Fighting For Freedom: African Americans During the Civil War

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Regimental Colors of the 27th U.S.C.T. Regimental colors of the 27th United States Colored Troops. Item Link

After President Lincoln was assassinated and Andrew Johnson was sworn in, fears reverberated throughout the African American community in the North that Confederate loyalists would once again be in control. Quarter Master Sergeant James H. Payne writes his concerns for the new South.

As to the conditions of things as they are, and appear to exist here in the city of Wilmington, and I may say throughout North Carolina. So far as I can learn, trouble and destitution, as well as hatred and revenge, await our poor people in these Southern States, and it is to be regretted that the President has left so much to be decided by the choice of the prejudiced loyal white men of the South in the reconstruction of the States. Here the black man, though having fought to bring peace to the distracted country, after the victory is obtained, can have no voice in making laws which are to govern his future destiny in this country. No, but he must sit in a state of perfect dormancy, as though he were under slavery's cruel power still.

...(T)he President has left the matter of reconstruction with the loyal whites of the South, and now the argument attempted to be deduced is this: that no colored man should be allowed to vote, unless he can read and write. Now, if this is to be the motto, let it be applied to all men, for one unlearned man is just as unqualified to vote as another.

...There is a great deal to be done yet before the full attainment of our liberty in this country, and none can accomplish so great a work but God, and He alone. Then let every minister amongst us teach his congregation the importance of asking God in every petition to turn the strong current prejudice away from us. May our God work marvelous things for us now and forever. Amen.(1)

1. Redkey, Edwin S. A Grand Army of Black Men. Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 170-172