Yale Exhibit Highlights African Americans in the Civil War

Article excerpt

NEWHAVEN, CONN.

An exhibition at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library brings to life an episode of American - and Connecticut - history that has not yet received its due attention: the unique struggle of more than 215,000 African Americans who fought in the Union armies and navy during the Civil War.

Titled after the refrain of an old spiritual, "No Man Can Hinder Me," the show speaks of the courage and fortitude of men who had to contend with the pervasive racism of the North while fighting to end slavery in the South.

Drawn from collections within the Beinecke and Yale University libraries, the exhibition chronicles African American participation in the war effort from recruitment and organization through veterans' experiences in the postwar years. Autograph letters and documents detailing military specifics (selection of officers, pay, health, drill and discipline) are complemented by items that highlight the broader political contexts (citizenship, emancipation) in which these men served out their terms of enlistment.

Running through March 15, the exhibition was curated by visiting scholar Bethuel Hunter, who also wrote the companion monograph available free to visitors. "No Man Can Hinder Me" further elaborates on the complex history of African American participation in the war effort. …