One of the reasons I became interested in study of the United States Civil War (1861-1865) was to learn about the people who were swept up in it.
Acres of trees have been cleared to provide paper to write about Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and many more of the main people who influenced the war. But there are many more people out there that not much has been written about. If I wanted to, I could dedicate the rest of my life to combing through university libraries and attics to uncover the lives of some of the many unknown of the Civil War.
Many of these unknown are slaves. Others are people, both white and freeborn black, who never had the spotlight of history sweep their way to light up their existence.
Here are some of the resources I was able to find spending just a few minutes online today.
1.In the 1930's, a Depression project to put writers to work allowed some of those stories to be uncovered, and told, while a number of these people were still alive. It was called the Federal Writers Project and some of their work in telling the lives of the unknown of the Civil War is online.
To quote from the Born in Slavery website:
"Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500
black-and-white photographs of former slaves. These narratives were
collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the
Works Progress Administration (WPA) and assembled and microfilmed in
1941 as the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves."
2. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library also has extensive online resources to research the story of slavery (and the stories of African-Americans after the war was over).
Speaking of North Carolina (a former Confederate state) I also found this little tidbit: slavery was outlawed in North Carolina until 1790.
Contrast this with my native state of New York (a state that did not secede and stayed with the Union): slavery there was legal from the 1600's to 1827.
Whether we live in the North, the South, or somewhere else entirely - there are gaps in our education, and this 150th anniversary of the War is a good time to fill in some of those gaps.
That is why I love history. Not only is it the story of "We the Unsung", but it never ceases to amaze, and there is always something new just around the corner.