Category: America

Why White People Love Africans (But Can’t Stand African-Americans)

I’ve been aware of the preferential dynamic between Africans and White Americans for a very long time. It’s something I witnessed all throughout childhood and well into adulthood. It wasn’t a secret that professors at my university showed preferential treatment to African immigrant students, both in instruction and in resources. And it’s not uncommon to hear about preferential hiring and promotional decisions in favor of African employees as opposed to Black Americans in the workplace. I mean it’s cool for Africans and white people to love each other, the problem arises when innocent people are affected by this preferential treatment and biased decision making. It wasn’t until I saw the effects of such treatment played out in my own life that I thought to explore why this dynamic existed. Now these are just my theories, but let’s explore 5 possible reasons why white people love Africans (but can’t stand African Americans).

“All of the Melanin, None of the Guilt”

Slavery is America’s greatest sin. No matter how much white people would have us forget it ever occurred, grab our invisible bootstraps and move on, we know that can never happen. The truth is the residual effects of slavery are sewn into the fabric of this country, making the avoidance of guilt a seemingly impossible feat, especially when you’re still wearing it’s clothing. Not to mention, interfacing with your victims on the daily can get pretty taxing. Of course the white people we see today aren’t the ones who steered the ships and physically chained us, but their willingness to maintain hold of the privileges they inherited through these atrocities lets us know that they’re in no rush to make amends. And because White people feel this unavoidable sense of guilt when it comes to forging on in their ancestors bloody footsteps, their subconscious is always thinking of ways to avoid further persecution. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to avoid who makes you feel guilty about it.

If this observation is accurate, then it only makes sense for white people to prefer Africans immigrants. Not only can they whip out the “I have a friend from Ghana” card, but they also get to avoid the social responsibility, the expectation of ally-ship, the acknowledgment of wrongs, the challenging of old family beliefs, and many other responsibilities that come along with befriending Black Americans. Sure, the Transatlantic Slave Trade began in West Africa but white people don’t see slavery as a crime committed against Africans — at least not directly. So in the context of friendships and intimate partnerships between Africans and White Americans, these topics are easily avoidable. No victim, no crime. No rallies to attend, no protests, no boycotts, just guilt-free fun. The African friend essentially acts as a breath of fresh air to the white conscious.

“Is This Wakanda?”

Now this next sentence may not go over well, but Black Twitter will pretty much tell you all you need to know about Black culture. What we eat, how to cook it, how to season it, what we’re listening to, who we love this week, who we hate, what boycott we’re half-assing, where the cookout is, how to get there, and what kind of raisins to bring for the potato salad. Black people don’t keep much of anything a secret when it comes to Black culture. Nothing is off limits and nothing is too sacred to discuss out in the open. That’s not necessarily something to fault Black Americans over but when has easy access ever made us more appreciative of something? Not to mention that Black American culture derived from the culmination of European influences and whatever remnants of African culture were permitted to remain on the plantation.

White people know Black culture well because they had a huge part in its inception — been there, stole that. In contrast, African culture is a little harder to access. You won’t find nationally televised shows depicting a modern African way of life, there is no continent-wide cookout for us to dish out invitations to, there’s no honorary South African pass for best gwara-gwara dance, and you won’t find Nigerian gele (traditional West African style of headdress) at Forever 21 or Zara. African culture is tied to Africans which means you must go through the people to access it, which white people have proven they have no problem doing. White people cant get enough of things that aren’t made for them and it doesn’t get more F.U.B.U. than African culture.

“Let’s Have a Pity Party”

National Geographic came forward this year and issued an apology for historically racist coverage of Africans and indigenous groups around the world. Shocker. But that apology doesn’t do much to rectify the lasting imagery that their coverage created. The naked African hunting bushmeat in the forest, the bloated belly of a starving African child, the drug fueled African warlord, some of these images are the only images of Africa that many Americans know. Leading some white Americans to see African immigrants as personal charity cases, whether warranted or not. It’s not uncommon for a white person to befriend an African immigrant for the sole purpose of feeling like a do-gooder. Who else would introduce Mbutu to the wonders of pants and forks? The destitute African friend gives White Americans their much needed dose of heroism, which is not the case for the Black American friend. And why is that, you might ask? Black Americans are somewhat destitute in their home country, are they not? The answer to that question is yes, we most certainly are. But it’s a little more difficult for white people to feel sorry for Black Americans because that would require them to acknowledge their participation in keeping Black Americans destitute in the first place. And white people hate feeling guilty, especially when they’re guilty.

“You Are Really Dumb… Forreal.”

Generally speaking, White People are ignorant. And despite all of the free information at our fingertips, many will choose to remain in that state. And it’s probably best they do, simply based on the fact that most of the ideologies, advancements, and innovations that white culture promotes and celebrates were birthed from Black minds, which for many would be too big a blow to their egos.

What we know about white people’s silent inferiority complex is that it’s very important to them to feel in control, in power, and in moral authority, which is hard to do if you’re constantly being called out on your immorality. And while it’s impossible to avoid the very obvious connection between the condition of Black America and its relation to White America, it’s a little easier to glance over Africa’s relation to the West. The truth is that the continent of Africa has been repeatedly pillaged, siphoned and squandered ever since Europeans first decided her resources were profitable. There have been countless documented incidents of war, genocide, group extermination, sterilization, intentional disease outbreaks, famine, child trafficking, molestation and rape at the hands of UN “peacekeepers”, intentional elimination of indigenous spiritual systems and the list goes on, all at the hands of white people. White people aren’t blameless when it comes to the state of Africa and it’s inhabitants, they’re just ignorant.

“He Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly”

White people aren’t afraid of a lot of things they probably should be: each other, wild animals, extreme sports, each other, the sun, illegal drugs, heart disease, cancer, each other, and chronic lower respiratory disease just to name a few. After all, these are a few of the things that pose the greatest statistical threat to white life. You know what’s not on that list, Black folk. That’s right, Black people actually pose an excessively low threat to white lives, (now if only the reverse were true). But you would never guess that with the immense amount of irrational fear white people seem to have when it comes to Black people. A fear they don’t appear to have when it comes to African immigrants. And while many would look at the rate at which American-born Black men are killed by police in comparison to that of African immigrants and attribute that to some instigative behaviors on the part of Black men, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the vastly different representations these two groups possess. Black Americans are portrayed as unpredictable, unhinged, violent, aggressive and irrational. African immigrants, on the other hand, are depicted as docile, overly religious, determined and jovial. The African is harmless. Harmless to the fragile white ego, harmless to white establishments, harmless to the white savior complex, harmless to white sensibilities, just plain ole harmless.

There are a ton of other reasons that could potentially explain why white people prefer Africans. One being that African immigrants, having nationalities that don’t reject them, are less tied to racial classifications than Black Americans and therefore are less likely to see their race as an inhibitor. White people love that. Another reason could be that Africans are more willing to capitulate, quickly denouncing culture, language, tradition and birth name in order to blend into white society and corporate culture. A third reason could possibly be that Africans are often more willing to overlook the racist and bigoted comments and beliefs their white friends hold, not having the same historical attachment to various words and references. Whatever the reason, white friendship has never been and will never be the prize. And we should all beware of any white people who think making exceptions for a few “safe” Black people makes them any less racist or prejudice. It doesn’t. And whatever we call it, tokenism, favoritism, nepotism or a classic case of divide and conquer, the only thing I know for sure is that we should all be skeptical.

*Originally published on Madame Noire.

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#MondayMotivation: There is No ‘Mentoring Guru’

We’ve all heard repeatedly how important “mentoring” is to our professional success, but if you scratch the surface and ask people what exactly they mean by “mentoring,” you will find a wide range of responses. Too many new people imagine that they will have a single guru-like “mentor” who will sense their needs, generously dispense wisdom, care deeply about their success, and gently guide them along the path to be promoted. Since it rarely happens like that, this week I’d like to focus on: Looking For A Single Guru-Mentor.

The problem with the idea that you will find one guru-mentor is that you will always have a wide variety of needs and it is not only impossible but also problematic for all of those needs to be met by one (and only one) person. For example, if you are fairly new to your position, you may have some combination of the following needs:

Professional Development

You are looking for help in learning how to manage time, resolve conflicts, administer projects, organize your office space, lead efficiently and make strategic decisions about service commitments.

Emotional Support

If you are a new employee or newly promoted, you are in the midst of a significant identity and role transition. As a result, you may need support in dealing with the common stress and pressures of transitioning.

A Sense Of Community

You may find yourself seeking both an intellectual and/or social community where you feel a true sense of belonging.

Accountability

The structure of your job likely provides the least accountability for the activity that is most valued (research, writing, and leadership). In order to avoid getting caught up in the daily chaos, the vast majority of people need some form of an accountability system.

Institutional Sponsorship

You also need to cultivate relationships with people who are invested in your success at your job. By that, I mean senior members who are willing to use their power to advocate for your best interests behind closed doors.

Access To Networks

Because knowledge isn’t produced in isolation, it’s critical for you to connect with others to discuss potential collaborations, navigate the business landscape, and access opportunity structures that might not be immediately apparent to you.

Project-Specific Feedback

You will also need to regularly communicate with people who can provide substantive comments on your ideas and/or presentations.

I’m saying this to illustrate the point that no one person could (or should) fulfill all of these different elements in your life! Expecting a single mentor to transition you will inevitably lead to disappointment, over-dependence on the advice of 1 person, and feelings of loneliness. All gurus are human; they make mistakes (just like you do!). Therefore, relying exclusively on 1 person can put you at unnecessary risk and leave you with many unmet needs.

This week, I want to encourage you to fundamentally rethink the idea of “mentoring” by asking yourself: What do I need, and what is the most strategic and efficient way to get it? Then, instead of looking for 1 all-knowing guru-mentor, you will start to realize that there are many different ways to get information, support, feedback, and advice. We can meet our professional development, emotional support, community, and accountability needs by connecting with professionals, peers, friends, books, and online communities. For example, it’s probably more effective to hire a professional house cleaner than to take an entire day to clean up yourself when you could’ve been using that time to do something else productive. That example doesn’t just work at home, but also at work – it might be easier to get someone to review or edit your work than for you to do it yourself, (especially because you might miss something). It also probably makes more sense to meet with friends for emotional support than to expect it from your co-workers. And, it’s far more meaningful to join a group for accountability purposes than to ask your mentor to call you every week and make sure you’re making progress on your goals.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some needs (ex: sponsorship, access to opportunities, project-specific feedback, etc.) that only senior people in your field and/or department can meet. The trick is to know the difference so that you focus the limited time you have with senior mentors on the things only they can provide for you while finding alternative ways to meet your other needs.

If There’s No Guru, Then What’s A Person To Do?

Instead of focusing on any 1 particular person, try to imagine an extensive web of support that you create by identifying your needs and proactively getting them met:

  • A broad array of mentors & sponsors that are located within and beyond your reach.
  • An excellent coach(or therapist, if need be) to help you transition
  • A local and extended network of friends who you can rely on for social support and stress relief
  • A group of scholars or professionals in your field with whom you can share thoughts and ideas
  • A supportive community that meets your unique accountability needs and celebrates your successes

In a perfect world, your network would be organized in such a way as to welcome and support you during any professional transition you make. In reality, it will most likely be your responsibility to identify your needs and find ways & people to meet them. Along with that responsibility comes the realization that you have tremendous power (even if it doesn’t always feel like it). In other words, you don’t have to be dependent on a single guru-mentor because you have the power to create a network of support that is populated by people who are invested in your success. This collective approach will enable you to feel supported before, during, and after problems arise in your life. It will provide you with opportunities, connections, and reference groups that extend far beyond your current employment situation. And most importantly, it will serve as a buffer to decrease any alienation, loneliness, and stress that you may feel at your current job.

I hope this week brings you the energy to re-think your assumptions about mentoring, the clarity to identify what YOU need right now, and the energy to seek new and creative ways to get all of your needs met!

Will White People Ever Be Labeled As Terrorists?

In light of the bombings in Boston, an article was brought to my attention that talked about race & how that impacts the way Americans view terrorism. The article talks about how “White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in white folks generally being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.”

In other words, if you’re White you won’t be labeled as a terrorist. That title seems to only apply to people with Brown or Black skin. There have been many White men who have either blown up buildings or  responsible for mass murders – think Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bomber responsible for over 160 murders), Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber who killed 3 people), James Holmes (mass shooting at the Colorado movie theater last year killing 12 people), the 2 White students who killed 15 people at Columbine, and who could forget Jeffrey Dahmer who killed 17 people back in the 1980’s. Society seems to deem these “incidents” as exceptions and proof that our government would never racially profile White people. Even Ted Kazczynski was only thought of as “militant” but not a terrorist.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Boston bombing situation plays out.

Read the article below –

Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness by Tim Wise

As the nation weeps for the victims of the horrific bombing in Boston yesterday, one searches for lessons amid the carnage, and finds few. That violence is unacceptable stands out as one, sure. That hatred — for humanity, for life, or whatever else might have animated the bomber or bombers — is never the source of constructive human action seems like a reasonably close second.

But I dare say there is more; a much less obvious and far more uncomfortable lesson, which many are loathe to learn, but which an event such as this makes readily apparent, and which we must acknowledge, no matter how painful.

It is a lesson about race, about whiteness, and specifically, about white privilege.

I know you don’t want to hear it. But I don’t much care. So here goes.

White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in white folks generally being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.

White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack and George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Byron Williams and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers and Francis Grady and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker and Derek Mathew Shrout, among the pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize and kill, but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

And white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed above — indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names — let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes.

White privilege is knowing that if the Boston bomber turns out to be white, we  will not be asked to denounce him or her, so as to prove our own loyalties to the common national good. It is knowing that the next time a cop sees one of us standing on the sidewalk cheering on runners in a marathon, that cop will say exactly nothing to us as a result.

White privilege is knowing that if you are a white student from Nebraska — as opposed to, say, a student from Saudi Arabia — that no one, and I mean no one would think it important to detain and question you in the wake of a bombing such as the one at the Boston Marathon.

And white privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Belfast. And if he’s an Italian American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.

In short, white privilege is the thing that allows you (if you’re white) — and me — to view tragic events like this as merely horrific, and from the perspective of pure and innocent victims, rather than having to wonder, and to look over one’s shoulder, and to ask even if only in hushed tones, whether those we pass on the street might think that somehow we were involved.

It is the source of our unearned innocence and the cause of others’ unjustified oppression.

That is all. And it matters.

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The article can be found here: http://www.timwise.org

Why Major In A Field That Has No Jobs Available?

So I came across an article about how there were too many K-5 teachers & not enough teaching positions and the question arose in my mind: Why study something that you know will not pay off?

I remember when I was applying to college (many moons ago) my father always warned me to not major in underwater basket weaving. Yes, because it’s not a real major but also because it’s a profession that isn’t highly valued in this society. So in the same respect if you know that philosophy isn’t a highly valued field why major in it?

Yes, there are plenty of majors that were popular 20-30 years ago that may not be as relevant now (think archaeology, library science, etc.) but back then people knew that there would a job waiting for them. Right now the unemployment/under-employment rate for fresh college graduates is over 50%. I mean, let’s face it – the economy has been in the toilet since at least 2008. And everyone knows that bad economies don’t just turn around overnight. So those who are just now graduating (who entered college around 2008) must have known that when they graduate they might not have a job waiting for them in their field. And those who entered college after 2008 have had time to change majors to something more relevant. Of course no can tell the future or when the job market will pick up. But until it does, wouldn’t it be fair to say you should secure your future by majoring in something more mainstream instead?

Sure, it’s great to follow your passion but if your passion can’t pay the bills when you graduate, then maybe you should consider pursuing something that will instead.

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42

Earlier this week, I saw the upcoming film 42 which is the story based on the life of Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. I didn’t go into the theater with a whole lot of expectations, only to learn more about Jackie Robinson. But boy, was I impressed! The film really focused on how Jackie Robinson transformed the game of baseball by being the African American to integrate  Major League Baseball in the 20th century.

He was born Jack Roosevelt Robinson in 1919 and attended college at UCLA, joining the U.S. Army just before finishing his degree. He began playing for the Negro Baseball League in 1945 and was recruited by the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers President, Mr. Branch Rickey in 1947.  He led his team into the World Series in 1955 and played for a total of 10 seasons. Jackie Robinson was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962, just five short years after his retirement.

Jackie Robinson married Rachel Isum in 1946 and had three children. His widow, Rachel, founded The Jackie Robinson Foundation after his death which is a non-profit organization that gives scholarships to minority youths for higher education, also preserving the legacy of Jackie Robinson.

This coming Monday (April 15th ) is deemed Jackie Robinson day where his retired number “42” is worn in solidarity within the teams of the Major League Baseball.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet the Robinson family on several occasions and they are very excited to see Jackie Robinson’s story come to life on the big screen. I hope that you support the film this weekend – it’s great for the entire family!

JR2

To learn more about the Jackie Robinson Foundation go to www.Jackierobinson.org

“There Are No Atheists In The Foxhole”

As a military man, my dad told me a long time ago that there is no such thing as an atheist when you’re on the battlefield. It has been declared that whenever someone is in distress regardless of their religious (dis)beliefs, they call on the name of God. Whether someone is in severe pain or has a family member on their deathbed, they often call out God’s name. Why is it that someone who has no association with religion whatsoever would even utter the name of Jesus or God? Well today is the day that proves JESUS is real. Real & alive!

Today is Resurrection Sunday, otherwise known as Easter, and I am proud to say that as a woman of God I am excited about what this day means for you & me. Resurrection Sunday is the MOST important day to all Christians.  Christians, Protestants, Lutherans, and even Catholics can all agree on the purpose of this day. Resurrection Sunday is the day that Jesus Christ rose from the grave, redeeming the entire human race. You see, the reason that I believe in Jesus Christ instead of any other religion is because Jesus is alive! What good does it do to worship a god who promotes vigilantism? Why believe in a god who is dead?  Why would I bow to a statue? Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and the Muslim faith are vastly different but I serve the only living God.

So, what does this mean to you? This means because of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and through his resurrection, we have the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation directly from the Lord.  Not from the Pope, not from a priest or a pastor but directly from God himself. Salvation guarantees us eternal life with God himself. This is so much better than getting an invitation to the White House! John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Happy Resurrection Sunday! CHRIST HAS RISEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Black History Month: African American Soldiers

I was looking up my student loan and came across this article. In honor of Black History Month, the U.S. Department of Education has dedicated teaching materials on their homepage about African Americans soldiers. Read below –

The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War

Background

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

Frederick Douglass

The issues of emancipation and military service were intertwined from the onset of the Civil War. News from Fort Sumter set off a rush by free black men to enlist in U.S. military units. They were turned away, however, because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred Negroes from bearing arms for the U.S. army (although they had served in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812). In Boston disappointed would-be volunteers met and passed a resolution requesting that the Government modify its laws to permit their enlistment.

The Lincoln administration wrestled with the idea of authorizing the recruitment of black troops, concerned that such a move would prompt the border states to secede. When Gen. John C. Frémont (photo citation: 111-B-3756) in Missouri and Gen. David Hunter (photo citation: 111-B-3580) in South Carolina issued proclamations that emancipated slaves in their military regions and permitted them to enlist, their superiors sternly revoked their orders. By mid-1862, however, the escalating number of former slaves (contrabands), the declining number of white volunteers, and the increasingly pressing personnel needs of the Union Army pushed the Government into reconsidering the ban.

As a result, on July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, freeing slaves who had masters in the Confederate Army. Two days later, slavery was abolished in the territories of the United States, and on July 22 President Lincoln (photo citation: 111-B-2323) presented the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet. After the Union Army turned back Lee’s first invasion of the North at Antietam, MD, and the Emancipation Proclamation was subsequently announced, black recruitment was pursued in earnest. Volunteers from South Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts filled the first authorized black regiments. Recruitment was slow until black leaders such as Frederick Douglass (photo citation: 200-FL-22) encouraged black men to become soldiers to ensure eventual full citizenship. (Two of Douglass’s own sons contributed to the war effort.) Volunteers began to respond, and in May 1863 the Government established the Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the burgeoning numbers of black soldiers.

By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in artillery and infantry and performed all noncombat support functions that sustain an army, as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly 80 black commissioned officers. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless served as nurses, spies, and scouts, the most famous being Harriet Tubman (photo citation: 200-HN-PIO-1), who scouted for the 2d South Carolina Volunteers.

Because of prejudice against them, black units were not used in combat as extensively as they might have been. Nevertheless, the soldiers served with distinction in a number of battles. Black infantrymen fought gallantly at Milliken’s Bend, LA; Port Hudson, LA; Petersburg, VA; and Nashville, TN. The July 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, SC, in which the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers lost two-thirds of their officers and half of their troops, was memorably dramatized in the film Glory. By war’s end, 16 black soldiers had been awarded the Medal of Honor for their valor.

In addition to the perils of war faced by all Civil War soldiers, black soldiers faced additional problems stemming from racial prejudice. Racial discrimination was prevalent even in the North, and discriminatory practices permeated the U.S. military. Segregated units were formed with black enlisted men and typically commanded by white officers and black noncommissioned officers. The 54th Massachusetts was commanded by Robert Shaw and the 1st South Carolina by Thomas Wentworth Higginson—both white. Black soldiers were initially paid $10 per month from which $3 was automatically deducted for clothing, resulting in a net pay of $7. In contrast, white soldiers received $13 per month from which no clothing allowance was drawn. In June 1864 Congress granted equal pay to the U.S. Colored Troops and made the action retroactive. Black soldiers received the same rations and supplies. In addition, they received comparable medical care.

The black troops, however, faced greater peril than white troops when captured by the Confederate Army. In 1863 the Confederate Congress threatened to punish severely officers of black troops and to enslave black soldiers. As a result, President Lincoln issued General Order 233, threatening reprisal on Confederate prisoners of war (POWs) for any mistreatment of black troops. Although the threat generally restrained the Confederates, black captives were typically treated more harshly than white captives. In perhaps the most heinous known example of abuse, Confederate soldiers shot to death black Union soldiers captured at the Fort Pillow, TN, engagement of 1864. Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest witnessed the massacre and did nothing to stop it.

The document featured with this article is a recruiting poster directed at black men during the Civil War. It refers to efforts by the Lincoln administration to provide equal pay for black soldiers and equal protection for black POWs. The original poster is located in the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s–1917, Record Group 94.

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Article Citation

Freeman, Elsie, Wynell Burroughs Schamel, and Jean West. “The Fight for Equal Rights: A Recruiting Poster for Black Soldiers in the Civil War.” Social Education 56, 2 (February 1992): 118-120. [Revised and updated in 1999 by Budge Weidman.]