Black History Month 2023

1860 1861-1865 1866

15 James Buchanan | 16 Abraham Lincoln | 17 Andrew Johnson

African Slavery Cotton Slavery Black Codes

1619-1865
Chattel Slavery



British Virginia - The first enslaved Africans arrived in the British Colony of VIrigina in 1619.

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1863-1865
Slavery War



United States - The final question of slavery was decided with hundreds of thousands of dead bodies. Black Americans won their freedom, after fighting, and winning the war.

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January 1, 1863
Emancipation Proclamation Went Into Effect



Washington, D. C. - This executive order began the end of slavery, in the United States. While not a law, it had Presidential force behind it. The Proclamation removed legal enforcement and protection for slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to States in open rebellion. It did not make slavery a crime, in the United States. On September 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued it. This was five (5) days after Antietam (i.e. the Battle of Sharpsburg).

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May 12-13, 1863
Robert Smalls' Escape



Charleston, South Carolina - Robert Smalls escaped slavery with a Confederate military transport ship. It was one of the most daring escapes of the American Slavery War (1861-1865).

Fall of 1861, Smalls steered the CSS Planter. It was a lightly armed Confederate military transport. This was under command of Charleston's District Commander, Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley.

The CSS Planter surveyed waterways and laid mines. It also delivered dispatches, troops, and supplies.

Smalls piloted the Planter in Charleston harbor and beyond. This included area rivers and the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Smalls and the Planter's crew saw the federal blockade ships, from Charleston harbor. They were in the outer harbor, seven (7) miles away. Smalls had the confidence of the Planter's crew. To the Planter's owners, the crew behaved.

Sometime in April 1862, Smalls planned an escape. He met the other enslaved, except one. That one he did not trust.

Friday, May 12th, 1862, the Planter stopped at Coles Island, on the Stono River. A Confederate post was being dismantled. The ship loaded four large guns. The guns were to be sent to a fort in Charleston harbor.

At Charleston, the Planter added 200 lb (91 kg) of ammunition and 20 cord (72 m3) of firewood.

Friday evening, May 12th, the Planter was docked. It was at the wharf, below General Ripley's headquarters. Its three (3) white officers left the ship to spend the night ashore. Smalls and the crew remained on board, as usual.

Before departure, Smalls asked Captain Relyea to allow crew families to visit. The request was granted. But, Smalls was told the families must depart before curfew.

The families arrived onboard. There, the plan was revealed to them. Only Hannah, Smalls' wife, knew he wanted to escape.

Hannah never knew her husband planned to escape that night. She resisted, at first. But, she told him, 'It is a risk, dear, but you and I, and our little ones must be free. I will go, for where you die, I will die.'

Other women resisted. They cried and screamed, and the men struggled to quiet them. After, the initial shock, those women were glad for a chance at freedom.

Later, three (3) crew members made a pretense that family members had been escorted back home. It was a trick. The crew members circled around and hid on another ship. It was docked at the North Atlantic wharf.

Around 3 a.m., Saturday, May 13th, Smalls, with seven of the eight slave crewmen, began their escape. Smalls wore the captain's uniform. He wore a straw hat similar to the captain's.

While working on the Planter, Smalls watched Captain Charles C. J. Relyea. Smalls learned his manners to complete the disguise. He hoped to fool onlookers from shore.

Smalls sailed the Planter past Southern Wharf. He stopped at another wharf, where his wife and children boarded. Families of other crewmen boarded, too.

Smalls had to get past five Confederate harbor forts. At each fort, he gave the correct signals at checkpoints.

Around 4:30 a.m., the Planter made it past the last fort, Fort Sumter.

The Fort Sumter alarm was raised after the Planter was beyond gun range. Smalls replaced the rebel flags with a white bed sheet, his wife brought. Then, Smalls headed to the Union Navy fleet.

The USS Onward was about to fire on the Planter, until a crewman saw the white flag. The sheet was difficult to see, in the dark. The sunrise made it visible.

John Frederick Nickels, Captain of the Onward, boarded the Planter. Smalls asked to display a United States flag. The Planter and its cargo were surrendered, to the United States Navy.

Everyone on the Planter, escaped enslavement and made it to freedom.

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July 13-16, 1863
New York Race Riot of 1863



Manhattan, New York - Whites began the riot because of the draft, for the American Slavery War. It ended as a full-blown race riot, when whites murdered dozens of Black Americans. 119 was the official death toll. Some claim the count was almost one thousand (1,000) dead.

New York had many pro-slavery supporters in the city, at the time. Most white workers in New York sided with Southern slave traders, owners, and politics. Many were Irish immigrants. Much of the violence was due to white hatred of competition from Black American workers.

Of the many deaths, whites lynched ten (10) Black Americans. Among them was a 7 year-old, Black American boy. The whites went after inter-racial couples and abolitionists. The white mob burned a Black American orphanage. The most violent were the longshoremen (dock workers).

It was the worst riot, of any kind, in American history. No one was charged or prosecuted for any violence committed against the Black American victims.

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December 25, 1863
Fighting to End Slavery: Massachusetts 54th



Charleston, South Carolina - It was cold and windy for the men of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry, this Christmas day. Many were in a sour mood. They were in combat. They missed their families, friends, and sweethearts.

Encamped on Morris Island, on the outskirts of Charleston, the men watched the Union shelling of the besieged city.

Our rifles had sounded their fearful Christmas chimes by throwing shells into the city for three hours after one o'clock that morning, recalled Capt. Luis F. Emilio. He added, 'About 3 a.m. a fire broke out in Charleston which illumined the whole sky and destroyed twelve buildings before it was subdued, the falling walls injuring many firemen.'

Emilio, a white Salem, Mass., native, who had just turned 19 three days earlier, had been the acting commander of the regiment for some time following the famed attack on Fort Wagner that July.

From storming the fort on July 18th, Col. Robert Gould Shaw was killed, the regiment's first commander. Two Berkshire County men were killed in the failed attack. One was Henry Burghardt, of Lee. The other was Pittsfield native Eli Franklin. Burghardt was killed in action. Franklin died from his battle wounds, two (2) days later.

In September, Edward Needles Hallowell became the new commander of the 54th. Hallowell was wounded during the Fort Wagner battle, as Shaw's second in command.

That same month, the Confederates abandoned Fort Wagner. That helped open the way for the siege of Charleston.

For months after the attack, the soldiers' spirits were high. They knew they had proved their valor. It showed the fighting ability of all their Black brothers. Yet, by Christmas, after months of seeing no real action, they were feeling low.

'The whole face of nature now presents a drear and gloomy appearance, and the thousands who a month or two ago were full of hope and expectation have gradually come down to that frame of mind so well adapted to wait till something turns up,' commented Cpl. James Henry Gooding, a Black American soldier from the 54th, in a December 1863 letter to the New Bedford (Conn.) Mercury.

The entire month, both the weather and the men's spirits, had been overcast and dreary. There was the shooting of a white deserter from a New Hampshire regiment. The men were required to watch. The same month there was an explosion. It killed several soldiers.

The Confederates steadily attacked the Union. But, it was unusual for a shell to make it into the Union fortifications. This time, a magazine was being repaired by engineers. That made it vulnerable. The shell fell among munitions that went off. Four (4) were killed. Eleven (11) were seriously wounded, according to Gooding.

Added to these events were the continued problems with the men's pay.

The enlisted men of the 54th and its brother regiment, the 55th, fought to get the $13 a month they were due. Government paymasters, cited an 1862 law. They would only pay $7.

Christmas was a subdued affair. For Thanksgiving, the men attended a rousing church service and enjoyed a festive meal. It was followed by an afternoon filled with games. There were sack races and money for the first man to make it to the top of a greased pole.

In contrast, the highlight of Christmas Day was the arrival of letters from home.

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1865-1866
Black Codes



United States - These laws were a clumsy attempt to re-enslave Black Americans.

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March 3, 1865
Freedmen's Bureau Created



Washington, D. C. - The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln. It became part of the War Department (called the Defense Department after 1949).

The supposed goal of the Act was to help freed Black Americans find relief and become self-sufficient. Since it was a product of the Slavery War, the bill was to expire after one (1) year.

Major General Oliver Otis Howard was the first commissioner of the bureau. This is the same Howard that helped found Howard Seminary (later, Howard University).

A second Freedmen's bill was passed in 1866, which extended the duration of the Bureau until 1868.

In 1872, the Bureau closed.

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April 15, 1865
Abraham Lincoln Killed



Washington, D. C. - Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln was regarded as the greatest President in United States history. He helped win the American Slavery War (Civil War), ended chattel slavery, and united the nation.

Abraham Lincoln was murdered at Ford's Theater. He was shot in the back of the head, while watching a play. His murderer, Booth, was a pro-slavery supporter.

Booth was tracked and found. On April 26, 1865, Booth was shot dead.

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June 19, 1865
Juneteenth



Galveston, Texas - General Order Number 3 was read. It was from the Emancipation Proclamation. This began the end of chattel slavery in Texas.

The Proclamation withdrew legal support for slavery. It was limited to the Confederacy. Those who were loyal to the Union, were compensated for any people the government freed. It was not a law. It was similar to a military order.

Chattel slavery was not officially abolished until the (13th) Thirteenth Amendment went into effect. That was six months later, on December 6th, 1865.

In June 1866, Juneteenth began. It is the oldest celebration of the end of chattel slavery, in the world.

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November 22, 1865
Black Codes Began



Jackson, Mississippi - The state government passed 'An Act to regulate the relation of master and apprentice, as relates to freedmen, free negroes, and mulattoes..'

Among other limits, the law sent Black American children to whites for unpaid work. It was slavery, under the guise of child welfare.

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December 6, 1865
Thirteenth Amendment Ratified



Washington, D. C. - The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified. This ended the legal status of chattel slavery.

It read...

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Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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The words, in Section 1, were taken from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, article six (6).

Section 2 gave Congress power to make slavery a crime. Congress never used this power to effect, until 1948. Congress let those who broke the law, on slavery, get away with a fine, with no jail time.

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December 24, 1865
Ku Klux Klan Formed



Pulaski, Tennessee - The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was formed. Six (6) ex-Confederate officers, Frank McCord, Richard Reed, John Lester, John Kennedy, J. Calvin Jones and James Crowe, were its first members.

The KKK was the most violent and racist terrorist group, in United States history (outside of the local police). Its purpose was to harass, attack, and murder Black Americans.

The KKK only allowed white male members. The women's version was the Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK). It has always helped the KKK, in its many forms, until today.

The violence of the KKK led the United States government to pass the Enforcement Acts. These three (3) Acts passed in 1870 and 1871, made the actions of the KKK illegal.

The Enforcement Acts led to a gradual decline in KKK activity.

'The Birth of A Nation' (1915) led to a rebirth of the KKK in 1915. President Woodrow Wilson saw the film at the White House. He called it history written in lightning. This effect led to the era of the second KKK.

This second era of the KKK lasted until World War 2. This was its largest and most powerful period. There were tens of thousands of members all over the country. In the 21st Century, the KKK is very limited, but still aided by the WKKK.

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