tv Black Civil War Soldiers in Photographs CSPAN August 23, 2021 11:41am-12:25pm EDT
deborah willis collected these through her exhibit and this book shows how african-americans documented throughout the war to project stories of courage, family and citizenship to counteract prevailing stereotypes, and the national archives hosted this talk and provided the video. >> greetings from the national archives. i'm david fair owe, archivist, and it is my pleasure to present deborah willis author of "the black civil war hero." the civil war was the most prolonged conflict to be extensively documented in photographs. it gives aus sense of immediacy that we don't have from paintings and prints from the revolutionary war or other earlier conflicts. we can individual the individual
faces and imagine ourselves in the battlefields in the aftermath of the fighting. thousands of those images are in the national archives burk photos of the black soldiers are rare. in the book "the black civil war soldier" deborah willis shows us the faces of the black soldiers who took up arms to fight for their freedom. using photographs and the written record, she examines not only the individual stories of the soldiers, but also the importance of the african-american communities during and after the war. deborah willis is a university professor and chair of the department of photography at new york university and has an affiliated department with the college of arts and sciences and department of social and cultural analysis and africana studies and also wrote a book on michelle obama and african
beauty, and both have received naacp image awards. welcome. >> thank you, everyone. i am excited to be here and i thank the national archives for this invitation to share my work and inviting me. it is really exciting to consider the work that is a place where i did a lot of work in terms of research at the national archives focusing on my topic. my topic also is about memory and rediscovery as well as investigating the legacy of african-american soldiers as well as women who were teachers and nurses and to think about how photography, letters and diaries form this experience. i am going to start off with sharing my screen. and which will include a talk
focusing on my research. and beginning here with the first image, it is the cover of the book, and the image that celebrates, but also documents the experience of image making. this one of the photographs that is part of the collection, and it really tells story of the experience of what it meant to be photographed and then how do we preserve that photograph through the experience of the casing of the image and when we read this photograph of this soldier who is holding this gun to his chest. one of the first people who inspired me to even think about this project, and to inherit the project is the research that i have found on frederick
douglass, his words, and so it is the civil war that inspired douglas to write and speak on photography and like many american ps, he believed that photographs and pictures contributed to the secession and a war over slavery. during the civil war, douglas douglass wrote a number of lectures and comments of the war and once you, the black men get upon his person the breath of the war, let him get the eagle on the chest and the musket on his shoulder, and let him earn the rights of citizen ship. i write that oath just in terms of the aspect of the individual
individuality of the photograph. and this is central to my research, and as we are looking at the missing history of these images, and this is a self-portrait and antebellum dress styled with the quilt, and she says, i looked and i looked to see what so terrified you. she is looking for the images of the black people that were made, and that denigrated and imagined black bodies as subhuman, and she created this space of louie agassi's research on black bodies and i also rediscovered this image of the plantation scene as entitled antebellum tableau by shawn mullin, and it is a fascinating story as i am trying to place the land, and place the personal experience and place the memory of the enslavement and also of the
civil war. here we see a land owner who is standing in the front, and we see a post that is the fascinating aspect of the image, and we can see the young woman who is in the back and she has a bonnet in her hand, and another young girl who is actively posing as if she is sweeping the land. the experience of this, and when we are thinking of dress in these images of this land and the importance of stories, this is finding these images and when i was researching this story, i was looking for ways to tell how photography mediated with the silencing othis history by going into public and private selections to find another narrative. this a portrait of etheridge, as
you can see, and he is writing a letter to his former captain orem hedrick, that in the days to come, we will have a chance to say hello again. this is important because we will see the exchange of the man who is born into slavery and fought into the war, and he is enlisted into the 36th u.s. infantry in 1863, and he fought in st. petersburg and new market heights and he had a relationship that was with the captain and why i am excited with the talk here at the national archives here is that i researched the national archives through the pension records and trying to find the stories of the black soldiers and their families and their experiences.
this is the portion of henry brewster who is in the archives probably about 1870, and his wife in 1905 of susan brewster sent a photograph with return that is only in the archives and in the photograph, it is there, and in the department of interior, and in the archives when she sent the letter and she is asking for the return, and this is because it is the only image that henry was a blacksmith and a laborer and a tailor, and he fought in the war and injured, and she wrote and she had a number of affidavits proving her marriage to brewster, and also finding that he lost sight in his right eye, and he had kidney problems after he left the army, and he was trying to get his pension. so there are a number of letters in the pension records where
black women are trying to survive after their husbands' deaths. so unfortunately, she never received his pension, but the letter remains in the affidavit,n affidavit another to women in the ward, the white. also we were thinking about sanitation situations in the war. most of the men, many of the men who died because of the experience not only of wound but because of unsanitary
conditions. they try to create a safe space. she posed with the american flag. we see the photographer with relationship as we think about the importance of how the photographer's hand is necessary in creating the importance of the image. images that are hand painted really give life to an image and tells a story of one man who identified here standing in front of a backdrop. we see the importance of art in history making. we see the importance of art as the narrative of telling the story of bravery when we see the american flag that is hand painted. we see the battlefield. we see the battleground. we see the instruments of war.
the photographer imagines sees himself as posing ready for war, ready to fight freedom not only for himself but for others. a family member and also another image of a soldier with his family seated with his children and knowing that this image is central way of creating a narrative of importance of family. women wrote letters to their husbands and it's really, as i tell the story, i think about the experience of women who wrote to abraham lincoln about equal pay. not only the wives and mothers but soldiers as well. they understood their presence,
their importance. they were circulating the humanity of the subject. in a private collection of a checker and we see these two posed images. one is lovely as gold highlights it's important to think. he starts off in 1863 and writes my dear husband. i received your last letter. ending up, i say tell isaac that his mother and others got the clothing they sent. there's an exchange of community when we see this letter. farewell my dear husband from
your wife. asking him to write soon and experience these moments. gratitude about the war but also worried about the experience of the children. this is the image of the 127th ohio regimen. later called the fifth u.s. color troop in ohio. as they are about to go to war, we see a group of people standing on the street. bearing witness through the experience of the soldiers. in terms of the war and importance of history, when we created and worked on the book, we wanted to think about self emancipated people, women and men who are also known as curious as run away.
this is where he highlights a $50 reward for a woman named dolly. he says ran away from the yard corner of jackson and broad in augusta, georgia on the date of april 1863. a woman whose likeness is seen here. she's 30 years of age. light complexion. rather good looking and not healthy. his letter her good looks. she's free. she ran away. set here by a white man and as
research it could have been a union soldier, her lover. she understood that soldiers desire to communicate with their loved ones and write letters. she said i taught a great many of the comrades in company e to read and write when they were off duty. we were all anxious to learn and also her husband worked with her on that. this is a fantastic image of a scene in south carolina with a regimen entitled, composed of escaped slaves in formation. we see the land. we see the importance of this image and the rarity of space.
the comportment of the hold of the men in uniform says a lot about the next step. were they were prepared to move forward. i'm going to walk through some images here that rarely, we rarely see but we see in private collections and the importance of photography. to create an image of soldiers on a mission to create a story about the fight for freedom. this is a group of soldiers this is the provost marshal office.
we see soldiers. we see men and women who are standing outside. we see some are known as contraband as they are seen and enter into a space of freedom and moving out of slavery. these are images where we see masculinity that countered the negative images that were presented of black people and black men that had the images that circulated of black figures. some of the generals that we know in history.
identity, creating to the experience of these photographs and remembering, as i mentioned earlier that memory personal and public is central to creating these images. we have sailors and we also have journalists in the book. i wanted to have first hand account of soldiers as well as their letters. he was able to write about the experience. he was war correspondent for the time.
the sense of bravery that met. he also talked about law and what happened through this experience. a mother figure, his image here. this is in the collection of finding the library. he also wrote about his experience in the war. he was said i was born on the regime of slavery. my father was a slave. in my family i learned what slavery was first hand.
about the war of 1863, 1864. we see women. we see a woman who is pregnant. we see a young woman, a pregnant woman who has her arm wrapped around possibly her mother or an older woman. the older woman who removed her bonnet to be photographed. the range of people in this image from children to older people to nurses to men wearing suits and jackets. we begin to see the formation of the experience of people who were seeking their freedom.
it was used by the abolitionists. there's a man in scotland who says i found a large number of 400 examined by me as badly lacerated as the specimen represented in this enclosed photograph. traveling through boston, this person got it done to francis. he purchased this. he says the pro-lincoln photograph. when i think about the range of experience, as he entered the camp and his image circulate and
self-description how they were vital to and under valued by the union. this is a lot about how women played the role, played in their role and visualize in their experience in constructing their stories and their memory about using photograph. she said i'm going to say one word about our school and she talks about the children and the importance of the scholars and the community. she was concerned about the health of her daughter. these are ways how we read images of contraband. images of men and women and children who are enslaved.
this is another image here of this plantation in buford, south carolina. images of harriet tubman and images of the call for men and women to join the war by frederick douglassdouglass. looking at the posing of the experience of quiet moment of going into the studio here. he says we have gone quietly along as he prepares for the war and how long it takes to get to south carolina and prepare for the war.
album is bound. we see the power of images. in terms of his image and what he used throughout his lifetime, the importance of the war and his story. the narrative of history lessons. we think a portrait, this portrait of charles douglas, frederick douglass who after his father said the call to arms,
called to arms that this is a way of looking at his history. he's prepared to fight with his brother. he says i've been in two fights. he describes the people who were wounded in upstate new york. then he writes another. my dear girl, do not fret yourself to death. i beg of you. he's also concerned about her life.
her concern. he talks about the experience of the welfare of the men. he talks about the loss of the three who died if fort wagner. these are experience that give life to images. not only the iconic moment and how letter writing were important in creating my story that i'm fascinated with. then her photographs. we begin to see the experience as women of how they envision.
he came to take tea with us. it was a religious meeting and he was really excited about the experience of going to a praise house to see it. he was delighted find he was one of the very best and low spirited that he had. he expressed his gratitude. as i mentioned again, we think about this is a portrait of henry stewart.
he was noncommissioned officer as many. stewart was actively engaged in recruiting the soldiers in are regimen. he died at the regimen hospital. his estate was paid $50. sad story, he was only in the war less than six months and died. he was a recruiter. the story that he experienced through the unsanitary experience. here is a portrait of christian fleetwood. he writes that fleetwood, he writes he's from carol county, maryland. i get excited about some of these stories because i love that fact he kept the bugel
above it and the number four. uniform code. dark blue wool and an overcoat. and a blanket. when we see this, when the soldiers were handed these items that they could write a note off the break of dawn under the supervision of the hand and the experience of what it meant. you can write a little note about the experience. they were porable. they were at large. they wrote -- he wrote about the meals and what the tickets and what's going on in front. then the best discovery was a
new research on plaque surgeons. he had an exhibition and here is photograph of anderson abbot. he was appointed an acting assistant surgeon in 1863. he worked at the hospital which is also the contraband hospital during the war. his photograph in the collection of baltimore. we see another surgeon. me draft was in favor of surgeon rank. i read the -- i read the address several times. i liked it. i confess it read strange to me. it read strange to me.
reading that, that he was paid a certain amount of money even though he didn't like the experience of the war, but he was there to take care of some of the wounded men and that experience of wearing his uniform. he intended to apply for an appointment to become a surgeon. he lived in canada to study medicine. he returned to be a part of this experience of the war. here is this photograph and his letter. we see it's true part of this and another group photographed by white officers who
photographed some of their -- the men in their camp. this is a photograph that was on display there. photograph of family in their home. a drawing of the fort wagner, unfortunate death of all of the men who died, including shaw. we see this is part of the art work on the wall. we see the importance of the memory of that experience. in contemporary artists such as
wendall white looking at the history of these images and the experience of the images that are in the archives making contemporary images about these experiences. the notion of the grand army of republic veterans of the war. this is a gray may 30th, 1912. young women and men walking with their grandfathers and fathers marching through the streets. photographed the monuments in boston. here is the title restless after the longest winter. you march and march.
looking at the experience of an artist who views this story to recreate the monument that's dramatized the long march in, the cold winter. photographing this at a time when the 54th left the city and says marking down beacon street on may 28th, 1863, they left boston the head south. focuses on one soldier in this big monument and he says because of the looking at these images in the tarnished winters, the experience of the art work changing as a result of the element, it looks as their sweat lulling and falling down the
soldier. a way that brings life to the experiences of contemporary artist who is looking at the war such williams images. it was built by black people in that town and linda ford roberts as he's photographing in north carolina and thinking about death as well as the experience of the burial ground that divided in death and life. here we see the two sides.
also crucial stories as well as these images and fantastic work by the photographers as the artists knew the importance of the worthiness of these soldiers and fighters and cooks and nurses. the sense of what it meant to be free and personalize through the visual image. i guess that we have no questions and i'd like to end and think about for us to imagine what photography meant in this -- photography was basically 20 some odd years old when the war started.
to create this long visual history, that's evidence of of the black president and the role photography played. in terms of the multiple lessons we learned through history, i see the visual experience in telling that story. thank you. if you choose to research critical race theory, you'll find derek bell. he was one of the principal originators of this much discussed subject. in november of 1992, derek bell appeared on book notes to discuss his book faces at the bottom of the well. the permanence of racism,
unquote. >> the late derek bell on this episode of book notes plus. listen at c-span.org/podcast or where ever you get your podcast. author of make way for liberty, wisconsin african-americans in the civil war. mr. kannel describes how he researched the topic and what life was like for many of the veterans after the war. the wisconsin veterans museum provided this video. >> welcome every one and good evening. i'm the curator of history. welcome to the museum's curator conversation. it's a virtual program that we started that was meant to make