High Expectations: African Americans in Civil War Kentucky

By Lucas, Scott J. | Negro History Bulletin, January-December 2001 | Go to article overview

High Expectations: African Americans in Civil War Kentucky


Lucas, Scott J., Negro History Bulletin


Most civilians in Kentucky suffered during the American Civil War, but no class was less fortunate than the commonwealth's Americans of African descent. Caught between the conflicting policies of unsympathetic northern generals and the harsh attitude of southern leaders, Kentucky's blacks were often resented as a class by federal troops while disliked and blamed for causing the war by white Kentuckians and rebel soldiers.

The early years of conflict were especially difficult for blacks. Kentucky's "Proclamation of Neutrality" placed blacks virtually in a state of limbo. Still bound by Kentucky's race code and unsure of their relationship with the Union army, free blacks and those enslaved were forced to fend for themselves as competing armies took turns occupying the state. During this period daily life clearly changed for the worse for Kentucky's African American inhabitants, a people already at the bottom of society. But with change came opportunities, thus the Civil War presented blacks with their first viable opportunity to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all Americans were created equal--a hope, unfortunately, frustrated by events.

In Kentucky's Civil War environment whites found new opportunities to harass slaves and freemen alike. Negrophobes and law enforcement officers challenged and molested freemen on the streets, and when their houses were entered and searched, African Americans had no redress. "Home guards" menaced slaves, forcing them from the streets under threat of whippings, while state and local military authorities limited the movement of free blacks by invoking vagrancy laws. A handful of freemen, fearing re-enslavement, fled northward where they hoped for better treatment. (1)

Some blacks, however, were able to turn hostile conditions to their advantage. Wages for skilled laborers escalated because of wartime demands, and sometimes black mechanics secured better jobs, even working alongside whites. A few African Americans, such as Elizabeth Thompson the mother of five children, were able to improve their conditions considerably. Thompson found a job paying $7.50 a week during the conflict and claimed that the police never harassed her. An enslaved black man improved his income by "moonlighting" in the river trade. With this additional income he purchased, at considerable cost, himself, his five children, and two nephews. In addition he sent three of his children to school and eventually one nephew to Oberlin College in Ohio. Nevertheless, the feeling lingered among blacks that no matter how hard they worked or whatever progress they made, Kentucky whites refused to treat them honorably. (2)

That blacks exhibited more independence and self-reliance after the war began is well documented. Some whites commented that African Americans were no longer willing to work--that they appeared "dissatisfied" and no longer "content." Presumably, whites meant that African Americans were no longer willing to "work like a slave." Slaves were more likely to threaten to "leave & never return" when unreasonable demands were made on them and less reticent to respond disrespectfully when questioned sharply. Some whites eventually concluded that the only way to get slaves to continue working was to employ them essentially as free persons even though technically they were still enslaved. (3)

If blacks exerted a new independence, it was not without consequence. Ministers, leaders in the black community, came under increasing scrutiny during the early years of the conflict, and in some areas whites objected to, or even prevented, black church services. In Louisville threats from city or military authorities occasionally forced black churches to cancel services, and in a few instances authorities appropriated black churches for military hospitals or barracks. (4)

Black educational institutions, always associated with churches, were early casualties of the Civil War. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

High Expectations: African Americans in Civil War Kentucky
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.