The United States is marking a somber anniversary today. It was on April 12th, 1861 that the heavy guns of the Confederacy opened up on the Union-held Fort Sumter, launching what would be the most destructive (but ultimately defining) era of a still young America up to that point. Much has been made of that conflict in the 150 years since. It was the war that preserved the nation. It was the war that made men free. It was the war that ensured America would remain intact and grow into the world power it felt destined to be.
But the truth is a little more complicated, especially with regard to the ending of American slavery, in both the North and South.
Hollywood tells stories of the gallant free black soldiers of the North marching alongside their white brothers-in-arms to liberate those in the South. And there is much truth to the Hollywood portrayals of that period, in movies like Glory, for instance. But the final end of slavery was far more complicated, tragic, and politically murky to say the least.
So, in the interest of shedding more light on this fascinating time, we've got some historical brain food for you. Start here, with this exceptionally well-written piece by the New York Times.
Then, get a copy of the top notch Civil War documentary series that Ken Burns did for PBS.
There's also really good stuff here, at the Zinn Education Project.