“Only Murder Makes Men”: Reconsidering the Black Military Experience

“Only Murder Makes Men”: Reconsidering the Black Military Experience carole emberton In his pioneering study of emancipation, W. E. B. Du Bois made a provocative assertion about the manner in which African American men earned their freedom. "How extraordinary," he wrote, "and what a tribute to ignorance and religious hypocrisy, is the fact that in the minds of most people, even those of liberals, only murder makes men." Reflecting on the relationship between violence, manhood, and freedom, he continued, "The slave pleaded, he was humble; he protected the women of the South, and the world ignored him. The slave killed white men; and behold, he was a man." Du Bois's discomfort with the relationship between military service, manhood, and freedom seems at odds with the view held by many people at the time, particularly abolitionists, who imagined the military as not only the most direct path to political equality for African Americans and the swiftest route to slavery's destruction but also as an indispensible vehicle for the internal transformation of slaves into free men and citizens. Frederick Douglass heralded soldiering as the key to both collective and personal liberation. He reminded a crowd in Philadelphia in 1863 that "slavery can be abolished by white men, but liberty http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of the Civil War Era University of North Carolina Press

“Only Murder Makes Men”: Reconsidering the Black Military Experience

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