Skip to main content

tv   The Civil War Emancipation in Washington D.C.  CSPAN  April 11, 2020 6:00pm-7:01pm EDT

6:00 pm
richmond.n at 7 p.m. eastern, 4 the apollo 13 astronauts hold a post-flight press conference describing their important mission and answering questions from the audience. 8:00 p.m. eastern, 5:00 p.m. pacific, lectures in history, a of then the development u.s. constitution and what he believes are its main principles. reel:00 p.m. eastern, america, fdr and world war ii, a franklinram from the delano roosevelt presidential museum focusing on fdr's involvement with key issues. that's what's coming up, here on american history tv. john: our next speaker, tamika nunley, is assistant professor
6:01 pm
of history in american comparative studies at oberlin college and conservatory. she's no stranger to virginia, having earned her, one of her m.a.'s and phd at the university of virginia. at oberlin, she created the history design lab that allows students to develop projects involving methodological approaches ranging from oral history, podcast, historical fiction and public history. remember what we said about our speakers and their commitment to mentorship and education. "the civiluthor of war and transformation of american citizenship." as i was preparing this introduction, i read her work in the flagship journal "civil war history," part of a roundtable discussion about new civil war revisionism. "women,s slavery and the
6:02 pm
boundaries of freedom in washington, d.c." is now under contract, i am pleased to say, explaining how black women in the nation's capital made claims to liberty during the civil war. women,gram today "free mobilizing emancipation and citizenship in wartime washington, d.c." ladies and gentlemen, tamika nunley. [applause] prof. nunley: thank you. good afternoon. i should thank you extra, because it is after lunch, late in the afternoon and you are still here. so thank you very much. and theu to john coski staff at the american civil war museum for the invitation to share my work, and for organizing and hosting such an exciting symposium. it's been a pleasure to get to know some of you all and also
6:03 pm
members of the museum. i want to kind of preface my talk by saying that sometimes works like mine are accused of being pessimistic,soi'd like -- so i'd like to say i didn't go into the archive looking for trouble. [laughter] but i found some very fascinating, interesting letters and claims and i thought they were worth discussing, and it kind of contextualizes and changes the conversation that we have about the civil war, and i am good with that. i'm ok with that. if you accuse me of being a pessimist, ok, that's fine. i will go ahead and proceed with my talk. my work on enslaved women during the civil war is largely concentrated in washington, d.c. archival sources not only show how freed women responded to the war, but sources show how decisions made in washington map onto the experiences of african
6:04 pm
american women more broadly throughout the chesapeake. some of which appears in my forthcoming book, and others i examined more recently during a trip to these archives here in december. each vignette reveals african-american women as a whole did not respond homogenously to the conditions war brought. confronted different challenges that came with the war, and express their frustrations when change did not come to them fast enough. a tapestry of perspectives that reveal the complexity of enslaved women's experiences during the war. most of the scholarship examines the reaction of enslaved women by whether or not they fled or remained on plantations or in households in which they lived prior to the war. i would argue however, that this dichotomy between those who fled to the union army or remained where they were oversimplifies the complexity of enslaved women's experiences during the war. i think this is kind
6:05 pm
of important, because the way i learned about the war and the role of african-americans, there is a war happening and then the emancipation proclamation somehow and then african-americans in the confederate states are freed. drivingt of legislation the narrative of emancipation and how we understand that. that happened, but more things also happened. even as the war shifted conditions in favor of emancipation, the struggle to become free or even retaliate against formerow owners was different for women depending on the region, the site of bondage, the government and legislate a body's ruling those territories and civilians within the vicinity. as the war progressed, soldiers, officials and legislators tial law and mar legislation helped usher in
6:06 pm
emancipation. refugee women took steps necessary to secure their while processing a social contract between themselves and the government. at various moments they negotiated with federal officials, and in other instances especially when law was not on their side, they took action of their own pollution. they expressed their own understanding of their rights. furthermore, black women refugees articulated the claims entitled to a free person, and initiated the process whereby they transitioned from the process of enslaved to freed women, and from freed women to american citizens. this process of self-actualization reflected beliefs about liberty held by black women during the war. in their self-making, black women reacted to the development of or in a variety of ways and navigated the complex legal system that dictated the terms of bondage and freedom in washington, virginia and maryland. historians noted the outcomes of the war were incredibly
6:07 pm
theingent -- and displacement caused by the war shaped the ways refugee women traveled to the nation's capital in search for loved ones, shelter, clothing, medical care and employment. one historian referred to this andtroubled refuge," reminds us we have barely touched the surface of the degree of suffering experienced by enslaved women and children during the war. those who became legally freed by wartime emancipation measures still struggled to realize the right to their own labor, and found conditions in the capital precarious at best. the emancipation process in washington, d.c. involved a series of critical policies instituted under martial law and enacted in congress. these include, and are worth noting because it demonstrates that these laws involve process, right? the first confiscation in 1861, the d.c. emancipation act of
6:08 pm
1862, the supplemental act of 1862, the second confiscation act of 1862, the emancipation proclamation of 1863 and the repeal of the fugitive slave law in 1864. later, all slaves eventually become free. this comp gated sequence of policy changes had varying impact on the lives of black women, particularly those arriving from neighboring slaveholding states. nestled between confederate territories in virginia and the loyal slave state of maryland, wartime policy in the district created uncertain terms of liberty. 62, congress approved the terms of freeing just over 3000 enslaved people in the nation's capital. the abolishment of slavery in washington legally set in motion the emancipation process, making the violation of the emancipation act a felony and with compensation for each enslaved person freed. slaveholders applying for
6:09 pm
compensation were offered a specific amount of money determined by assessed value of each enslaved person, which at times exceeded $300 allotted by the measure. the shift away from chattel the socialrupted fabric of the chesapeake. black women were ready for the possibilities, but legislators remained unsure as they consciously entertained the prospect of emancipation with broader implications in mind. so, vignette one, the board of commissioners. an enslaved862, girl named maria submitted a petition for her freedom. although the slaveholder applied for compensation for maria's mother and father, who resided with him in the district, he declared maria was not freed by the act. he argued because maria was hired out or rented out to a man outside the district, the new laws did not apply. while scholars argued be hiring out system of enslavement had undermined a slavery particularly in urban areas, in this case a preserve the institution by drawing on its
6:10 pm
chesapeake origins. the board of commissioners for emancipation in the district of columbia was handed tthat, "all who are outside of the district are consequently still slaves." thus maria remained enslaved for the duration of the war. because of the hiring out system, maria's owner not only found a way to get compensation for her parents but also found a way to invalidate her claims to freedom. in another case in the records of the board of commissioners, on december 16, 1862, emily filed on behalf of herself, two children and her sister alice thomas, who were all enslaved on a property belonging to alexander mccormick. mccormick refused to take advantage of the compensation provision of the new law, but emily saw an opportunity. he reluctantly appeared before the court after repeat -- receipt of summons.
6:11 pm
according to the records, mccormick "denied the constitutionality of the emancipation and said he would bite his time until it was declared unconstitutional." besides, he was a citizen with rights to property and why would anyone take seriously the claims made by an enslaved woman at this point in the war? just before his case was decided, mccormick reappeared before the court, and for the first time formally contended with emily. in this case, emancipation threaten the property rights of slaveholders and excluded white residents more generally from any democratic process deciding slavery in washington. emily's case revealed the unique geographic position of washington, d.c. and the neighboring chesapeake counties. as an enslaved woman, emily challenged the legal vitality -- validity of her enslavement and forced mccormick to provide testimony. law permitted enslaved women to testify against white men and women for the first time.
6:12 pm
evidence showed mccormick's farm was located along the border dividing the district from maryland, and one day after the emancipation act became law, he instructed the slaves to reside on the maryland side of the property. according to the records of the board of commissioners, he built a small tenement for them on the maryland side, while his main living quarters remained in washington along with the cow pen and other buildings on the homestead. while mccormick generally prohibited enslaved people from traveling to the district side of the property, it was proven that alice was "required to drive cattle from the pasture to the cow pen," which was technically located within the boundaries of the nation's capital. unidentified witnesses also testified they had seen the women and children in mccormick's washington home daily, and for approximately eight weeks emily and her family had resided in the district with an older man also bearing the last name wedge, identified as the father of emily's husband. the board of commissioners acknowledged emily's right to
6:13 pm
claim freedom under the emancipation act. so how could enslaved women and girls appealed to the court or testify against slaveholders? to logistical issues presented by resistance to the emancipation act led to the supplemental act of july 1862, which set forth terms under which enslaved women claimed free status, even in instances where a former owner refused to apply for compensation. it said, there shall be no exclusion of any witness on terms of color. this stipulation permitted enslaved people and refugees to testify against white people, a distinctive feature of the supple mental act. the reason i point this out -- supplemental act. the reason i point this out is that we cannot really understand the d.c. emancipation act of 1862 without understanding the , andemental actr and ho how it helped complete the process. it would be critical in countering white arguments that
6:14 pm
they were not residents of the district or had unlawfully claimed entitlement to the terms of the act. for the first time, enslaved women could speak, could testify against white men and women in court. this amended version of the emancipation act offered a more expensive means to claim freedom. however,egal measures, clashed with existing law in surrounding counties. depending on whether the laws of the confederacy or union applied, black women traveling could be considered enslaved. for instance, the fugitive slave law of 1850 stipulated fugitives must be returned and penalties should be imposed upon officials and locals who refused to return them. therefore, while thousands of enslaved women made their way to the district from loyal slaveholding states like maryland and delaware, even after emancipation the courts in washington, d.c. enforced fugitive slave laws on behalf of owners residing in states that professed loyalty to the union. white property rights were not
6:15 pm
antithetical to the aims of the union. secession was. competing legal priorities made life complicated for enslaved women hoping to claim freedom. thus, black women remained in a state of legal limbo as they navigated wartime policy created in the interest of states loyal to the union and the interests of those loyal to the capacity. -- confederacy. that you applicable orders of the chesapeake could either undermine or work in favor -- geopolitical orders of the chesapeake could either undermine or work in favor. refugee women arriving in the capital confronted uncertainty. some freed women travel to encampments for refugees supervised by military personnel, referred to as "contraband camps." camps appeared right near the silent, and mason currently roosevelt island -- land, currently roosevelt island. on robert e lee's confiscated
6:16 pm
estate in arlington, housing about 100 family homes. the villages were known for large populations of women, children and elderly frequent the depicted as dependents of the government. refugees were regarded as a burden on the government and the military. government officials envisioned the camp as a temporary community, and hoped to make employment arrangements with white families in need of additional labor in the north. the communities, however, cultivated gardens, earned wages, built homes, sewed clothing and built a school for children and a hospital. when offered refuge from violence and exultation, man -- exploitation, residents in the village felt they had created sustainable living conditions that allowed them to experience citizenship. contrastingly, just across the potomac between 12th and q street camp barker was comparatively different and looked more like a tent city, with higher mortality rates and
6:17 pm
unsanitary conditions. in 1854, when officials moved agreed, andnly 120 the remaining 685 refused to set foot on slaveholding territory. that gives you perspective of what they thought of virginia, even though the the village was a better camp. they charged between five dollars and eight dollars per month for damp shacks exposed to increment winters in the district. black women found it difficult to earn a living and keep themselves and their families healthy. many black children lost both parents during the war, and were first -- forced to rely on orphanages or relatives. their struggle for survival often ended in death. in 1864, as officials evicted three people from camp barker, one grandmother was forced to leave as her grandson was dying beside her. according to reports, the grandmother, who took care of
6:18 pm
the grandson since his mother's death, begged to stay until the child died, but was refused. camp barker, organized by the government to house an employee refugees escaped from confederate territory, served as an outpost not only of freedom but also of -- for instance, a missionary at camp barker observed in 1864, there is some suffering, but chiefly among the women who have small children. these can barely have the necessaries of life. imperiled of war black women in precarious conditions as many were charged with caring for young and elderly kin. like in many wars, women were also vulnerable to sexual violence. their treatment at times reflected abuse by a country that rendered black women's bodies as chattel, degraded and even disposable. in the aftermath of war,
6:19 pm
refugees flocked to union lines searching for asylum and opportunities to reclaim family and find work in sustainable communities built by freed men and within. contraband camps where -- were intermediate of the government providing assistance, but also at times exposing refugees to conditions similar to slavery. camps could have habits and customs that reminded black women that for the moment emancipation was incomplete. the story of one black woman, lucy ellen justin, is illuminating. on her arrival at camp barker, she understood she was supposed to work at the camp and earn food and clothing. she moved into the camp with her mother, while her husband works for the union army. prior to arrival, she was a chambermaid on a steamboat ship. shortly after arriving at camp barker, johnson had become ill and unable to perform her response abilities. when she asked for rations, a
6:20 pm
blanket and clothing, she was interrogated by the official at camp barker who just riveted supplies. he could not understand why johnson's has been not provided for her, but johnson said "i am here to earn my board." she offered to request money from her husband so that she could pay for needed items, but nichols responded "you can't buy them from me. you can't buy anything.' nichols clearly despised johnson and what he perceived as her dependence on the government. johnson said he should have spoken to her husband so she could find work elsewhere. she was ordered to a room, where she was pinned down and harassed by a corporal, sergeant and soldiers. they took her to a tent where they kicked her, and she reported that they fastened a rope and passed me over the limb weight waso my
6:21 pm
suspended by my thumbs. in this position, johnson recalls, one kicked me, another hit my throat. after half an hour of torture, she was finally released. according to one assessment, over 30 people file testimonies regarding abusive testimony at camp barker. stories like this are vivid reminders of the violent undercurrent during moments of legal emancipation. the contempt for refugee women who migrated to the nation's capital manifested in a variety of forms from abuse at contraband camps to violence from the public. the fact that refugee women made it to the union lines did not guarantee support from military and government officials. so much of their experiences were informed by the temperament and attitudes of those in
6:22 pm
position to wield the power of the federal government. us,ohnson's story tells legislation alone could not secure protection for african-american women. the third vignette, virginia. in february 1864, an enslaved estate must have heard news from afar on the war. she lived within the legal jurisdiction of the confederate states of america, and the court fixed her value at $800, no small figure in antebellum wartime terms. but in the csa, this amount was significant, if not inflated. just as washington was the citadel of the union, richmond, where fanny lived, became the stronghold of the confederacy. she undoubtedly learned of the advancements made by the army of northern virginia at the beginning of the war, and the neighboring battles. in the emancipation district of columbia certainly spread among enslaved women in
6:23 pm
richmond, and yet they waited in the grip of bondage where antebellum laws remained and demands where ever present in their day-to-day lives. in 1864, emancipatory transformation seemed to unfold everywhere but richmond. fanny set one of the buildings of the estate on fire. arson occurred regularly before the war. but at a time when locals struggled to overcome increasingly depleted resources, these alleged actions exacerbated existing tensions with the confederacy. her testimony is absent in the historical record, but we can infer a number of motivations. to begin, it is possible fanny was not the culprit, or if she was that it was an accident. scholarship on slave resistance however confirms the persistence of intentional act of arson by enslaved people, particularly during times of war. ofle the court had an issue clemency when the governor deemed it appropriate, we see fewer instances of leniency during the war.
6:24 pm
as a result, fanny received a sentence of sale and transportation beyond the limits of the csa. purchasedgly, she was at a sum of $800 and remained there for the duration of the war. her experience reveals the ways enslaved women might find themselves confined within the bastion of confederate territory with limited resources beyond geographically contained retaliation. later that year, the governor commuted the sentence of an enslaved woman accused of arson. jane, an enslaved woman in virginia, plead not guilty for setting ablaze the home of her owner, and received a sentence of death by hanging. the governor however commuted the sentence to sale and transportation outside the limits of csa. in the penitentiary in virginia, purchased at the exorbitant sum of $2000, not surprising considering the currency
6:25 pm
inflation toward the close of the war. 864, enslaved women learned how wartime the desolation freed thousands of former slaves and how union armies increasingly encroached on southern territories and brought news of emancipation. but for these women who lived within the final stronghold of lee's army and the seat of the confederate government, freedom did not appear in reach. fanny and jane's experiences illuminate the ways reactions to the war could be circumscribed by varying conditions of war and legal customs of sovereign nations which were -- in and of themselves. for some, reaching union lines could be nearly impossible, or came with its own challenges. refugee women who escaped confederate territory did not simply do so because the emancipation proclamation gave them an disputable authority to do so. instead, they evaded detection of confederate troops and fought nearby residents willing to expose them. wartime emancipation sparked
6:26 pm
violent backlash among regional boundaries from those who maintained the view that african-americans burdened the nation and by every means should be returned to slavery or relegated to second-class citizenship. during the war and towards its end, maryland remained a point of contention for refugee women and slaveholders even after the state adopted a new constitution banning the practice of slavery. the fourth and yet, maryland -- a vignette, maryland. new article ofhe the constitution of maryland making slavery and legal, a woman sent a letter saying that her owner dr. he was treated me badly, and this was my principal object of leaving. they informed me abraham lincoln could not free me and had no right to do so. along with slavery, much of the maryland codes oh no longer in effect, but the constitution made leaving an employer a punishable crime for black marylanders. free women struggled not only
6:27 pm
to realize liberty for themselves, but for children and family members. countless cases of child abduction emerged after the war as southerners made efforts to reconstitute their labor force. thus a provision intended to inaugurate a free labor system in maryland actually catalyzed the corrupt system of childhood abduction and labor exportation. the case forade parental rights. the apprenticeship system of maryland involved a convoluted collaboration between former slaveholders and corrupt justice. the marshal of the district of columbia observed, just days after the adoption of the new constitution, " a rush was made to the orphan's court of this county for the purpose of having all children under 21 bound to their former owners under the apprentice law." the apprenticeship arrangements were validated by local judges, who typically decided in favor of the former master and determined black parents were unfit to financially provide for
6:28 pm
their child, particularly where the father was away at work or war and could not directly claim the child's labor. in maryland, decisions of the court reflected a racial and gendered hierarchy that prioritized interests of whites first and then if at all black men as heads of household before black mothers. reminiscent of the plantation, the courts often reinforced white power and paternalism to decide the fate of black families. although the labor of all household members were critical to subsistence in the 19th century, local justices often refused to acknowledge the rights of black parents to protect the labor of their children. the judges and supported apprenticeship, as parents searched for children and attempt to declaim guardianship rights, facing threats and intimidation from former owners. instances, slaveholders hope to entice parents to remain on the farm by withholding the children. result, black women
6:29 pm
sometimes took matters into their own hands to retrieve their children from the grips of plantar exultation and create a life -- exploitation and create a life where they could enjoy the fruit of their own labors. one woman who formally belong to william townsend of talbert county reportedly told him "of my having become me and desiring my master to give my children and my bedclothes. he told me i was free but that my children should be bound to him." she testified further "he locked my children up so i could not find them. i afterwards got my children myself and brought them to baltimore." like many other freed women, she rest her life to save her children from on consented apprenticeship. she said "my master pursued me to the boat to get possession of my children, but i hid them." her story reveals the union government made the freedom of black women and children lawful, but not always tangible. even with the freedom rights gained from the war, black women
6:30 pm
continued the work every situated in relationship between themselves, government and the communities in which they lived. freed women navigated the geopolitical terrain as strategically as possible to avoid manipulative slaveholders or exploited work conditions in the north. the path to liberty and self-making could be isolating in the absence of trustworthy allies. the assistance and exposure to community resources found in local churches, schools and relief organizations supported the transition from slavery. the government played an unprecedented role in the affairs of freed people. founded in 1865, the bureau of refugees, freedmen and abandoned land employed commissioners for the complicated work of connecting people to family numbers, jobs and homes in the case of orphans. john eaton was assistant commissioner for the district of columbia, and corresponded with black women from maryland and virginia. in one letter, eaton instructed a military captain to visit freed people to find out about
6:31 pm
conditions of labor, find out where more labor is demanded and give those idling around the city opportunity to support themselves free from the vices and diseases likely to arise from spending time in idleness. eaton's order is riddled with stereotypes, but he made clear that their duties required of them to investigate all cases of destitution and provide food, clothing and medicine and medicinal attention, medical attention. the bureau divided the capital into districts, led by northern volunteers mostly women and those working for the commissioner. they sent volunteers to georgetown, and arranged for roughly 150 women to attend industrial schools throughout the country to work in education. general oliver otis howard charged eaton and other appointeders
6:32 pm
throughout maryland and virginia with determined as task of serving as the liaison between the federal government, white southerners and freed people. assistant commissioners carried out a number of orders that varied on a case-by-case basis. black women at times corresponded with sympathetic bureau officials and at times dealt with those who were less helpful, even resentful. of many responsibilities, they mediated conflict, answered letters about family members, addressed labor disputes and supervised placement of refugee women in jobs and homes. eaton sent agents to local counties to secure employment prospects for black girls, who were particularly in demand for jobs as domestic servants, with duties ranging from cooking, cleaning, washing, nursing and serving as an attendant for women and children. for black women unfamiliar with communities that demanded the responded to their queries. agents of the freedmen's bureau -- for black women,
6:33 pm
correspondence with eaton provided much-needed information about the whereabouts of places like maryland. during the war, the chief quartermaster of the department of washington secured employment for refugees arriving in the capital. this often involved placing children in the homes of strangers. freedom proved to be an isolating experience for young black girls and boys after the war. those who made it to the capital were either hired out in nearby maryland or sent from washington to cities like baltimore, philadelphia and new york. eaton wrote to one woman who hired a young girl named isabella. isabella's relatives contacted the assistant commissioner to learn of her residence and reach her at her new place of employment. in another letter addressed to a lawyer in philadelphia, eaton inquired after a young girl named cornelia robinson. he noted her family expressed concern about her whereabouts and wanted to make contact. the vero sent arrangements to send black girls in particular to northern cities without
6:34 pm
consent of the family members. in many cases, they were preferable to immigrant laborers and were regarded as more appealing sources of labor. the idea of black women and girls as ideal servants found ofelf in antebellum ideas slavery and ideas associated with domestic work. them,willingly employed despite objections from parents. the letters went beyond inquiries. in many instances, mothers and fathers hope to use correspondence to authorize retrieval of their children. liberty for freed women meant recognizing legal guardianship over their children, a novel concept after centuries of chattel slavery. by the end of the war, children found themselves separated from loved ones and in labor arrangements without their consent. locals and agents at times questioned the parenting abilities of black mothers, which further, kid efforts to claim their children. catherine green's children
6:35 pm
worked on separate farms in southeast virginia. requested eaton right to the people who hired them to demonstrate she had legal authority to possess her children. similarly, savannah johnson reached eaton in search of her 10-year-old daughter, phyllis. in one letter, eaton stipulated since phyllis was not legally bound with consent of her mother in the possible case of violence or resistance that savannah johnson was authorized to call upon the nearest military authority for assistance. a few days later, eaton sent another letter requesting release of the seven-year-old boy named jackson. jackson's mother adeline asked eaton for assistance. women like her did not relent easily to the request of the assistant commissioner. eaton sent another letter with the same request, saying we're in our duty to do all we can legally to reunite family separated under the old system of slavery. the customs of the "old system
6:36 pm
of slavery" proved hard to break in the region, even with assistance from the freedmen's bureau. the resistance of former slaveholders appeared regularly in correspondence. tosy berlin attempted recover her mother and four sisters from a mr. garnet, near fredericksburg, virginia. she noted that garnet starved them and they were working without compensation. eaton sent correspondence, i would respectfully recommend this statement be referred to the officer in charge of the district for investigation for the correction of any abuses. while the treatment of former slaves remains unchanged, the assistant commissioner's willingness to intervene and prioritize testimony of black women demonstrates freed women initiated a transformation of the relationship between themselves and the government. they had to articulate their preferred terms of labor for themselves and their family.
6:37 pm
they were engaged in both personal and political processes of self-making. the black women who sent letters to eaton apply to gender norms in their appeals to the federal government, and liberty -- particularly to those who subscribe to acceptable gender norms to secure that liberty. black women in treated officials to intervene when the reality of life for their loved ones conflicted with the entitlement of independent households. one woman requested eaton write on her behalf as she retrieved her daughter mary agnes from maryland. in that letter, he stipulated advice, acts with the authority and consent of her husband, the father of the said mary agnes, and so has full authority to bring her daughter home. no person or persons will interfere with her lawful act, in any offices of the army, so she may be so situated as to aid her.
6:38 pm
agnes called upon the hierarchy of patriarchy to reinforce her claims to her daughter, since eaton made reference to the consent of her husband. furthermore, the presence of the military provided another motivation to enforce compliance with the order. these are just a sampling of hundreds and thousands of letters to the bureau agents, and many of these women are kind of calling upon the right to be independent households, subsistent households that farm their own land. but in order to do that, they need the family members to be reunited. capitalmen in the approached eaton with expectation of advocacy as they faced off with resistant southerners, with both written endorsement and military support in the event of dispute. amelia hansen contacted the bureau to receive help retrieving her sons charles and israel. eaton stipulated that she was authorized to call upon the military for assistance. in another case, a woman
6:39 pm
requested assistance in securing her children, and eaton wrote, because he refused to allow them to come to her, she is fully authorized and backed by the military. queen, a grandmother to a 12-year-old, complained to charles mills would not give up the daughter to her. eaton made it clear she recognized mary as the rightful protector, as the father and mother of the child are both dead. officialsnd bureau were liaisons in the transition to freedom as black women called on their authority to recover loved ones from bondage. this correspondence reminds us that not every orphan was truly an orphan, even as children lost their parents, guardians again appealed to the bureau to intervene on their behalf. in final vignette, back d.c. black women not only attempted to seek release of loved ones from planters who exploited
6:40 pm
labor, but also to discharge loved ones confined in jail during the war. the release from prison could take up to a year or two after the war ended. they petitioned on behalf of john jones and caleb day, black forwho received convictions aiding slaves in an escape in 1863. convicted the same year president lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation, slavery still prevailed in the union and free and enslaved black people continued to disentangle themselves from the old legal regime. the refugees likely came from union territory, perhaps maryland or delaware, since the police regularly housed fugitives in the city jail. kinenced to 11 years, their hoped to appeal to the bureau for release. legallye states recognized emancipation, the convicted men had already served
6:41 pm
two years when jones submitted the inquiry in 1865. eaton realized these previous vertex based on slave laws were a problem at the end of the war when slavery became illegal. he pleaded with governors of maryland and virginia to ensure those confined for violations of the fugitive slave laws be granted pardon. in the capital, he wrote to president johnson requesting a pardon for a 13-year-old boy. the boy's mother who appeared like "an industrious, intelligent colored woman of good character worthy to provide awarer son" made eaton of the two-year sentence in penitentiary. the court charged him with theft. eaton learned of the union army brought to him -- brought him from the capital -- to the capital from nearby fredericksburg. condemned and can with hardened criminals, the -- confined with hardened criminals, the mother pleaded for his release, saying
6:42 pm
that he could be trained in virtue and usefulness as a citizen. young boys and girls and women and men who ran into legal trouble during the war found themselves not only in city jail, but workhouses is serving long sentences or living enslaved as late as winter 1866. social, economic and legal hurdles underscored the difficulties they confronted during emancipation. the struggles for employment free of explication -- one man would approach freed people with the purpose of hiring them out to farms in maryland. described as an older man of medium size with gray hair, planters paid him a hefty commission for securing laborers in neighboring counties. the planter deducted the commission from the wages the freedmen earned, leaving them little to nothing for their hard work. the bureau investigated the
6:43 pm
scheme and discovered the operation at new jersey avenue in washington, d.c. free people in the district faced explicated work conditions, but the -- exploitation of work conditions, but the institution that drove them to work proved even more menacing. scores of families plagued with starvation, poverty and disease. one agent reported several groups of refugees hired out to labor for wages arrived on farms infected with smallpox and other diseases. volunteers from the bureau set out to provide rations and investigate their condition further. agents made their way to d, l, and u streets were black families had erected shanties. the makeshift homes were far from sufficient in providing shelter in the bitter cold of february. communities of black families experiencedlleys harsh conditions even as agents
6:44 pm
provided these neighborhoods with relief when provisions became available. indeed, families huddled on virginia avenue between first and 2nd street were found in destitute condition at the beginning of winter, when many families were found in destitute conditions. even though they resided in the district prior to the war, the were depleted by wartime conditions. mary johnson lived on f street and bureau agents found her living in destitution despite the fact or has been worked for the union military. demanded that african-americans first survive the exigencies and devastations of war. to conclude, the union government offered the possibility for liberty through legislation, but the refugee women in this talk put those policies to the test during and after the civil war. the chances of becoming free were greater when the union government and military wielded authority and corresponding officials acted for legal transformation. but even under these circumstances, enslaved,
6:45 pm
refugee, fugitive and free women were not shielded from abuse and violent backlash. black women and men as well as government officials even employed the term "citizen" to describe african and citizens at the time of emancipation. but overstating this wrongly suggests that all white unionists extended to refugees invitation to share equally in the rights of american citizenship. republican support and military authorization of emancipation did not always translate into the lives of black women, but they continued well after the civil war to forge a social contract between themselves and the federal government. the emphasis on the action of womenauthorities, freed struggle to define the terms of their inclusion. navigating liberty required a more collaborative process. this doesn't mean they didn't appeal to soldiers, federal authorities or even call upon 19th-century gender norms.
6:46 pm
they strategically navigated a change in government and society to make legislation a reality. black women challenged the notion that liberty stopped at legal imagination. andg tactics like appeals petitions to the government, black women found shelter, food, jobs and support for survival. the war and prospect of emancipation presented opportunity for these women to imagine and act upon this for themselves. lawmakers enacted legislation ending centuries of chattel slavery, black women and men decided for themselves their own future in the country where they fought and toiled and lived in. thank you. [applause] >> we have about 10 minutes for questions. once again, raise your hand and the microphone will come to you.
6:47 pm
>> thanks very much for that. i have two quick questions. i actually wrote them down so i don't ramble on. [laughter] as they say. thinking about place. we had a conversation last night about the sense of place, obviously tied up. have you done any research of finding the actual sites, any sort of memorialization in the district or in northern virginia of these sites, other than at arlington, of the camps, the places you talk about with your research? the second thing, also speaking of place. have you done any contrasting of the experience, the city experience of freed women in d .c. versus baltimore, with their
6:48 pm
proximity but very different lyrical nature? thank you. prof. nunley: thank you for your question. in terms of place, we obviously lee's estate does a fairly good job acknowledging the role of freedmen's village, in this part of the talk. there are some other camps. librarythe anacostia does a very fine job of looking at, kind of reporting some of that work. also, the churches. do ame churches in d.c. really great job of remembering and understanding african-american experiences in the district. i think there certainly is an effort to do that, and i think it has been a fine effort thus far. but as we see, there's so many ways you can mark place and understand it. in terms of your second question, in the book i have a
6:49 pm
chapter on black girls in schools. it is really fascinating, because there are these schools for black girls that emerge kind of leading into the war, and the mayor of washington, he kind of gets really worked up about it. he basically says, these schoo ls for black girls are a threat to the union, which sounds like, whoa, that's hyperbolic. but it just goes to show the kind of work, the building african-american communities and white allies were doing in the district, to kind of make space for liberty and self-making in ways that were really successful leading into the war and during the war as well. we see counterparts of those schools, particularly run by the catholic church, the borders of black nuns in baltimore as well. there are so many different
6:50 pm
stories, which i hope my talk captured. there were moments where emancipation works and works really well, and because of the help they are able to solicit from authorities and military officials. and sometimes it really doesn't. it really just depends on the place and the people who are asking alongside these women. so thank you for your question. >> i have a couple questions. struck by thei'm term "contraband camps." i'm assuming that relates somehow to the refugees themselves, that they were formerly considered chattel or property. is that correct? prof. nunley: absolutely. yes. "contraband" was a term employed particularly after the first confiscation act was passed, to underscore this is property that's being taken from the confederacy, and this is kind of the legal strategy that is being
6:51 pm
employed at the beginning of the war. and term kind of sticks, people actually refer to refugees as "contraband." then they said we should probably call them refugees, but acknowledge contraband was a term that was actively used. i might add, in the 19th century it was used not only by people who were in the military, but by african-americans themselves who were freed and were part of the existing communities. so i think it was understood that they were coming from slavery, and that kind of gave them a particular both legal status and social status as well. ere's second question, th kind of a striking similarity that i'm seeing between the circumstances of freed slaves being seen as a danger to the current worldour
6:52 pm
the immigrants coming from central america, viewed as threats to the union. could you comment on that? prof. nunley: oh, boy. [laughter] i don'tthink, necessarily see the correlation, mainly because we are not in a war right now, right? but i do think the idea of refuge, the idea of sanctuary, is something that definitely kind of resonates in the current moment, thinking about immigration. many cities have responded by declaring themselves as sort of an umbrella of refuge and sanctuary. so in that sense, you might see some correlation as well. but i think how it manifests itself on the ground is very different, because of war. war is what makes, sort of defines refuge in this
6:53 pm
particular region very differently than what we see happening now. it doesn't mean there isn't conflict happening on the borders today, but i think the connotations are very different because of the way the country as a whole is responding. >> hi. just has a point of information. i lived in washington, d.c. there is a bridge that was renamed "freedom village bridge" in arlington that commemorates the existence of that freedom colony. i volunteer at the african american civil war museum. we do talk about camp barker inside of the exhibit, so i invite everybody to come and read about camp barker. there's no marker or anything, but we talk about it at the museum. just a couple of questions. 's always a there question about refugees being
6:54 pm
paid, a lot of controversy about that. can you talk about what percentage of refugees actually worked and got paid, versus those who didn't? second, we know a lot of men are the first ones to escape, but there's a question of what percentage of escapees and refugees are male versus female, can you talk about that? marylandin th they instituted a policy where black men can join the army, but it doesn't free their family. kentucky and missouri, you hear a lot of stories about family members being persecuted. can you -- do you get into that in your studies? prof. nunley: sure. i feel lucy ellen johnson is a very good example of persecution, in the district at camp barker. so i do get into that. i also get into things that are
6:55 pm
a little stickier, too. what happens when your husband goes off to war, and never comes back? not because they are dead, but they just never come back, or never send money home, and then you are kind sent into a tailspin? i talk a lot about prostitution and how that actually ends up being something we see a proliferation of, black and white women participating in the district. i'm forgetting your other question. your other questions, about the ratio of refugee women versus men running to union lines? escaped,tionately, men and that had been the case before and during the war. but i also think it just depends on where the military is, too, where the union army is, that is really going to drop people, regardless of gender, depending on whether or not the union
6:56 pm
military is close by. but i do think men sort of run to union lines, believing they can lend their services, can lend their labor in a particular way, and we see more of that. i don't think we have figures as precise as they should be, so i'm very resistant to put a metric, contrary to susanna. and your first question? people getting paid. yes, so a lot of times the biggest way they got paid was actually three things that they needed, like food. food rations, clothing rations, bedclothes and so forth. but also giving them a space. in freedmens village, giving them room to cultivate gardens and build buildings and homes, institutions, kind of positioning them economically to participate in the local economy. but in the district in
6:57 pm
don't, there were over 40,000 refugees, and so really it was the onus of the quartermaster to determine who would be able to get rations and that sort of thing. i'd say that was more the form of compensation that you see most, unless you were specifically kind of commissioned to build fortifications and that sort of thing, or join the military more formally. as womenwondering, were pursuing their freedom and job opportunities, what was the attitude among african-american men? did they feel threatened at all? and also, where white women supporting other women in this pursuit, thinking it would open opportunities for them? prof. nunley: there were a lot of white women, including mary todd lincoln, who fund raised and assisted with relief and placement of jobs as well. how men responded to
6:58 pm
enslaved women working, i think the idea was that if you are a andgee and were now in d.c. you could claim some semblance of freedom depending on legally where you stood, the idea was everybody needs to work. and, to survive the war. i want to hone in on the fact, even though i talk about the devastation and the poverty, that is across the board regardless of race, regardless of where you are in the region. so i think that sort of instinct and drive to survive is very much at the center of how people are thinking about employment. but as a caveat, i do think once we get into the reconstruction south,rticularly in the it does become a status symbol formerly enslaved people who do not work, it becomes a status symbol for themselves and their husbands that they don't work.
6:59 pm
but in those wartime years, the imperative is to work. we see many people, many black couples sort of owning and running bawdy houses and doing things that are going to get them into some trouble. [laughter] but it actually ends up being lucrative, because of the way that prostitution and leisure pursuits kind of take off in d.c. during that time. thank you for your question. >> any other questions? >> thank you very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> learn more about the people and events that shaped the civil war and reconstruction every saturday at 6:00 p.m. you are watching
7:00 pm
american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. like us on facebook at c-span history. on april 17,go, 1970, astronauts james lovell, ,ohn swaggart and fred haise after non-board explosion caused critical system failures and almost stranded the crew and space. next, the press conference four days later at the johnson space center in houston. i would like to introduce the apollo 13 crew, captain james john -- mr. john swigert, esther fred haise. >> i would like to start by saying i am not a superstitious person. therefore, when


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on