Emancipation's Diaspora

Emancipation's Diaspora: Race and Reconstruction in the Upper Midwest

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  • Book Info
    Emancipation's Diaspora
    Book Description:

    Most studies of emancipation's consequences have focused on the South. Moving the discussion to the North, Leslie Schwalm enriches our understanding of the national impact of the transition from slavery to freedom.Emancipation's Diasporafollows the lives and experiences of thousands of men and women who liberated themselves from slavery, made their way to overwhelmingly white communities in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and worked to live in dignity as free women and men and as citizens.Schwalm explores the hotly contested politics of black enfranchisement as well as collisions over segregation, civil rights, and the more informal politics of race--including how slavery and emancipation would be remembered and commemorated. She examines how gender shaped the politics of race, and how gender relations were contested and negotiated within the black community. Based on extensive archival research,Emancipation's Diasporashows how in churches and schools, in voting booths and Masonic temples, in bustling cities and rural crossroads, black and white Midwesterners--women and men--shaped the local and national consequences of emancipation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0557-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    For all its unintended consequences and unresolved implications, wartime emancipation was a singularly transformative event in American history. In its aftermath, four million people gained their freedom and a political economy based on chattel slavery was destroyed. Generations of scholarship have richly illuminated these consequences, particularly in the South.¹ But emancipation’s immediate and postwar repercussions extended well beyond the South, forcing a renegotiation of the “place” of African Americans in the North—both geographically and in the imagined body politic. Northern whites, infamously unwilling to “tolerate negroes, except as slaves,” according toHarper’s Weeklyin 1862, understood that southern emancipation...

  5. 1 “A Full Realization of the Barbarities of Slavery”
    (pp. 9-42)

    Kate Thompson spent twenty-seven years in slavery. Born in Missouri, she was bought and sold five times and separated from her husband and the father of her children, until the chaos of war and the collapse of Missouri slavery created the opportunity for her to ensure that her children would never be taken from her. Kate took her four small children and fled to Iowa. There, for the remainder of the war, she supported herself and the youngsters by working as a farmhand. Like thousands of other enslaved people in the Mississippi valley, she gambled on the risks and uncertainty...

  6. 2 “A Time of Scattering”
    (pp. 43-80)

    From the tobacco plantation in the far southwestern corner of Kentucky where they and nine of their ten children were held in slavery, Matilda and James Busey watched the Civil War unfold. The Buseys may not have known of Kentucky’s crucial role as a border slave state that did not secede, but by early 1862 they were aware that both Confederate and Union forces had invaded the state. They must have rejoiced when nearby Fort Heiman, just across the Tennessee River from Fort Henry, fell to the Union during General Ulysses S. Grant’s successful attack in February 1862. Like thousands...

  7. 3 “Overrun with Free Negroes”: The Politics of Wartime Emancipation and Migration in the Upper Midwest
    (pp. 81-106)

    Major Lyman Allen wrote to his hometown newspaper in March 1863, inquiring: “Are there any contrabands wanted in Iowa City, or its vicinity for help this spring? If so, please let me hear from you. I could send a large number to Iowa, if they were wanted, as there are many brought up the river at this time.” Writing from St. Louis, he noted that many former slaves gathered there “prefer going to Iowa than any other place.” But at home, some of Allen’s Iowa neighbors had other plans. They organized a public meeting to oppose “all schemes . ....

  8. 4 “To Go and Help Be Free”:
    (pp. 107-134)

    Wartime African American migration in the Mississippi valley was not only directed northward. A number of the men and women, who had already risked so much to escape slavery and begin new lives in the Midwest, chose to set aside their new opportunities on the home front and return south. Answering the call to take up arms against bondage, many former slaves who had made their way to St. Paul, Keokuk, Davenport, Des Moines, Burlington, Mt. Pleasant, Newton, and a number of smaller communities decided to return south, “to go and help be free.”¹ Most of them were soldiers, but...

  9. 5 “The Building Up of Our Race”: Creating a Life in Freedom
    (pp. 135-174)

    Twenty years after his family’s wartime escape from Missouri to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Moses Mosely reflected on the experience and promise of slavery’s destruction. He recalled that the enslaved

    had nothing, knew nothing, and desired nothing but his freedom; he regarded it as a pearl of great price. Although nothing but freedom, it was marvelous to the imagination of the slave; the transition from slavery to freedom was beyond description. It filled the soul at least for a while; there was but little room for anything else until some of the excitement had a chance to work off. . ....

  10. 6 “Freedom Was All They Had”: Civil Rights and Northern Reconstruction
    (pp. 175-218)

    In the aftermath of emancipation and the Confederacy’s defeat, African Americans of the upper Midwest quickly became involved in the legal challenges and political conflicts raised by the Reconstruction process. Like many northern whites, midwesterners were southward-facing when they endorsed the necessity of Reconstruction, particularly given the array of issues at play in the political reconstitution of the former Confederate states. But whites in the Midwest always turned their gaze homeward when they contemplated Reconstruction’s ramifications. This was especially true when African Americans forced their white neighbors to consider the meaning of black freedom and its relationship to citizenship, one...

  11. 7 “Agonizing Groans of Mothers” and “Slave-Scarred Veterans”: History, Commemoration, and Memoir in the Aftermath of Slavery
    (pp. 219-264)

    In the fifty years following emancipation and the close of the Civil War, African Americans sought to secure civil rights and citizenship, as well as to determine how slavery and its wartime destruction should be remembered. A culture of reunion emerged at the regional and national levels, one that encouraged sectional reconciliation by stripping the war of ideological conflict, but also by creating for white Americans a sentimental memory of slavery and emancipation.¹ Evidence of the local and lasting impact of the culture of reunion could be seen in popular, white-authored portrayals of African Americans in the Midwest that trivialized...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 265-266)

    Emancipation and Reconstruction brought short-term and long-term consequences to the upper Midwest. Black freedom, migration, and relocation to Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin had unprecedented social and cultural repercussions. For antebellum African American residents of the region, local slavery and the attenuated nature of black freedom were both superseded by the immediacy of southern slavery’s wartime collapse and destruction, the call to military service, and the wider citizenship claims that black men’s military service seemed to imply. In the South, thousands of men, women, and their families used war’s confusion and chaos to their advantage as they fled their masters and...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 267-338)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 339-374)
  15. Index
    (pp. 375-387)