African Americans and the Civil War

Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment in the Boston Common

This guide is designed to help you research information about African Americans' roles in the Civil War. It includes an index of scholarly sources that can be used. Included in the list are websites that may be helpful in your research. If you have any trouble finding these sources, please ask a librarian for help.
  • RCC Library Home Page: Most materials found in this research guide are available at the library's home page.
  • Reference Desk: Please contact the library if you have any questions concerning this guide or research.



The Library's on-line catalog provides access to our collection of approximately 40,000 books, periodicals, and audio-visual titles.
Tutorial for searching catalog and ordering books from the Metro Boston Library Network (includes Boston Public Library)

Good Search Terms to use

  • Civil War
  • African American History
  • Dred Scot Decision
  • Missouri Compromise
  • The Union
  • The Confederacy
  • Confederate States of America
  • Abolition
  • Secession
  • Emancipation Proclamation
  • Reconstruction
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Harriet Tubman

The Library holds many books about African Americans and the Civil War, some of which are listed below. Some of these books may be located on the first floor of the library as part of the Library's Civil War Display.

New Books

Willis, Deborah. Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery. Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 2013. Print.
Call Number: E185.2 .W68 2013

Baker, Bruce E. and Brian Kelly, eds. After Slavery: race, labor, and citizenship in the reconstruction south. Gainesville : University Press of Florida, 2013. Print.
Call Number: E185.2 .A34 2013
Holzer, Harold. The Civil War in 50 Objects. New York : Viking, 2013. Print.
Call Number: E646 .H65 2013

Reference Books


McPherson, James, ed. The Atlas of the Civil War. New York : Macmillan, 1994. Print.
Call Number: REF G1201 .S5 A85 1994


Hanna, Charles W. African American Recipients of the Medal of Honor: A Biographical Dictionary, Civil War Through Vietnam War. Jefferson : McFarland & Co., 2002. Print.
Call Number: UB433 .H35 2002 (Circulating)

Richter, William L. Historical Dictionary of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Lanham : Scarecrow Press, 2004. Print.
Call Number: REF E468 .R53 2004

Boatner, Mark Mayo. The Civil War Dictionary. New York : Vintage Civil War Library, 1991.
Call Number: REF E468 .B7 1991


Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heider, eds. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History. New York : Norton, 2000. Print.
Call Number: REF E468 .E53 2000

Faust, Patricia L, ed. Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York : HarperPerennial, 1991. Print.
Call Number: REF E468 .H57 1986


Higginbothom, Evelyn Brooks. The Harvard Guide to African-American History. Cambridge. : Harvard University Press, 2001. Print.
Call Number: REF E185 .H326 2001

Circulating Books

Fuller, Randall. From Battlefields Rising: How the Civil War Transformed American Literature. New York : Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Call Number: PS217.C58 F85 2011

Woodworth, Steven E. Manifest Destinies: America's Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Print.
Call Number: E179.5 .W65 2010

Smith, John David, ed. Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Print.
Call Number: E540 .N3 B63 2002

Wilson, Keith P. Campfires of Freedom: The Camp Life of Black Soldiers During the Civil War. Kent : Kent State University Press, 2002. Print.
Call Number: E540.N3 W72 2002

Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. New York : Collier Macmillan, 1990. Print.
Call Number: E540 .N3 G53 1991

Yacovone, Donald, ed. Freedom's Journey: African American Voices of the Civil War. Chicago : Lawrence Hill Books, 2004. Print.
Call Number: E540 .N3 F73 2004

Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001. Print.
Call Number: E468.9 .B58 2001

Electronic Books


The library has recently added 20,000 online books from the vendor Ebrary. This is the “community college” collection, of interest to students and faculty at 2-year colleges. All books are simultaneously available to all RCC users. Ebrary has over 90 books about the American Civil War, including:

Army Life in a Black Regiment
Higginson, Thomas Wenworth. Army Life in a Black Regiment. Scituate. : Digital Scanning, 2001. Web.


Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln: A Relationship in Language, Politics, and Memory
Blight, David W. Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln: A Relationship in Language, Politics, and Memory. Milwaukee : Marquette University Press, 2001. Web.

Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War
Levine, Bruce. Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War. New York : Oxford University Press, 2005. Web.

The Negro in the American Rebellion: His Heroism and His Fidelity
Brown, William Wells. The Negro in the American Rebellion: His Heroism and His Fidelity. Athens : Ohio University Press, 2003. Web.


Access millions of journal, magazine, newspaper and reference source articles through our research databases.

Academic OneFile

Academic OneFile is the premier source for peer-reviewed, full-text articles from the world's leading journals and reference sources. You can find over 1,000 entries on the topic of the American Civil War, including journal and magazine articles, books, podcasts, and videos.

African American Experience

This database includes articles, images, and primary source documents dealing with African Americans and the Civil War, as well as topics such as Abolition, Reconstruction, the Underground Railroad, and the Dred Scott Decision.

American History Online

American History Online has a Civil War and Reconstruction topic page that includes biographies of leading Civil War figures, articles, maps, primary sources, images, videos, and a Civil War time line.

Credo Reference

Through the Credo Reference database, RCC students can gain access to any of a possible 2,977,685 entries, including articles, books, news items, videos, and images. It contains over 9,000 entries about the American Civil War and over 2,500 entries about the Civil War and African Americans.

Issues and Controversies in American History

This database includes articles on a number of topics related to the Civil War, including Fugitive Slaves, Secession, Sherman's March, and Reconstruction. It includes essays, pro and con arguments for selected topics, biographies, and primary source documents.

Massachusetts History Online

Massachusetts History Online contains full-text articles gathered from almost 50 sources that directly relate to MA history. It includes over 350 articles on the U.S. Civil War, many of which deal with African Americans' role in the conflict.

Military and Government Collection

This database provides full text for over 320 military related periodicals and general interest magazines, including over 1,500 articles about the U.S. Civil War.

US History in Context

US History in Context provides integrated access to over 4,000 historical documents, articles from more than 30 reference titles, and over 110 full-text journal covering themes, events, individuals and periods in U.S. history from pre-Colonial times to the present. This database has a Civil War topic page that includes reference, magazine, news, and academic articles, primary sources, videos, audio clips, and photographs.

Streaming Videos

Films On Demand

African-American Lives 2: A Way Out of No Way (54 mins.)
Continuing to trace guests’ lineages back through the late 1800s to the Civil War and earlier, this program features stories like that of Chris Rock’s maternal great-great-grandfather, Julius Caesar Tingman, a black Civil War veteran who was twice elected to the South Carolina State Legislature; and Don Cheadle’s ancestors, who had been enslaved by Chickasaw Indians and brought to Oklahoma on the tail end of the Trail of Tears—the mass relocation of Native Americans from the South during the 1830s. Distributed by PBS Distribution. Part of the series African-American Lives 2.

The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns (9 episodes,62-100 minutes each)
Hailed as a landmark in historical storytelling, Ken Burns’ classic Emmy Award–winning nine-part series The Civil War brings to life America’s most destructive—and defining—conflict. Narrated by historian David McCullough, here is the saga of celebrated generals and ordinary soldiers, a heroic and transcendent president, and a nation in arms against itself. “Heartbreaking and lyrical, vivid in sight, sound, and music, its focus is intensely human against the sweep of history,” says USA Today. Distributed by PBS Distribution.
Episode 1 - The Cause (1861) (100 mins.)
Episode 2 - A Very Bloody Affairs (1862) (68 mins.)
Episode 3 - Forever Free (1862) (76 mins.)
Episode 4 - Simply Murder (1863) (62 mins.)
Episode 5 - The Universe of Battle (1863) (96 mins.)
Episode 6 - Valley of the Shadow of Death (1864) (70 mins.)
Episode 7 - Most Hallowed Ground (1864) (72 mins.)
Episode 8 - War is All Hell (1865) (69 mins.)
Episode 9 - The Better Angels of Our Nature (1865) (69 mins.)

The Divided Union: The Story of the Civil War, 1861-1865 (5 parts, 52 minutes each)
Divided into five parts, this classic public television series encompasses the entire broad scope of the War Between the States. Drawing upon the keen insights of more than 50 experts as well as battle reenactments, footage of historic locations, archival photographs, works of art, poems, songs, diaries, memoirs, and letters, The Divided Union brings out the many political, economic, social, cultural, and international implications of America's Civil War-when brother fought brother and the chains of slavery were broken.
Forward to Sumter: The Beginning of the War Between the States (52 mins.)
Bloody Stalemate: The War Begins in Earnest (52 mins.)
High Tide of the Confederacy: 1863, the Turning Point in the War (52 mins.)
Total War: The War Takes Its Toll on Day-to-Day Life (52 mins.)
Conclusion at Appomattox: The War Ends, but Not Its Impact (52 mins.)

Long Shadows: The Legacy of the American Civil War (89 mins.)
Ruined cities, scorched countryside, over 600,000 deaths—these were the Civil War’s direct results. But its long-term effects were no less cataclysmic and are still at work in American society. From North to South, from civil rights to foreign policy, from individual to collective memory, this classic program by award-winning filmmaker Ross Spears explores the cultural, political, and economic echoes of the War Between the States. Reflections come from a wide range of distinguished guests, including former President Jimmy Carter, poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren, scholars Robert Coles and John Hope Franklin, and author Studs Terkel. Civil rights activists, West Point graduates, Vietnam War veterans, battlefield tour guides, relic collectors, and blues musicians also add commentary to this evocative study.

Web sites

There are many good web sites about African Americans and the Civil War. These web sites have been evaluated by library staff. Remember to always evaluate internet resources. Cornell Universityhas a very good guide to evaluating websites.

Citing Sources: Style Guides

These resouces will help you to correctly cite any sources you use in your research.

APA Style Tutorial

Laguardia Community College Library MLA and APA citation style

The Owl at Purdue: APA Formatting and Style Guide

The Owl at Purdue: MLA 2009 Formatting and Style Guide

Basic Research Help

Please click the Ask a Librarian icon if you have any questions concerning these guides, need help finding material for your research or any general questions you might have.


General Library Information

Research guide prepared on July 15, 2011 by Autumn Haag: . Updated by 03/06/2014 by Katie Bliss.