By Holly Pinheiro
Prior to the 1960s, most white historians outright ignored the wartime experiences of African American soldiers. Few white historians, including Dudley Cornish, discussed United States Colored Troops regiments, and their analyses took a largely military focus by cataloguing a regiment’s mustering in and out process, military engagements, deaths, and causalities. These white historians opted to avoid any substantive discussion of African American military service. African American historians, conversely, began examining African American soldiers almost immediately following the war and continued long after. Historians, such as William Wells Brown, Joseph Wilson, and George Washington Williams, sought to rightfully place the wartime experiences of African American soldiers at the center of their monographs. These scholars sought to humanize African American soldiers’ experiences and highlight the fact that their service was not only masculine patriotism, but also legitimized their claim for citizenship rights while simultaneously participating in ending slavery. Even with the breadth of scholarship that scholars continue to produce on the topic of African Americans soldiers during the Civil War, obvious gaps in the historiography remain. Who were these soldiers long before their service? How did these young men, the families, and local communities combat the onslaught of racism in Northern society in the antebellum era? Did their motivations to enlist reflect the idealism that advocates of enlistment championed during recruitment campaigns? How did military service negatively impact the Northern African American families left behind? These are crucial questions that are at the center of my research, and until now, remained unquestioned and unanswered. My objective in conducting this research is to humanize the individual soldiers and their families to show how war affected the front lines and the home front simultaneously — thereby revealing how Northern African American families experienced the Civil War. This research focuses on African American New York soldiers and their families because their lived experiences deserve scholarly attention if we ever hope to understand how the war impacted Northern society.
This is an exclusive excerpt, adapted from the author's new book (released today!),
Dagger John: Archbishop John Hughes and the Making of Irish America, courtesy of Cornell University Press.
Clifton Hood's In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis
By Jason M. Barr and Gerard Koeppel
The Manhattan street grid plan of 1811 — both figuratively and literally — defines the city. It has created its identity while prompting continuing debate about whether it’s the “greatest grid” or “one of the worst city plans.” Despite the endless fascination after 200 years and counting, the grid’s history and its effect on Gotham are still not fully understood. We aim to correct the record. Here, we introduce some key misconceptions and their corrections; in eight monthly installments, we will discuss each one in more detail.
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