April 29, 1862: Is not the Negro a man?

Am I not a Man and a Brother?

A letter from the Kingston Argus, dated April 29, 1862, from a Union correspondent at Fredericksburg. One of the “contrabands” described here would have been John Washington, who crossed Rappanhannock to freedom in the to the Union lines on April 18. The letter is reproduced in the Fredericksburg History Blog.

“Contrabands” still come pouring in upon our camps, very many of them seeking and finding employment, and profession uniformly the utmost anxiety to escape from their impatiently-borne thraldom. That strong attachment to “Massa” and “Misses”, which, I often heard it said at the North, would lead them to cling to their Southern homes and refuse freedom even if it were offered, I havn’t yet happened to see,– With one voice they breathe longings for a Northern home, eager to turn their backs upon their masters forever, if they can only carry their families with them. It is impossible to look upon these poor people, an abject, meek…as they seem, so anxious to emerge from their condition of involuntary servitude, into an atmosphere where they can breathe as freely as the white man does, without feeling one’s sympathies strongly enlisted. One finds the question rising involuntarily, Is not the negro a man? Warmed with the same sun, hurt with the same weapons, having the same feelings, affections, aspirations that the white man has? Why then should he be a slave to his fellow man?

But I have no room for speculations here, and will only add, that your correspondent, in common with many others in the regiment and surrounding ones has secured the services of a man Friday, who was coachman and man of all work, to a prominent secessionist farmer down the Rappahannock. I find him a capital “help”–skilled and prepared to render almost any service required [line missing] and his “Massa” is a violent rebel, with two sons in the rebel army, I shall have no compunctions whatever in using the services of the “contraband” in promoting the interest of the Union cause, by promoting for the present those of one of its humblest supporters–and of giving him besides such “aid and comfort” in the matter of reaching the freedom that he craves, as shall not come in conflict with the sacred Constitution.

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One Response to April 29, 1862: Is not the Negro a man?

  1. Pingback: April 29, 1862 « The Late Great Unpleasantness

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