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Civil War and Reconstruction
African-American Soldiers During the Civil War
John Wesley Dobbs Describes African Americans in Civil War

In the following excerpt from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, John Wesley Dobbs provides a glimpse of a radio speech he delivered to interested groups. Dobbs was an African American from Atlanta, Georgia, and a retired railway postal worker. While Dobbs was not an eyewitness to the Civil War, since he was not born until 1882, what factual claims does he provide about African Americans in the Civil War era?

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"I might add that I'm devoting quite a bit of my time to the platform as a public speaker. I was Emancipation Day Speaker for 'Wings over Jordan', a radio program heard every Sunday morning over the CBS, through station WGAR, Cleveland, under the direction of Dr. Glenn T. Settle,with the [Gethsemane?] Choir of Cleveland, with [orth?] Kramer its conductor. This is a distinct honor granted my people through the CBS as it gives our ministers, educators, and leaders an opportunity which otherwise is not granted us. I would like here at this point to tell you some of the things I said in this address, that is, if it won't take too much of your time.

"The subject was 'The Negro in America'. I explained the significance of Emancipation Day by saying: 'To the twelve million Negroes of America this day has a higher signification - to us it is Emancipation Day. On January 1, 1863, in the City of Washington, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which freed 3 1/2 million slaves. Today their descendants pause to commemorate that historic event with profound gratitude to God and to Abraham Lincoln. . . .

"In the Civil War, 200,000 fought in the Federal Army for their own freedom and the preservation of the Union. Three million slaves made crops by day and protected homes by night, of their masters who were fighting to keep them in bondage. Such loyalty and devotion have never been surpassed by any people in any period of history. In the World War 380,000 were enrolled - 200,000 of whom saw service in France. The Negro has fought valiantly in every American War and has yet to produce a traitor to the flat!"
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View the entire document from which this excerpt was taken, from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.