After the Civil War, Memphis Vagrancy Laws Kept African Americans in ‘Slavery by Another Name’

Federal Authorities Authorized Patrols That Arrested Blacks and Gave Them to White Employers for Bounties

After the Civil War, the four million black Americans who had been enslaved encountered numerous new forms of authority, most of which seemed to promise protection and support rather than exploitation and abuse: teachers in schools, doctors in hospitals, employers who paid wages, the U.S. Army, municipal police, and a federal agency known as the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Becoming free involved figuring out the inconsistent rules and behaviors of these new authorities. The government, even as it sponsored freedom, was not always a just actor—nowhere more egregiously than in the case of …

More In: Civil War

The “Little Giant” Who Thought That Backing Slavery Would Unite America

Stephen Douglas' Push to Allow Human Chattel in Nebraska Lit a Match to the Civil War

One of the most ambitious attempts to unite America ended up dividing it, and altering it forever.

At the opening of the 33rd Congress on December 5, 1853, Stephen A. Douglas, …

The Civil War Art of Using Words to Assuage Fear and Convey Love

Soldiers and Their Families, Sometimes Barely Literate, Turned to Letters to Stay Close

Sarepta Revis was a 17-year-old newlywed when her husband left their North Carolina home to fight in the Confederate States Army. Neither had much schooling, and writing did not come …

How Americans Can Stop Fighting the Civil War

Acknowledging Tragic Loss on All Sides Could Begin a Process of Reconciliation

It began as a loving effort to heal the South’s wounds, to properly mourn the young men who gave their lives for a lost cause, and to extract dignity from …

The Religious Roots of America’s Love for Camping

How a Minister's Accidental Bestseller Launched the Country's First Outdoor Craze

Summer 1868 passed as an unremarkable season at Saranac Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The weather was fine, the scenery delightful, and the usual array of 200 to …