Free Library of Philadelphia
Home > Ask a Librarian > Browse or Search all FAQs > Civil War 150: "We Are Rising"
Where do I start? These lists of books are specially selected by our Librarians.
Civil War 150: "We Are Rising"
African Americans and the Civil War - The African American experience in the Civil War and during the years just preceding and following it.
There Are 10 Items | Showing 1 to 10
Book Cover
Title: Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America
Author: Biddle, Daniel R. and Murray Dubin
Publisher: Temple University Press
ISBN: 9781592134656
Call Number: 323.092 C297b
Reading Level: Adult.
Notes: We've all heard about the heroic work of people like Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks in the 20th-century integration of baseball and public-transit systems; we know about that century's voting-rights struggle and fight for school integration. Very few of us, however, know much about the civil-rights movement that preceded the Civil War, included some similar events and episodes, and was led by both white AND black Americans, including the title figure of this monumental, meticulously-researched book that reads like a fast-paced novel. An orator, writer, teacher, civil-rights activist and expert second baseman, Octavius Catto was murdered outside his Philadelphia home on Election Day 1871, at the age of 32. Much more than just his biography, this book, which includes extensive endnotes and a lengthy bibliography, will fill in the cavernous gaps in most readers' knowledge of his life and times.

Book Cover
Title: A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation
Author: Blight, David W.
Publisher: Harcourt
ISBN: 9780151012329
Call Number: 973.7115 T849b
Reading Level: Adult.
Notes: John Washington (of Virginia) and Wallace Turnage (of Alabama), born into slavery in the first few decades of the 19th century, are unlikely to have ever met, but wrote eloquent narratives of their lives as slaves, their escape to the Union at two different points during the Civil War, and their lives after their liberation. Reminding his readers of these two men's immense courage and that of other slaves who freed themselves, as well as of the rarity of slave narratives, David Blight tells their dramatic and moving story, and includes their accounts, with very little editing.

Book Cover
Title: My Bondage and My Freedom
Author: Douglass, Frederick
Publisher: Modern Library
ISBN: 0812970314
Call Number: 973.8092 D747my4
Reading Level: Adult.
Notes: Born in Maryland in February 1818 to a slave named Harriet Bailey and an unknown white man, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey escaped in September 1838, traveled north by train and boat, married a woman named Anna Murray and settled in New Bedford, where he became well known and highly regarded as an abolitionist with powerful oratorical and writing skills. By the time of his death in 1895 he was the most influential African American man of his era, internationally known as an indomitable and ardent advocate of racial equality. More than just the story of his life, My Bondage and My Freedom includes some of his speeches and essays, and is written with passion and not without humor.

Book Cover
Title: Narrative of Sojourner Truth
Author: Gilbert, Olive
Publisher: Dover Publications
ISBN: 048629899X
Call Number: 326.0924 T777g3
Reading Level: Adult.
Notes: Born into slavery (and named Isabella) in upstate New York around 1797, the woman who adopted the name Sojourner Truth became one of the most ardent and vocal abolitionists and women's rights advocates of the 19th century, living through most of it: she died in 1883. Unfortunately she was unable to write her story herself, but she did have a friend, Olive Gilbert, to whom she dictated it. This Penguin Classic edition also includes writings about her and a moving description of her last days, death, and funeral.

Book Cover
Title: Black Stars of Civil War Times
Author: Haskins, Jim and Clinton Cox and Otha Richard Sullivan, Ed. D. and Eleanora Tate and Eleanora Wilkinson
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN: 0471220698
Call Number: 973.7089 H273b
Reading Level: Adult/Young Adult.
Notes: Beautifully illustrated with photographs and drawings (including one of a "lubricator" patented by Elijah McCoy in 1882), this anthology tells the stories of the lives, careers and accomplishments of Civil-War-era African Americans noted for their work in many fields. Among them are Frederick Douglass, teachers Sarah Mapps Douglass and Charlotte Forten Grimke, Sojourner Truth, physicians Alexander Augusta and Charles Burleigh Purvis, inventor Elijah McCoy, Congressman Robert Smalls and musicians Thomas Bethune and James Bland. Some became known primarily as abolitionists and others in military or civilian life, but all, as the book's introduction points out, "actively sought to control their own lives." Haskins is the book's General Editor.

Title: Climbing Up to Glory: A Short History of African Americans During the Civil War and Reconstruction
Author: Jenkins, Wilbert L.
Publisher: Scholarly Resources, Inc.
ISBN: 0842028161
Call Number: 973.7089 J419c
Reading Level: Adult.
Notes: Temple University historian Wilbert Jenkins focuses on "blacks as the central actors in their own lives and not as passive objects of a white-dominated society" (the author's own words in the Introduction, p. xiv) in this detailed and highly readable study of the era that included both the War and the following decade.

Book Cover
Title: Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero
Author: Larson, Kate Clifford
Publisher: Ballantine
ISBN: 0345456270
Call Number: 305.567 T79La
Reading Level: Adult.
Notes: This is a carefully-researched and detailed biography of one of the best-known leaders--conductors, as they were known--of the Underground Railroad. Larson's book delves into the vital role in Harriet Tubman's life and work of her love of family and belief in the evil of forcibly separating family members from each other, a tragic feature of American slavery. Harriet Tubman's life and work encompassed not only the Civil War's effort to free the slaves but most of the 19th century and the first twelve or thirteen years of the 20th: born around 1822, she died in 1912 or 1913.

Book Cover
Title: Frederick Douglass
Author: McFeely, William S.
Publisher: W. W. Norton
ISBN: 039331376X
Call Number: 973.8092 D747m3
Reading Level: Adult.
Notes: This highly readable biography covers much more than just Douglass' efforts as an abolitionist and equal-rights advocate--McFeely studies every aspect of Douglass' life, both personal and professional--but much of it focuses on the Civil War and the surrounding years, and the book is lavishly illustrated with photographs of Douglass, his family and fellow activists.

Book Cover
Title: African Americans and the Civil War
Author: Reis, Ronald A.
Publisher: Chelsea House
ISBN: 1604130385
Call Number: 973.7415 R277a
Reading Level: Young Adult/Adult.
Notes: This survey of the war to end slavery and the role of African Americans in that fight includes a chronology beginning with the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Photographs of African American soldiers and a chapter on the Massachusetts 54th Regiment of African American troops are among the book's contents. (Limited availability.)

Book Cover
Title: Freedom's Journey: African American Voices of the Civil War
Author: Yacovone, editor, Donald
Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books
ISBN: 1556525117
Call Number: 973.7092 F875j
Reading Level: Adult.
Notes: This anthology of unabridged Civil-War-era accounts has the distinction of including exclusively those of African Americans themselves. Some are well known, others not; they are soldiers and sailors such as Sgt. William J. Brown, abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, nurse Susie King Taylor, teacher Charlotte Forten Grimke, and Elizabeth Keckley, who acquired renown for her gifts as a seamstress, becoming highly successful in that field and working for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. The key unifying feature of all the entries in this book is their authors' determination to play a leading role in their own, and their people's, liberation.