NOVEMBER 2013: The Voices of the Civil War is a five-year film series dedicated to celebrating and commemorating the Civil War over the course of the sesquicentennial. Each month, new episodes cover pertinent topics that follow the monthly events and issues as they unfolded for African Americans during the Civil War. Within these episodes there are various primary sources – letters and diaries, newspaper reports, and more - to recount various experiences of blacks during this period. We encourage your feedback and commentary through our Voices of the Civil War web blog.

Click here to visit the Voices of the Civil War blog to see previous episodes.

On November 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, just 272 words, lasting 3 minutes. The location of the Gettysburg Address had its own special resonance for African-Americans. Since the eighteenth century, the town of Gettysburg had maintained a small, vibrant African-American community. But during the Battle of Gettysburg, the two armies damaged or destroyed much of the property belonging to African-Americans, and many of the black residents who fled the town did not return. Though no one could mistake the meaning of the "new birth of freedom", the Gettysburg Address remained silent about the fate of African-Americans. The "great task" mentioned by Lincoln was not emancipation, but the preservation of self-government. Though words cannot end a war or bind up a nation's wounds, the Gettysburg Address lives on as perhaps the most significant speech in American history.


1, 3, 9, 11 National Archives and Records Administration

2, 5, 7-8, 10, 12, 13, 15-20, 24 - 25 Library of Congress

4, 6 Massachusetts Historical Society

14 Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

21, 23 Adams County Historical Society, Gettysburg, PA

22 Courtesy of Special Collections/Musselman Library, Gettysburg College