Black families paid a high price for participating in the Civil War, according to Dr. Holly A. Pinheiro, Jr.
Pinheiro, an assistant professor of history at Furman University, spoke at Lander University on Monday, Feb. 28 as part of the Larry A. Jackson Endowed Lecture Series, in conjunction with Black History Month.
He said that black soldiers fighting with the Union army often “sacrificed their lives for the greater good of the United States and for their enslaved brethren,” but their families made sacrifices, too.
“The war tore African American husbands from wives, fathers from children, children from parents, and friends from friends,” said Pinheiro, author of “The Families’ Civil War: Black Soldiers and the Fight for Racial Justice,” which has been accepted for publication by the University of Georgia Press.
Aside from the social upheaval involved, working-class black families also suffered severe economic hardships for assisting the Northern war effort.
“The mobilization of hundreds of thousands of able-bodied African American men into the United States army devastated their families for multiple generations. In some cases, their financial woes continued well into the 20th century,” he said.
Black soldiers often went months without being paid, rendering them unable to send money home in a timely fashion, and the wives and mothers of black soldiers killed in the war often had a difficult time collecting pensions they were due. In many instances, they received no compensation at all.
Pinheiro, whose presentation was sponsored by the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, said that “African American families rarely mattered to the national narrative, other than as supporters of the war effort or for the soldiers sacrificing their lives. The struggles the families experienced, unfortunately, were of minimal consequence or significance to war propagandists or even the military.”