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Practical LiberatorsUnion Officers in the Western Theater during the Civil War$
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Kristopher A. Teters

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469638867

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469638867.001.0001

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Officers, Servants, and Race

Officers, Servants, and Race

(p.83) Chapter Four Officers, Servants, and Race
Practical Liberators

Kristopher A. Teters

University of North Carolina Press

While many western Union officers came to support emancipation and even the enlistment of black troops, their racial attitudes changed very little. On the whole, officers continued to view black people as inferior, exotic, incapable, and even subhuman. Interactions with former slaves reinforced racial stereotypes. This intense prejudice was especially prominent in the Midwest where there were many discriminatory laws. Freeing the slaves, which many officers only supported as a practical necessity to win the war, was very different from seeing black people as anything close to equal with white people. But experiences with black men and women, particularly servants with whom Federals formed long-lasting personal bonds, often tempered racial prejudices on an individual level. Black men and women who assisted the Union army by providing information, resources, and aid in dangerous circumstances also won positive comments from officers. This softening of racial attitudes, however, almost never extended to the black population as a whole, and even ardent supporters of emancipation showed little sympathy for expanding black rights. The Civil War had eliminated slavery but had hardly solved the problem of racial prejudice.

Keywords:   servants, racial prejudice, officers, racial views, midwest, racial segregation, racial stereotypes, Black rights, Ninth Illinois Cavalry

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