End of Slavery led to Starvation and Death for Millions of Black Americans

5fish

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There new school of thought that numerous slaves dead after gaining their freedom after the war...

link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/16/slavery-starvation-civil-war

Hundreds of thousands of slaves freed during the American civil war died from disease and hunger after being liberated, according to a new book.

But, as Downs shows in his book, Sick From Freedom, the reality of emancipation during the chaos of war and its bloody aftermath often fell brutally short of that positive image. Instead, freed slaves were often neglected by union soldiers or faced rampant disease, including horrific outbreaks of smallpox and cholera. Many of them simply starved to death.

After combing through obscure records, newspapers and journals Downs believes that about a quarter of the four million freed slaves either died or suffered from illness between 1862 and 1870. He writes in the book that it can be considered "the largest biological crisis of the 19th century" and yet it is one that has been little investigated by contemporary historians.

"In the 19th century people did not want to talk about it. Some did not care and abolitionists, when they saw so many freed people dying, feared that it proved true what some people said: that slaves were not able to exist on their own," Downs told the Observer.

Many ended up in encampments called "contraband camps" that were often near union army bases. However, conditions were unsanitary and food supplies limited. Shockingly, some contraband camps were actually former slave pens, meaning newly freed people ended up being kept virtual prisoners back in the same cells that had previously held them. In many such camps disease and hunger led to countless deaths. Often the only way to leave the camp was to agree to go back to work on the very same plantations from which the slaves had recently escaped.

"This challenges the romantic narrative of emancipation. It was more complex and more nuanced than that. Freedom comes at a cost," Downs said.



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Tom

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I don't believe it was millions, but it was bad enough. Probably 200,000 died of starvation or disease during the war and more in the years following the war. Compare the increase of the black population from 1850 to 1860 and 1860 to 1870.
 
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rittmeister

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I don't believe it was millions, but it was bad enough. Probably 200,000 died of starvation or disease during the war and more in the years following the war. Compare 1860 and 1870 census records.
i always thougt believing is sth to do in churches - got any facts?
 

Tom

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Some folks say that the war and death of 750,000 white soldiers was "God's punishment" for the sin of slavery.
If that's true, then why did all of these black people die?
 

5fish

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Believe" and "probably"
Maybe Downs is a 'Lost Causer" trying to show freeing the slaves was the wrong path... so soon ...

A summary:

Bondspeople who fled from slavery during and after the Civil War did not expect that their flight toward freedom would lead to sickness, disease, suffering, and death. But the war produced the largest biological crisis of the nineteenth century, and as historian Jim Downs reveals in this groundbreaking volume, it had deadly consequences for hundreds of thousands of freed people.

In Sick from Freedom, Downs recovers the untold story of one of the bitterest ironies in American history--that the emancipation of the slaves, seen as one of the great turning points in U.S. history, had devastating consequences for innumerable freed people. Drawing on massive new research into the records of the Medical Division of the Freedmen's Bureau-a nascent national health system that cared for more than one million freed slaves-he shows how the collapse of the plantation economy released a plague of lethal diseases. With emancipation, African Americans seized the chance to move, migrating as never before. But in their journey to freedom, they also encountered yellow fever, smallpox, cholera, dysentery, malnutrition, and exposure. To address this crisis, the Medical Division hired more than 120 physicians, establishing some forty underfinanced and understaffed hospitals scattered throughout the South, largely in response to medical emergencies. Downs shows that the goal of the Medical Division was to promote a healthy workforce, an aim which often excluded a wide range of freedpeople, including women, the elderly, the physically disabled, and children. Downs concludes by tracing how the Reconstruction policy was then implemented in the American West, where it was disastrously applied to Native Americans.

The widespread medical calamity sparked by emancipation is an overlooked episode of the Civil War
and its aftermath, poignantly revealed in Sick from Freedom.
 
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rittmeister

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Some folks say that the war and death of 750,000 white soldiers was "God's punishment" for the sin of slavery.
If that's true, then why did all of these black people die?
disclaimer: i think
"God's punishment" for the sin of slavery.
is mere and utter bullshit for many a reason. having said that and assuming for a second that idea caries any weight: without those black people dying they might have gotten off with a mere 500,000.
 

Wehrkraftzersetzer

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Some folks say that the war and death of 750,000 white soldiers was "God's punishment" for the sin of slavery.
If that's true, then why did all of these black people die?
maybe a different god? or no god at all and they simply started a war they couldn't win?
 
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5fish

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Here a look about after the war.... there was a problem buring the freedmen....

LINK: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)61937-0/fulltext

When military officials eventually encountered the high mortality among the newly freed population, they soon realised that they needed plots of land to bury the freedpeople who died during and after the war. As military physicians began to alert federal officials of the need for burial grounds, the government commanded military doctors to work out arrangements with local governments for proper burial grounds. Local authorities, in turn, often rejected such requests, opposing the mere suggestion that freedpeople be buried near the same lot used for white Southern residents. In Raleigh, North Carolina, for instance, sparks flew when municipal officials informed military agents in April, 1866, that “the cemetery is a resting for those remains of Union soldiers and not an indiscriminate burying ground for freedmen”. Military officials responded by asking for an appropriate place to bury the freedpeople, but municipal authorities failed to provide an adequate solution, yet continued to complain that the bodies should be removed. Debates about where to bury freedpeople reignited the issue of who was in charge of reconstruction in the South: the federal government or local authorities.

On an emotional level, the turmoil of not being able to properly bury loved ones must have been unbearable for former slaves. Joseph Miller's son froze to death on his journey from a Union camp to a boarding house in Kentucky in 1864. With nowhere to bury his 7-year-old son, Joseph carried him 5 miles back to the Union camp and buried him in an unmarked grave. On a public health level, the need for cemeteries for freedpeople who died from illness created dangerous health problems. In April, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, many freedpeople became infected with typhoid fever and were left to die in isolation without any proper burial. As a city official in Charleston, South Carolina explained, “The health of this institution and the city requires that dead bodies by typhoid fever should be removed with as little delay as possible.”
But removing bodies proved to be a difficult task without sanctioned areas for burial. Transporting the bodies of freedpeople to remote locations in the countryside was considered, but this would require labour, funds, and, most of all, a designated area to bury the bodies. In many parts of the South, the failure of the federal and local governments to systematically create cemeteries made the removal of the dead a difficult task to accomplish. A freedwoman in southern Illinois in 1864 pleaded with military officials to bury her son. She had already witnessed how the bodies of other formerly enslaved children had been left exposed on a nearby dock where wharf rats had gnawed on their remains. She feared a similar fate would befall her son and begged the Captain in charge of the camp to ensure that her son would be buried. He simply responded by claiming that his own soldiers lacked a proper burial. This encounter was not unusual: the Civil War landscape was marked by the unburied bodies of many people—both black and white.

The death of freed slaves in the American Civil War reveals how the struggle to survive unfolded not only on the battlefields during military engagement but also among civilians in military camps, on abandoned plantations, and in other places that promised liberation.
Without access to food, clothing, medical care, and even a place to bury their loved ones, the promise of freedom could not be realised for many people. Furthermore, within American history, historians often narrate suffering and death as unexpected sacrifices that result from war or from other major transformations. Yet, the medical crises that freed slaves endured suggest that sickness and death may not have been the unavoidable consequences of war, but the very price of freedom.
 
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