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The U.S. Navy Civil War Racial "Melting Pot"

U.S. Civil War Naval Ships, Men and Battles--Confederate and Union
A Part of My Civil War Weapons & Warfare Activity Page
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The 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 Army.  Read the article about life for African Americans in the Navy, and find information about what a black sailor's life. 


C . . . Diaries and journals by black sailors are available on-line.  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 Navy heroism.   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.



Visit the 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 Articles

You can record your answers in a Navy Form each part of the activity.

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