A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865: Preceded by a Review of the Military Services of Negroes in Ancient and Modern Times

A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865: Preceded by a Review of the Military Services of Negroes in Ancient and Modern Times

A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865: Preceded by a Review of the Military Services of Negroes in Ancient and Modern Times

A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865: Preceded by a Review of the Military Services of Negroes in Ancient and Modern Times

Synopsis

A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865 (originally published in 1887) by pioneer African American historian George Washington Williams remains a classic text in African American literature and Civil War history. In this powerful narrative, Williams, who served inthe U. S. Colored Troops, tells the battle experiences of the almost 200,000 black men who fought for the Union cause. Determined to document the contributions of his fellow black soldiers, and to underscore the valor and manhood of his race, Williams gathered his material from the official recordsof U. S. and foreign governments, and from the orderly books and personal recollections of officers commanding Negro troops during the American Civil War. The new edition of this important text includes an introductory essay by the award-winning historian John David Smith. In his essay, Smith narrates and evaluates the book's contents, analyzes its reception by contemporary critics, and evaluates Williams's work within the context of its day and itsplace in current historiography.

Excerpt

by John David Smith

Historians remember George Washington Williams (1849–1891) as an enigmatic nineteenth-century black intellectual who wrote historical nonfiction that underscored African American accomplishment, humanity, manliness, and triumph over slavery and white racism, what Stephen G. Hall describes as a “reflective mediation on the Emancipation in the form of race history.” “No other work in our language,” T. Thomas Fortune of the New York Globe said of Williams’s History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880, “has proceeded from the pen of a colored author which bears upon its face greater industry, greater love of race, greater learning.” Williams amassed his sources “from almost inaccessible quarters” because “written evidence of what we had done in this country was so scarce that to gather it was nothing more nor less than a labor of love.” Fortune dubbed Williams “the Historian of the Race.”

Williams’s History of the Negro Race in America was the first serious, professional history of American blacks. Writing in the Magazine of American History, the Reverend Benjamin Franklin De Costa considered the massive, twovolume work “perhaps the most creditable performance that has yet come from the pen of any representative of the African race in America.” Amazingly, as late as 1921 Williams’s two-volume work, according to the distinguished black scholar Benjamin Brawley, remained the only authoritative and comprehensive history of African Americans. In 1887, Williams published a narrower but equally path-breaking work, A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion. The Reverend Joseph E. Joy informed readers of the New Englander and Yale Review that in this book, Williams captured “with wondrous effect”

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