Still in the fight: The struggle for community in the Upper Midwest for African American Civil War Veterans
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The Civil War and Emancipation had a transformative effect on the nation as a whole but an even greater effect on the lives of African Americans. While historians have examined the effects of the Civil War and Emancipation on African Americans in the South in detail, few have explored the effects of such events on African Americans in the Upper Midwest.
Also lacking in this historiography is how the military service of African Americans affected the lives of these veterans and the communities in the Upper Midwest they helped to form after the Civil War. Using the black community of Newton, Iowa after the Civil War as a case study, this thesis argues that African American veterans who settled in the Upper Midwest used the political capital of their service, kinship ties, and other social institutions to forge and maintain space for African American communities.
African American Civil War veterans and other black citizens continued for decades after the war to remind their white neighbors of their earned space in the community. They viewed their emancipation and citizenship as rewards for their military service and loyalty to the nation and struggled to obtain the full rights of citizenship still denied them. They did this by using the few unconventional political tools at their disposal namely the political capital accrued through military service and kinship ties. The African American citizens of Newton, as a result, were able to create a prosperous and influential black community and secure many of the social rights reserved for full citizens in what was before the war a region of the country fearful of black immigration.