Tide Turns Case 7
African American Soldiers
Once African Americans were officially allowed to enroll in the U. S. armed forces in 1863, concerted efforts began to locate recently enslaved men and encourage them to sign up. The loyal governors in the South were especially active in forming “United States Colored Troops” (USCT) units. Here, for instance, Abraham Lincoln positively responds to efforts made by Virginia Governor James Pierpont, who had recruited 100 “colored men” in Alexandria.
But the enrollment and service of Black soldiers was not uniformly embraced by white Northerners. The racist theatrical genre of minstrelsy was a natural venue for mocking USCTS, often portraying them as comically unfit for duty. Yet other elements of American culture supported the idea, such as this popular piece of sheet music. Its author Henry Clay Work used the tropes of minstrelsy to craft a positive depiction of effective and brave USCTs marching into the South and seeking revenge on their former enslaver.
MS-1864.02.25 – AL to EMS granting Black men in Alexandria permission to enlist
M1640.W67 B33 – Babylon is Fallen