Reconstruction American Style

A New Birth of Freedom: Reconstruction During the Civil War

A New Birth of Freedom:
Reconstruction During the Civil War

Images of Contrabands

The Civil War, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, brought to America “a new birth of freedom.” And during the war began the nation’s efforts to come to terms with the destruction of slavery and to define the meaning of freedom. 

By the war’s end it was already clear that Reconstruction would bring far-reaching changes in Southern society, and a redefinition of the place of blacks in American life.

Images of black soldiers The Civil War did not begin as a total war, but it soon became one: 
a struggle that pitted society against society. Never before had mass armies confronted each other on the battlefield with the deadly weapons created by the industrial revolution.

The resulting casualties dwarfed anything in the American experience. Some 650,000 men died in the war, including 260,000 Confederates — over one-fifth of the South’s adult white male population.

Image of Black Soldier At the war’s outset, the Lincoln administration insisted that restoring the Union was its only purpose. But as slaves by the thousands abandoned the plantations and headed for Union lines, and military victory eluded the North, the president made the destruction of slavery a war aim — a decision announced in the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863.

The Proclamation also authorized the enlistment of black soldiers.

By the end of the Civil War, some 200,000 black soldiers had served in the Union army and navy, staking a claim to citizenship in the postwar nation.

During the war, “rehearsals for Reconstruction” took place in the Union-occupied South. On the 
South Carolina Sea Islands, the former slaves demanded land of their own, while government officials and Northern investors urged them 
to return to work on the plantations.
Images of Freedpeople

In addition, a group of young Northern reformers came to the islands to educate the freedpeople and assist in the transition from slavery to freedom. The conflicts among these groups offered a preview of the national debate over Reconstruction.


Through a reexamination of the earliest struggles against Jim Crow, Blair Kelley exposes the fullness of African American efforts to resist the passage of segregation laws dividing trains and streetcars by race in the early Jim Crow eraRight to Ride chronicles the litigation and local organizing against segregated rails that led to the Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896 and the streetcar boycottmovement waged in twenty-five southern cities from 1900 to 1907. Kelley tells the stories of the brave but little-known men and women who faced down the violence of lynching and urban race riots to contest segregation.

Focusing on three key cities — New Orleans, Richmond, and Savannah — Kelley explores the community organizations that bound protestors together and the divisions of class, gender, and ambition that sometimes drove them apart. The book forces a reassessment of the timelines of the black freedom struggle, revealing that a period once dismissed as the age of accommodation should in fact be characterized as part of a history of protest and resistance. [Publisher’s description.]

2010 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Award, Association of Black Women Historians

“Narrates the stories of courageous but obscure men and women who faced lynching to challenge segregation. . . . Kelley causes a reexamination of the period described by historians as the ‘age of accommodation.’” — The Courier

“The age of [Booker T.] Washington is most frequently remembered as an age of accommodation, when black people . . . cowered beneath the descending shadow of Jim Crow. . . . Blair Kelley alters our understanding of this era. . . . [Her] reassessment of the nadir encourages us to measure accomplishment with a long view, to judge first our willingness to sacrifice and refuse to denounce as cowards those who fail today so that we can win tomorrow.” — The Nation

Published by University of North Carolina Press.

Through a reexa…

The US Revolutionary War or the US first Civil War

The US Revolutionary War or the US first Civil War:
The King of England who was also the English Pope of his Anglican Church, hired people from the new USA, US Citizens to kill other US Citizens. They were called Loyalists. Their reward was a ticket to heaven for killing for their Anglican Sky-God and that Gods King here in earths purgatory.
Soldiers for the King requirements: They hired 17 year olds except drummers who could be ten. Must have all limbs and stand at least 5 foot three. “Have no ruptures or be troubled by fits” Plus they must have two teeth that meet so they were able to tear the paper that wrapped the gunpowder and the ball of a musket cartridge.

Columbia is an historical and poetic name for America – and the…

Columbia is an historical and poetic name for America – and the…:

Columbia is an historical and poetic name for America – and the early United States of America in particular, for which it is also the name of its female personification. Here is the picture of the US hustle to join the first world war of three cousins, grandchildren of Queen Victoria in the British land side ruled by a German King who had to change the family name to Windsor. 

War of the Nations, 1919

French Who Said at Verdun: "They Shall Not Pass!" (LOC)Woodrow Wilson, Twenty-Eighth President of the United States (LOC)Newton D. Baker, United States Secretary of War (LOC)General John J. Pershing, Commander In Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces (LOC)Alert to Guard Their Comrades Against (LOC)German Infantry and Artillery Units in Action (LOC)
When the Mighty Invasion Swept Over The Border (LOC)Tense Moments While Awaiting Orders to Charge (LOC)When England Came to the Help of Invaded Belgium (LOC)On Their Way to the Battlefields of the World War (LOC)Hearty Welcome to the Gallant Troops That Wear His Country's Uniform (LOC)Hapless Towns Lying Directly In the Track of War (LOC)
Cavalry Action Before Trench Fighting Began (LOC)Withdrawing After Courageous Fighting Against Overwhelming Odds (LOC)Crumbling Of Belgian Forts Before Huge Artillery (LOC)Huge Siege Guns of the Central Powers Used in the Smashing of Forts (LOC)River Warfare on the Numerous French Waterways (LOC)Gigantic British Gun Used to Check German Advance (LOC)
Belgians Fighting Doggedly Against Great Odds (LOC)Long Trains Of Supplies Accompanying the German Armies in Belgium (LOC)Terrific Pounding Of German Lines by British Howitzers in the Battle of the Somme in 1917 (LOC)Building Shelters For Use As Winter Quarters (LOC)Noonday Rest with Arms Stacked and Equipment Thrown From Weary Shoulders (LOC)Where Snowclad Peaks Stand Against the Sky Line (LOC)

In remembrance of the Union and Confederate soldiers who served in the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Liljenquist Family recently donated their rare collection of almost 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs to the Library of Congress. NOTE (2012): The collection has grown with new donations, including many soldiers with names and also Confederates.

Most of the people and photographers are unidentified, and we’d love to learn more about them. Please let us know if you recognize a face from your family, a regiment, or a photographer’s painted studio backdrop! You can read some of the personal stories that did survive in notes found with the photo cases.

These fascinating photographs represent the impact of the war, which involved many young enlisted men and the deaths of more than 600,000 soldiers. The photos feature details that enhance their interest, including horses, drums, muskets, rifles, revolvers, hats and caps, canteens, and a guitar. Among the rarest images are African Americans in uniform, sailors, a Lincoln campaign button, and portraits with families, women, and girls and boys.

Group portraits also feature interesting poses, including soldiers with each others’ cigars.

Politics, Copyright and the First-Amendment Commons

Politics, Copyright and the First-Amendment Commons:

On the eve of the Republican primary in Florida, the Romney campaign started running a new television ad called “History Lesson.” Romney was coming off Newt Gingrich’s double-digit win in South Carolina and the momentum in the campaign for the 2012 Republican seemed to be shifting, perhaps decisively, in Gingrich’s favor. With only ten days between primaries, the Romney campaign needed a new, hard-hitting approach and it needed to act quickly.

The new ad was a key part of that. The thirty-second ad was quite simple and straightforward. The last couple of seconds were the obligatory “I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message” while the first twenty- seven seconds were just a video clip from the NBC Nightly News broadcast of January 21, 1997. The familiar voice but much-younger face of anchor Tom Brokaw came up and Brokaw opened that evening’s newcast with the lead story of the day: then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had been found guilty of ethics violations by the House of Representatives in a vote of 395-28 and had been ordered to pay a $300,000 fine in connection with the violations. (You can read the front page story of the January 22, 1997 Washington Post here.)
There can be little doubt about why the Romney campaign chose to run the clip from the Nightly News. The campaign wanted to hit Gingrich with what they say as a strong charge against him and they wanted to avoid accusations that they had cherry-picked the facts for the ad. What better way to do that than to use the expression of a highly-regarded, wholly independent source, such as Tom Brokaw and the Nightly News.
Brokaw and NBC saw the matter differently. As was widely reported, on January 28, 2012, three days before the Florida primary, NBC sent a letter to the Rommey campaign asking the campaign to cease using NBC news material in Romney campaign ads. NBC had made similar requests of other campaigns that had used material without first seeking permission from NBC. Brokaw himself was quoted as saying that “I am extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of my personal image in this political ad” as Brokaw did “not want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain by any campaign.”
The letter istelf (a copy is available at is short and to the point. The material used in the Romney ad was under copyright and the Romney campaign was using the material without permission. The letter further suggested that the way in which the material was being used suggested that NBC had consented to its use. And beyond copyright, NBC complained that “this use of the voice of Mr. Brokaw and the NBC News name exploits him and the jouralistic credibility of the NBC News.”
We start with legal issues and then turned to bigger picture considerations. On copyright, the core structure of copyright’s fair use is use without permission. To complain of use without permission is simply to complain about how copyright is organized, which is fine, but when we think of what scope fair use should have the use by the Romney campaign seems as fair as it can get. It is apparent to all, I think, that the reason the campaign used the materials was precisely that NBC and other leading news organizations are seen as having journalistic credibility. The Romney campaign wanted to offer up an independent framing of the 1997 ethics charge, not one that was somehow seen as concocted by the Romney campaign. A 15-year old news clip was the perfect was to do this. And, of course, the age of the clip meant that no one could seriously think that NBC or Brokaw were, in 1997, endorsing the 2012 Romney campaign.
Beyond this, the trump card that NBC and Brokaw sought to play would seem to mean that professional video representations of historical facts would simply be taken off of the table for political campaigns. It is hard to see how NBC and similar organizations could ever consent to use, given that consent itself would seem to be inconsistent with the neutral role of news organizations. Far better to have the fair use regime, where there is no consent and no sense of endorsement by a news organiation of one campaign over another.
Then we get to the bigger picture on this. I have this sense, with more frequency than I would like, that major media organizations think of the First Amendment as something that runs in their favor but never against them. A First Amendment for me but not for thee. It would have been nice if NBC and Mr. Brokaw had seen this as an opportunity to invest in the First Amendment ecosystem. That would have meant acknowledging the legitimacy of the use of the video clip by the Romney campaign and the need for such use in a vibrant democracy. Instead, NBC saw its interest in the narrowest terms possible and threw away a great opportunity to demonstrate how the First Amendment should work in a robust democracy.