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Slaverys End In Tennessee

Written by John Cimprich

Publication Year: 2009

This is the first book-length work on wartime race relations in Tennessee, and it stresses the differences within the slave community as well as Military Governor Andrew Johnson’s role in emancipation.  In Tennessee a significant number of slaves took advantage of the disruptions resulting from federal invasion to escape servitude and to seek privileges enjoyed by whites. Some rushed into theses changes, believing God had ordained them; others acted simply from a willingness to seize any opportunity for improving their lot. Both groups felt a sense of dignity that their slaves initiated a change; they lacked the power and resources to secure and expand the gains they made on their own.
    Because most disloyal slaves supported the Union while most white Tennesseans did not, the federal army eventually decided to encourage and capitalize upon slave discontent. Idealistic Northern reformers simultaneously worked to establish new opportunities for Southern blacks. The reformers’ paternalistic attitudes and the army’s concern with military expediency limited the aid they extended to blacks.
    Black poverty, white greed, and white racial prejudice severely restricted change, particularly in the former slaves’ economic position. The more significant changes took the form of new social privileges for the freedmen: familial security, educational opportunities, and religious independence. Masters had occasionally granted these benefits to some slaves, but what the disloyal slaves wanted and won was the formalization of these privileges for all blacks in the state.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

List of Figures and Tables

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pp. viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 3-5

In the District of Columbia 's Lincoln Park stands the national monument commemorating the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War. Financed by blacks but designed by whites, it depicts an erect Abraham Lincoln liberating a crouching slave. Although faithful enough to folklore, the symbolic bronze ...

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1. The Institution and the Confederates

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pp. 6-18

Shortly before the 1861 referendum in Tennessee on separation from the Union, a slave sentenced to hang for killing an overseer spoke his last words from a gallows platform at Memphis. Isaac, the doomed man, argued that secession would do the South no good, that it would only make Southern white soldiers ...

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2. The Master and Slave Relationship after Federal Occupation

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pp. 19-32

...Nashville's fall, a slave there discovered several soldiers pilfer their interests. These basic facts have been clear to historians for several decades. The main point of debate is the issue of the disloyalty's driving forces. Evaluated in terms of the evidence leave unless "lured away with false hopes of equality and free ...

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3. Federal Occupation and the Slave Code

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pp. 33-45

On March 13, 1862, Andrew Johnson returned to Tennessee as a brigadier general and military governor. Soon after his arrival in Nashville, he issued an "Appeal to the People of Tennessee" that accused the Confederates of destroying state government and rule by law. He pledged to restore both and, in addition, to ...

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4. Black Ghettos and Contraband Camps

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pp. 46-59

Slaves ran away in quest of freedom, but that promising beacon all too often led to the torments of poverty. Possessing little property, they forsook even a regular subsistence in leaving their owners. Unless they stole from their masters, they lacked significant resources beyond their ability to ...

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5. Beginning of Economic and Social Reconstruction

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pp. 60-80

As slavery began to unravel amidst civil war, contrabands and free blacks pressed for new privileges. To the pragmatists among them, gains seemed possible. For the visionaries, like a preacher in Nashville, it was a matter of providential justice: "De Lord He was wid us, and wouldn't let us be 'pressed no ...

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6. Black Military Service

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pp. 81-97

During the spring of 1863 Lorenzo Thomas traveled the length of the Mississippi Valley addressing federal troops about the army's manpower shortage and the expediency of recruiting as many contrabands as possible to fill the gap. Congress had empowered Lincoln to accept black recruits in July 1862, but ...

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7. The Politics of Emancipation

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pp. 98-117

Although contrabands had gained virtual freedom, only white politicians could make it legal. Northern Republicans and their Southern unionist allies originally waged war just to save the Union. Growing numbers of contrabands and their many services pressured the politicians to broaden war aims. The ...

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8. End of an Institution

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pp. 118-131

On April 5, 1865, the day appointed for inaugurating Tennessee's new civil government, the capitol building was decorated with a gigantic banner that bore antislavery quotations from the Founding Fathers set alongside pictures of black soldiers and schoolchildren. Shortly before William G. Brownlow ...


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pp. 132-180

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Bibliographical Essay

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pp. 181-185

Prior to the 1930s historians wrote little about slavery during the Civil War. W E. Burghardt Du Bois's Black Reconstruction (New York, 1935) included the first sympathetic overview of black wartime activities. Bell Irvin Wiley's sub sequent Southern Negroes, 1861-1865 (New Haven, 1938) supplied a wealth of data drawn from previously framework. These early studies established the assertiveness of con ...


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pp. 186-191

E-ISBN-13: 9780817380830
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817302573

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2009