Program Details

Standing on the Precipice of Change: African Americans and the Civil War

Cassandra Newby-Alexander
History / Politics

Course Description

The Civil War was a watershed for American society. America was standing on the precipice of change; a change that would slowly transform society to a multi-cultural and complex world. And while freedom was the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation, the long road to true citizenship would be an ongoing struggle. Despite President Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to limit the war to a constitutional fight involving white men only, African Americans seized the opportunity to gain their freedom, however tenuous, beginning with the first salvo fired by South Carolina with their articles of secession and continuing through the formal organization of the United States Colored Troops in 1863. Their agency during the war forced the federal government to recognize publicly the war’s true nature: that it was a fight over the right to own another human being, to treat that person as nothing more than chattel, and to exploit that person’s labor for personal gain.

About the Instructor

  • Cassandra Newby-Alexander, PhD, serves as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, professor of history, and director of the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for African Diaspora Studies at Norfolk State University. Book publications include Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad (2017), An African American History of the Civil War in Hampton Roads (2010), co-authored Black America Series: Portsmouth (2003), and co-edited Voices from within the Veil: African Americans and the Experience of Democracy (2008).

Upcoming programs presented by Cassandra Newby-Alexander.

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