs to once again “Remember Fort Pillow!”

When Did the Word Negro Become Taboo?

Sen. Harry Reid apologized on Saturday for his recently published comment, made before the 2008 election, that Barack Obama could win in part because he was a “light skinned” African-American with “no Negro dialect.” Reid, who is resisting calls for his resignation, described the gaffe as a “poor choice of words.” When did the word Negro become socially unacceptable?

It started its decline in 1966 and was totally uncouth by the mid-1980s. The turning point came when Stokely Carmichael coined the phrase black power at a 1966 rally in Mississippi. Until then, Negro was how most black Americans described themselves. But in Carmichael’s speeches and in his landmark 1967 book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America, he persuasively argued that the term implied black inferiority. Among black activists, Negro soon became shorthand for a member of the establishment. Prominent black publications like Ebony switched from Negro to black at the end of the decade, and the masses soon followed. According to a 1968 Newsweek poll, more than two-thirds of black Americans still preferred Negro, but black had become the majority preference by 1974. Both the Associated Press and the New York Times abandoned Negro in the 1970s, and by the mid-1980s, even the most hidebound institutions, like the U.S. Supreme Court, had largely stopped using Negro.

Had Sen. Reid chosen to defend his word choice, he could have cited some formidable authorities. Colored was the preferred term for black Americans until W.E.B. Du Bois, following the lead of Booker T. Washington, advocated for a switch to Negro in the 1920s. (Du Bois also used black in his writings, but it wasn’t his term of choice.) Despite claims that Negro was a white-coined word intended to marginalize black people, Du Bois argued that the term was “etymologically and phonetically” preferable to colored or “various hyphenated circumlocutions.” Most importantly, the new terminology—chosen by black leaders themselves—symbolized a rising tide of black intellectual, artistic, and political assertiveness. (After achieving the shift in vocabulary, Du Bois spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to capitalize his preferred term. In 1930—nine years before Harry Reid was born—the New York Times Style Book made the change.) Black supplanted Negro when the energy of this movement waned.

In 1988, after the black power movement had itself faded, many leaders decided another semantic change was required. Jesse Jackson led the push toward African-American. But, so far, the change does not seem to have the same momentum that Negro and black once did. In recent polls, most black interviewees express no preference between black and African-American, and most publications don’t recommend the use of one over the other.

Henry Louis Gates' Dangerously Wrong Slave History

In a recent New York Times editorial, entitled, “Ending the Slavery Blame-Game,” Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates calls on the United States’ first Black president to end the nation’s sense of responsibility for the legacy of slavery. It is a pernicious argument, well suited to the so-called “post-racial” moment we are in. Like the erroneous claims of “post-racialism,” in general, Gates’ editorial compromises rather than advances the prospects for racial justice and clouds rather than clarifies the history, and persistent realities, of racism in America.

Gates essentially absolves Americans of the guilt, shame and most importantly, financial responsibility for the horrific legacy of slavery in the Americas. How does he do this–through a contrived narrative that indicts African elites. And they did collaborate in the trade. But this is no news flash. Every history graduate student covering the Atlantic World knows that people of African descent (like the elites from every other corner of the globe) waged war against one another, captured enemies in battle, and enslaved their weaker and more vulnerable neighbors. This is nothing unique to Africa. What is problematic about Gates’ essay is how he frames and skews this fact.

The frame is this. Black and white people in the United States should now “get over” slavery because as we all know, this was not a racial thing but an economic thing. Since both Blacks and whites were culpable, the call for reparations is indeed meaningless and bereft of any moral weight. If we take Gates’ argument to its full conclusion, we might claim that it is not America or Europe, but the long suffering, impoverished, and debt-ridden nations of Africa, that should really pay reparations to Black Americans. “The problem with reparations,” Gates proclaims, is “from whom they would be extracted.” This is a dilemma since Africans were neither “ignorant or innocent,” when it came to the slave trade.

At its worse, Gates’ argument resembles that of some Holocaust deniers who don’t deny that “bad things” happened to the Jews, but add that maybe the Nazi’s weren’t the only ones to blame. Maybe the Jews, in part, did it to themselves. Stories that over-emphasize the role of the Judenrats (Jewish Councils), for example, who were coerced into providing slave labor to the Nazis and organized Jews to be sent to the concentration camps, distorts the real culprits and criminals of the Holocaust, and in the final analysis, serves to blame the victims.

Even though African monarchs did collaborate in the selling of Blacks bodies into slavery, what happened after that was the establishment of a heinous and brutal system that rested squarely on the dual pillars of White supremacy and ruthless capitalist greed. There was nothing African-inspired about it.

It is with the construction of a racialized slave regime in the Americas that a new form of the ancient institution of slavery was honed and refashioned. African slaves in the Americas, unlike most other places, were deemed slaves for life, and their offspring were enslaved. Moreover, Black servants were distinguished from white servants (who were also badly treated) and stripped of all rights and recourse. As slavery evolved even “free” Blacks were denied basic rights by virtue of sharing ancestry and phenotype with the enslaved population.

Racism, as so many scholars have documented was the critical and ideological justification for the exploitation, or more accurately, theft, of black labor for some 300 years. Blacks were deemed inferior, childlike, savage, and better suited to toiling in the hot sun than whites, and innately incapable of governing themselves. These are the racist myths and narratives that justified slavery in the Americas. It was indeed different in this way from other slave systems where the fabricated mythologies of race did not rule the day.

Another problem with Gates’ narrative about slavery is that he neglects to examine the plantation experience itself as the main ground on which African and African-American labor was exploited. As distinguished historian, Eric Foner, points out in his letter to the Times on April 26, in critical response to Gates, the internal U.S. slave trade, which had nothing to do with Africa or African elites, involved the buying and selling of over two million Black men, women and children between 1820 and 1860. Slavery existed for over a half century after the abolition of the trans-Atlantic trade in 1807. Even if African monarchs were complicit in and benefited individually from the trade, none of them received dividends from the profits generated by the production of millions of tons of tobacco, sugar and cotton by the stolen labor of imprisoned African and African-American plantation workers (i.e. slaves). It is this appropriation of millions of hours of uncompensated labor that is the core of the reparations demand.

Professor Gates’ selective storytelling and slanted use of history paints a very different picture than does the collective scholarship of hundreds of historians over the last fifty years or so. A learned man who commands enormous resources and unparalleled media attention, why would Gates put this argument forward so vehemently now? It is untimely at best. At a time when ill-informed and self-congratulatory commentaries about how far America has come on the race question, abound, Gates weighs in to say, we can also stop “blaming” ourselves (‘ourselves’ meaning white Americas or their surrogates) for slavery. The burden of race is made a little bit lighter by Gates’ revisionist history. It is curious that the essay appears at the same time that we not only see efforts to minimize the importance of race or racism, but at a moment when there is a rather sinister attempt to rewrite the antebellum era as the good old days of southern history. Virginia Governor Bob McConnell went so far as to designate a month in honor of the pro-slavery Confederacy.

Gates’ essay fits conveniently into the new discourse on post-racialism. Slavery was long ago, the story goes, and Black Americans have come such a long way. So, we need to stop embracing ‘victimhood,’ get over it and move on. We need to stop complaining and ‘end the blame game,’ with regards to racism. After all, doesn’t the election of Barack Obama relegate racism to the dustbins of history? Gates goes even further to suggest that even the worst marker of American racism, slavery, wasn’t so exclusively racial after all.

Clearly, there has been racial progress in the United States since the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. That progress was born of decades of struggle and protest. But we have not come as far as some would have us believe. And we don’t escape history by either tracing common ancestry or blaming others for comparable crimes. Reconciliation with the past is a long, arduous and complex process and there are no shortcuts. Moreover, ‘the past’ is not so long ago. In other words, chattel slavery ended in the United States in the 1860s but, as Herb Boyd, in yet another letter to the New York Times in response to Gates, rightly points out, “the economic disadvantage of Black workers extended beyond the long night of slavery into the iniquitous era of Jim Crow” (marked by segregation, legal disenfranchisement, and rampant violence). Moreover, we don’t have to go back to Jim Crow to see the ravages of American racism, a racism that took hold under slavery. Today, millions of young Black men and women are caged, shackled and dehumanized by a prison system that is growing rapidly, privatizing and increasingly exploiting the labor of its inmates. That scenario is far from Harvard Square, where police harassment lands you in the White House and on television. But the reality of the 21st century carceral state suggests that various forms of coercion and containment are palpably present today. It is not slavery but a powerful reminder of it. And once again people of color are disproportionately impacted.

Finally, despite its flawed and reckless uses of history, and powerfully disturbing political messages, there are some useful lessons embedded in Professor Gates’ essay. The lessons are about the self-serving role of certain Black elites, who in slavery times and now, will sell (or sell out) other Black bodies for their own gain and advancement. African royalty did it in the 1600s and 1700s. Comprador elites did it in colonial and postcolonial settings through the Global South. And certain public figures, in political, cultural and academic circles, do so today, with a kind of moral blindness and impunity that rivals the slave sellers of old. As we know, ideas have consequences. And misleading narratives that fuel and validate new forms of denial and given cover to resurgent forms of racism should not be taken lightly.

How poll taxes have historically hurt black Americans

Addressing the 103 rd NAACP Convention in Houston, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder likened new voter ID laws to poll taxes. Referring specifically to Texas voter ID laws, Holder said that “many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them — and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them.”

Poll taxes to disenfranchise black voters were not always so indirect. From roughly 1890 to 1908, Southern states actively adopted poll taxes to disenfranchise black Americans. During Reconstruction, black Southerners, the majority of whom had been enslaved, voted heavily, often sweeping those antebellum politicians out of office and widely electing black leadership, especially on the state level.

Because black Americans comprised as much as 40 percent of the population or more in many Southern states, their votes were very significant, and that power infuriated white Southern leaders, especially those who had fought hard to maintain slavery. And, back then, they were not at all shy about voicing their frustrations and what they intended to do to eradicate them.

Across the South, there was a great push to rewrite state constitutions where such policies of black voter disenfranchisement could be institutionalized. As a result, state conventions popped up all over the South. In these sessions, which were being recorded, these men did not hold their tongues regarding their intentions. There was no covert plan.

At a constitutional convention in South Carolina in 1895, the former governor and then U.S. Senator Benjamin R. Tillman, according to Frederic D. Ogden’s 1958 book The Poll Tax in the South published by the University of Alabama Press, claimed that black voters had been largely responsible for the reconstruction government and he, along with the men gathered there, was determined to prevent this from occurring again.

“. . . this must be our justification, our vindication, and our excuse to the world that we are met in convention openly, boldly, without any pretence [sic] of secrecy, to announce that it is our purpose, as far as we many, without coming in conflict with the United States Constitution, to put such safeguards around this ballot in the future, to so restrict the suffrage and circumscribe it, that this infamy can never come about again,” he spoke.

The president of Louisiana’s 1898 state constitutional convention, Ernest B. Krusttschnitt, was even more direct. “We have not drafted the exact Constitution that we should like to have drafted otherwise we should have inscribed in it, if I know the popular sentiment of this State, universal white manhood suffrage, and the exclusion from the suffrage of every man with a trace of African blood in his veins,” he proclaimed.

(1775) Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation

This historic proclamation, dated November 7, 1775 and issued from on board a British warship lying off Norfolk, Virginia, by royal governor and Scottish aristocrat John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, offered the first large-scale emancipation of slave and servant labor in the history of colonial British America. It grew out of Dunmore’s efforts to counter an impending attack on his capital of Williamsburg by patriot militia in the spring of 1775, when he several times threatened to free and arm slaves to defend the cause of royal government. By the time he retreated offshore he was already gathering slaves seeking refuge his November proclamation commanding Virginians to support the crown or be judged traitors now formally offered freedom to all slaves and indentured servants belonging to rebels and able to bear arms for the crown. Within weeks, several hundred slaves, many with their families, had joined him. They enlisted in what Dunmore christened his “Ethiopian Regiment” and formed the bulk of the royal troops that first defeated patriot forces but then fell victim to disease and attack, evacuating the Chesapeake Region for New York by August 1776.

Dunmore’s proclamation offered freedom only to those who would flee from rebel masters and serve the crown. Its purpose was strategic, to disable rebellion, rather than humanitarian, yet its effect was rather the reverse. White southerner colonists swung to oppose royal authority as it appeared that Dunmore and his “Damned, infernal, Diabolical” proclamation were inciting slave insurrection: nothing, it can be argued, so quickly lost the South for the crown. British officialdom, however, never repudiated the proclamation’s message and soon established an alliance with black Americans that brought thousands of escaped southern slaves to the side of the British forces operating in the south. The role and plight of these fugitives during and after the Revolutionary War would alter the course of a host of black lives and help swell sentiment, particularly in Britain, for an end to slavery and the slave trade. A short-term failure, Dunmore’s proclamation set in motion events far beyond its author’s intentions.

When Were Blacks Truly Freed From Slavery?

(The Root) — Though President Abraham Lincoln ended slavery with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 , slaves in Texas had no knowledge of their freedom until two and a half years later. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston and declared the end of the Civil War, with General Granger reading aloud a special decree that ordered the freeing of some 200,000 slaves in the state.

Because of the delay, many African Americans started a tradition of celebrating the actual day slavery ended on June 19 (also known as Juneteenth ). But for some, their cheers were short-lived. Thanks to the South's lucrative prison labor system and a deceptive practice called debt peonage , a kind of neo-slavery continued for some blacks long into the 1940s. The question then arises: When did African Americans really claim their freedom?

Chattel slavery in the classic sense ended with the Civil War's close and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Reconstruction followed, creating new opportunities for African Americans who owned and profited from their own land and dug into local politics.

"It's important not to skip over the first part of true freedom," says Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name : The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War ll and co-executive producer of the eponymous documentary film. "Public education as we know it today and the first property rights for women were instituted by African-American elected officials."

But the social achievements were fleeting.

"Put yourself in that place," Blackmon says. "You're enslaved, then liberated for 30 years, and then all of a sudden, a certain group of people begin a campaign to force you back into slavery."

Across the South, laws were instituted that stripped African Americans of their rights, making celebrations like Juneteenth a distant memory. A prison-labor paradigm developed. Jail owners profited from the hard labor of their black inmates who were incarcerated for petty crimes like vagrancy, which carried long sentences.

Prisons sold their workforce to nearby industrial companies to work as coal miners, for example, for as much as 9 dollars a month, and inmates were often worked to death. Elsewhere, whites fabricated debt owed by blacks, forcing them into peonage and trading years of free work for their freedom, a practice that spread across the Bible Belt.

But in 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved against that notion. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II by Japanese troops, Roosevelt signed Circular No. 3591 (pdf), giving teeth to the Anti-Peonage Law of 1867, which criminalized the practice. Dispatching a federal investigation, Roosevelt's team prosecuted guilty whites and effectively ended peonage in 1942.

However, African-American second-class citizenship has reappeared as a result of the war on drugs and draconian laws created during the 1980s. As civil rights litigator and author Michelle Alexander points out in her recent book, The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, the subjugation of African Americans through criminalization continues through the prison industrial complex.

"Racial caste is alive and well in America," Alexander wrote in the Huffington Post . "Here are a few facts … There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. As of 2004, more African-American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race."

But Blackmon explains that the American economy doesn't rely on prison labor for major financial gain the way the New South did. For that reason, he is hopeful that the prison industrial complex won't evolve into a form of modern-day slavery.

"As the crime rates have dramatically dropped in the last decade, people have begun to feel less threatened," Blackmon offers. "Now they can open their eyes and say, 'Why are these young men who really didn't do much of anything in jail?' "

Hillary Crosley is the New York bureau chief of The Root.

Black Soldiers in the Civil War

By Budge Weidman

The compiled military service records of the men who served with the United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War number approximately 185,000, including the officers who were not African American. This major collection of records rests in the stacks of the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA). They are little used, and their content is largely undiscovered. Since the time of the American Revolution, African Americans have volunteered to serve their country in time of war. The Civil War was no exception-official sanction was the difficulty.

In the fall of 1862 there were at least three Union regiments of African Americans raised in New Orleans, Louisiana: the First, Second, and Third Louisiana Native Guard. These units later became the First, Second, and Third Infantry, Corps d'Afrique, and then the Seventy-third, Seventy-fourth, and Seventy-fifth United States Colored Infantry (USCI). The First South Carolina Infantry (African Descent) was not officially organized until January 1863 however, three companies of the regiment were on coastal expeditions as early as November 1862. They would become the Thirty-third USCI. Similarly, the First Kansas Colored Infantry (later the Seventy-ninth [new] USCI) was not mustered into service until January 1863, even though the regiment had already participated in the action at Island Mound, Missouri, on October 27, 1862. These early unofficial regiments received little federal support, but they showed the strength of African Americans' desire to fight for freedom.

The first official authorization to employ African Americans in federal service was the Second Confiscation and Militia Act of July 17, 1862. This act allowed President Abraham Lincoln to receive into the military service persons of African descent and gave permission to use them for any purpose "he may judge best for the public welfare." However, the President did not authorize use of African Americans in combat until issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863: "And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service." With these words the Union army changed.

In late January 1863, Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts received permission to raise a regiment of African American soldiers. This was the first black regiment to be organized in the North. The pace of organizing additional regiments, however, was very slow. In an effort to change this, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton sent Gen. Lorenzo Thomas to the lower Mississippi valley in March to recruit African Americans. Thomas was given broad authority. He was to explain the administration's policy regarding these new recruits, and he was to find volunteers to raise and command them. Stanton wanted all officers of such units to be white, but that policy was softened to allow African American surgeons and chaplains. By the end of the war, there were at least eighty-seven African American officers in the Union army. Thomas's endeavor was very successful, and on May 22, 1863, the Bureau of Colored Troops was established to coordinate and organize regiments from all parts of the country. Created under War Department General Order No. 143, the bureau was responsible for handling "all matters relating to the organization of Colored Troops." The bureau was directly under the Adjutant General's Office, and its procedures and rules were specific and strict. All African American regiments were now to be designated United States Colored Troops (USCT). At this time there were some African American regiments with state names and a few regiments in the Department of the Gulf designated as Corps d'Afrique. All these were ultimately assimilated into the USCT, even though a small number of the regiments retained their state designations.

The Project

In February 1994, NARA began a pilot project to test procedures to arrange the compiled service records of Union volunteers prior to microfilming. This effort was made in conjunction with the National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS). The CWSS is a computerized database identifying combatants from the Union and the Confederacy. The data will include the name of the soldier or sailor and the regiment or ship to which he belonged. In addition, the system will identify the battles in which the named soldier's or sailor's unit participated. When this database is completed, it will be installed at the major Civil War sites operated by the Park Service. The CWSS will refer the park visitor to NARA for further documentation and information on Civil War participants.

The first index to be released by the National Park Service is that of the United States Colored Troops. This list of names will be available at the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as at NPS battlefield sites. The memorial is due for completion in the fall of 1997. When this monument is completed and the CWSS is in place, it is anticipated that there will be an increase in requests for the records of the USCT. Every new movie or television program about the Civil War period triggers a substantial rise in mail, telephone, and walk-in requests to NARA. To answer these demands in an era of downsizing, NARA created the Civil War Conservation Corps (CWCC). The CWCC is a volunteer project operating with over fifty private citizens who are members of the National Archives Volunteer Association. This group is opening and chronologically arranging the compiled service records of each soldier who became a USCT volunteer. This is the first part of a larger project to microfilm all the records of Civil War Union volunteer soldiers. NARA's collection of Confederate military service records is already available on microfilm.

The Records

The CWCC volunteers have brought to light records that reveal fascinating details and stories behind the names of the soldiers of the USCT. Samuel Cabble, for example, a private in the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry (colored) was a slave before he joined the army. He was twenty-one years old. Among the documents in his file was the following letter:

Dear Wife i have enlisted in the army i am now in the state of Massachusetts but before this letter reaches you i will be in North Carlinia and though great is the present national dificulties yet i look forward to a brighter day When i shall have the opertunity of seeing you in the full enjoyment of fredom i would like to no if you are still in slavery if you are it will not be long before we shall have crushed the system that now opreses you for in the course of three months you shall have your liberty. great is the outpouring of the colered peopl that is now rallying with the hearts of lions against that very curse that has seperated you an me yet we shall meet again and oh what a happy time that will be when this ungodly rebellion shall be put down and the curses of our land is trampled under our feet i am a soldier now and i shall use my utmost endeavor to strike at the rebellion and the heart of this system that so long has kept us in chains . . . remain your own afectionate husband until death-Samuel Cabble

The letter was in Cabble's file with an application for compensation signed by his former owner. It was used as proof that his owner had offered Samuel for enlistment.

Such manumission documents are unique to the records of the USCT. To facilitate recruiting in the states of Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky, the War Department issued General Order No. 329 on October 3, 1863. Section 6 of the order stated that if any citizen should offer his or her slave for enlistment into the military service, that person would, "if such slave be accepted, receive from the recruiting officer a certificate thereof, and become entitled to compensation for the service or labor of said slave, not exceeding the sum of three hundred dollars, upon filing a valid deed of manumission and of release, and making satisfactory proof of title." For this reason, records of manumission are contained in the compiled service records. Some documents contain well-known names. Several slaves belonging to Susanna Mudd, a relative of Dr. Samuel Mudd, enlisted in the Union army. Required evidence included title to the slave and loyalty to the Union government. Further, every owner signed an oath of allegiance to the government of the United States. Each statement was witnessed and certified.

The CWCC has also discovered five photographs, a rare find in the military records. Each picture depicts wounds received by the soldier. One such soldier was Pvt. Louis Martin of the Twenty-ninth USCI. The photograph was glued to his certificate of disability for discharge and shows amputation of his right arm and left leg. He participated in the battle known as "The Crater" at Petersburg, Virginia, on July 30, 1864, and received shell and gunshot wounds while charging the enemy's works. Further study of the service record leads the researcher to Private Martin's pension file, where an additional photograph is found.

The story of Garland White appears in the records of the Twenty-eighth USCI. He was a slave belonging to Robert Toombs of Georgia. White, who was literate, studied to become a minister while still a slave. According to documents in his file, he was licensed and "authorized to preach the Gospel" on September 10, 1859, in Washington, Georgia. In 1860 Toombs, with White as a house servant, was living in Washington, D.C. The Toombs's residence was two doors away from William Seward's, at the time a senator from New York. It is apparent from correspondence in his record that White enjoyed a friendly relationship with Seward.

During his time in Washington, White became a fugitive and made his way to Canada. According to his records, he was appointed to the "Pastorial Charge of London mission. The said mission being under the jurisdiction of the B. M. E. Annual Conference." It is not known how long he stayed in Canada, but he was very aware of the Civil War and knew that Seward was President Lincoln's secretary of state. He wrote to him from Canada and told him of his desire to serve his country in any way he could. Garland White returned to the United States (the exact date is not known) and began recruiting for the new USCT. He went to New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Indiana. He raised most of the men of the Twenty-eighth USCI. He petitioned Seward for help in obtaining the chaplaincy of the regiment. In his letter to Seward, White wrote, "I also joined the regiment as a private to be with my boys and should I fail to get my commission I shall willingly serve my time out."

On September 1, 1864, the Field and Company Officers elected Garland H. White chaplain of the Twenty-eighth USCI, subject to the approval of the secretary of war. On October 25, by order of the secretary of war, Garland H. White was appointed chaplain of the Twenty-eighth USCI. He was thirty-five years old. All the previous correspondence was found in his compiled military service record.

Among the documents in the compiled service records are many letters from mothers and wives. They detail hardship, illness, and most of all, lack of money. They are sometimes written by the sender and sometimes dictated, but all indicate the suffering war brought to everyone, especially the families of the African American soldier. Such suffering is evident in the pleas of Rebecca Barrett to her son, William, of the Seventy-fourth USCI.

My Dear Son
It is with pleasure I now embrace the opportunity of penning you a few lines to inform you that I am received your most welcomed letter for I had despaired of your writing. We are both sick pap is prostrated on his bed and has been so for three months and three weeks he got a little better but it did not last long I am very sorry that you have enlisted again for I wanted to see you once more You say you will send me some money do my son for God sake for I am needy at this time the Doctors are so dear that it takes all you can make to pay thier bill I work when I am able but that is so seldom God only knows what I will [do] this winter for I dont. Everything is two prices and one meal cost as much a[s] three used to cost when the rich grumble God help the poor for it is a true saying that (poverty is no disgrace but very unhandy) and I find it very unhandy for if ever a poor soul was poverty stricken I am one and My son if you ever thought of your poor old mother God Grant you may think of her now for this is a needy time. No more but remain Your mother Rebecca Barrat

From Letty Barnes to her husband, Joshua, of the Thirty-eighth USCI:

My dear husband
I have just this evening received your letter sent me by Fredrick Finich you can imagin how anxious and worry I had become about you. And so it seems that all can get home once in awhile to see and attend to their familey but you I do really think it looks hard your poor old Mother is hear delving and working like a dog to try to keep soul and body together and here am I with to little children and myself to support and not one soul or one dollar to help us I do think if your officers could see us they would certanly let you come home and bring us a little money.

She continues in this vein enumerating the various hardships the family is enduring. At the end of her letter she writes lovingly:

I have sent you a little keepsake in this letter which you must prize for my sake it is a set of Shirt Bossom Buttons whenever you look at them think of me and know that I am always looking and wishing for you write to me as soon as you receive this let me know how you like them and when you are coming home and beleave me as ever
Your devoted wife
Letty Barnes

Joshua Barnes received his buttons and was granted leave to visit his family. William Barrett did send his mother some money. Garland White survived the war and lived with his family in North Carolina. Samuel Cabble returned to Missouri for his wife, and together they moved to Denver, Colorado.

The compiled service records of the United States Colored Troops must not be overlooked when researching African Americans. The letters here are a small sample to be found in this important collection. They are a physical link to the Civil War era, and they bring to life the service of the African American soldier. As each jacket is arranged and prepared for microfilming, we come one step closer to bringing attention to a major group of unexplored records.

Note: All letters and quotations are transcribed as they were originally written and are from the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, Record Group 94.

Ms. Budge Weidman is a National Archives volunteer. She has served as the project manager for the Civil War Conservation Corps since October, 1994.


  1. Gamal

    Ask your calculator

  2. Dominick

    Thank you so much for your support. I should.

  3. Armstrong

    Get me fired from this.

  4. Dalziel

    I do not see in it sense.

  5. Eadwiella

    From worse to worse.

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