The Civil War in Pennsylvania: The African American Experience

Samuel W. Black
Senator John Heinz History Center
Pittsburgh, PA

The Civil War in Pennsylvania: The African American Experience explores the roles that African Americans played as active participants in their quest for freedom, nationhood, and self-determination in the Civil War era. By placing local Pennsylvania history into the broader context of Civil War and American history, this book presents various perspectives on the experiences of African Americans.

The Civil War in Pennsylvania touches on varying aspects of freedom in the late 1800s. It presents several essays on the complex legal limitations of Black freedom and the lengths that fugitive slaves would go to protect their liberation. Additionally, the book talks about the rarely discussed option for African Americans: free or fugitive Blacks emigrating to Haiti, Canada, or West Africa in order to escape the racism and oppression in America. The book also tells a photographic history through work of Pennsylvania photographers who captured the events of the Civil War.

The Civil War in Pennsylvania offers an insight into the African American community by showing the different ideas and paths to freedom that Pennsylvanians pursued. While its academic standards will be useful to specialists, the book is presented in a way to relate to a general audience interested in Pennsylvania and Civil War history. High-resolution color graphics, images, photographs, and charts produce the feel of walking into an exhibit on the subject with captions and label copy that bring the reader into its pages.

This book further advances the subject of Civil War histories and presents new research on subjects rarely covered in Civil War histories. The authors along with the John Heinz History center successfully take a national story and apply it to the experiences of the roughly 30,000 African Americans who lived in Pennsylvania during the Civil War era.