Freedom's Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner

Freedom's Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner

by Jean Lee Cole
     
 

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In a series of columns published in the African American newspaper The Christian Recorder, the young, charismatic preacher Henry McNeal Turner described his experience of the Civil War, first from the perspective of a civilian observer in Washington, D.C., and later, as one of the Union army’s first black chaplains. In the halls of Congress, Turner

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Overview

In a series of columns published in the African American newspaper The Christian Recorder, the young, charismatic preacher Henry McNeal Turner described his experience of the Civil War, first from the perspective of a civilian observer in Washington, D.C., and later, as one of the Union army’s first black chaplains. In the halls of Congress, Turner witnessed the debates surrounding emancipation and black enlistment. As army chaplain, Turner dodged “grape” and cannon, comforted the sick and wounded, and settled disputes between white southerners and their former slaves. He was dismayed by the destruction left by Sherman’s army in the Carolinas, but buoyed by the bravery displayed by black soldiers in battle. After the war ended, he helped establish churches and schools for the freedmen, who previously had been prohibited from attending either. Throughout his columns, Turner evinces his firm belief in the absolute equality of blacks with whites and insists on civil rights for all black citizens. In vivid, detailed prose, laced with a combination of trenchant commentary and self-deprecating humor, Turner established himself as more than an observer: he became a distinctive and authoritative voice for the black community, and a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal church. 

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781935978619
Publisher:
West Virginia University Press
Publication date:
03/01/2013
Series:
Regenerations Series
Edition description:
1st Edition
Pages:
290
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915) was born free, but poor, in South Carolina. He joined the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E. Church) as a young man and quickly rose to become pastor of congregations in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In Washington, he actively recruited black troops for the Union army, and in 1863 he was awarded the chaplaincy of the 1st Regiment U.S. Colored Troops. After the war, he served in the South Carolina state legislature during Reconstruction and was elected Bishop of the A.M.E. Church in 1880. As Bishop he championed the interests of poor Southern blacks within the denomination. As black civil rights eroded at the end of the century, Turner became a vocal advocate for emigration to Africa. A charismatic and controversial figure, Turner presaged Marcus Garvey’s back-to-Africa movement and 1960s-era black nationalism. Upon his death in 1915, W. E. B. Du Bois described him as “the last of his clan: mighty men, physically and mentally, men who started at the bottom and hammered their way to the top by sheer brute strength.”
 
Jean Lee Cole is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the co-editor of The Collected Plays of Zora Neale Hurston (with Charles Mitchell, Rutgers UP 2008) and the author of The Literary Voices of Winnifred Eaton: Redefining Ethnicity and Authenticity (Rutgers UP 2002).
 
Aaron Sheehan-Dean is the Eberly Family Professor of Civil War History at West Virginia University. He is the author of Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia, the Concise Historical Atlas of the U.S. Civil War, and co-author of American Horizons.

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