Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Learning and remembers Blacks as Contraband

In most cases, Brig. General Benjamin F. Butler is credited with coining the term "contraband." Stationed at Fortress Monroe in Virginia  in 1861, Butler was met with the question of what to do with escaping slaves when three men entered his line seeking refuge. Like other commanding officers, Butler, an attorney, had to decide if he would obey the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 , which clearly, under threat of arrest, directed anyone coming into contact with an escaped slave to return the fugitive to his or her master. The sharp-minded Butler, aware that blacks were being used by Confederates to build fortifications and reasoning that the property of disloyal Southerners could be claimed by the federal army as "contraband of war," so classfied African Americans coming within his line. In addition to Butler’s important decision, The Second Confiscation Act, would nearly ensure that African Americans who crossed Union lines would be offered sanctuary. 

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