U.S. Navy Civil War Racial "Melting Pot"
The naval “melting pot” on both
sides best represents how the majority of Americans want to remember the
Civil War. The title of the 2010 Virginia Civil War
Sesquicentennial was “Race, Slavery, and the Civil War: The Tough Stuff
of American History and Memory.” Despite disagreements over the
institution of slavery by both sides, all different races, colors, and
creeds marched to the flag. For the Union Navy in particular, the
role of the African American sailor is a way for Americans today to
connect with their history and heritage. African Americans made
the conscientious choice to fight for their freedom, regardless of
conditions they faced. “African American sailors were needed,”
historian Stephen Ramold remarked in the closing comments of a
2004 interview with The Journal of African American History.
According to Ramold, “they were Americans who didn’t hesitate to fight
for their country.” He goes on to say that the Union Navy “was
remarkably modern [. . .] where everything was not a racial struggle.”
A . . . The phrase "Blacks in blue
jackets " is used to describe the history of African
Americans in military life for the United States since the
Civil War. Write an essay on how the Navy in the 19th
Century influenced race relations in the military.
Read the Civil War Sesquicentennial Article to find out
about the history.
B . . . Black sailors in the U.S. Navy
were treated differently than in society or even in the
Read the article about life for African Americans in the
Navy, and find information about what a black
C . . . Diaries and journals by black sailors are available
Go to the site for William B. Gould IV Diary.
Visit and read the sections on the site that discuss Gould's
life (early years, life while in the navy, and life after
the navy). Make a time-line of important things that
happened to Gould, or things he did. Present your timeline
with a computer presentation or poster format.
D . . . Robert Smalls is an American hero, in how he was an
escaped slave, who stole a ship and went to Union safety.
Study this man to see the Navy version of African American
Go to PBS "Slave Sailing to Freedom" to read about
Robert Smalls, an American Civil War Hero.
E . . . Robert Blake, African American Naval Medal of Honor
Winner, also exemplifies the greatness of black sailors and
soldiers during the Civil War. Study this man.
For information, visit the "Robert Blake: Slave, Contraband,
Sailor, and Hero" site.
Make a timeline for Robert Blake including his life
and the story of the stealing of the PLANTER. Present it by
computer or a poster.
Robert Smalls Activity on Learning On-Line
Visit the Black American Civil War Learning Activity Site
Visit African-American Medal of Honor Winners Site
Check the U.S. Navy Civil War Sesquicentennial Blog Site for a Series of
You can record your answers in a Navy Form each
part of the activity.
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