Saluting the flag at the Whittier Primary School, Hampton, Virginia, circa 1899-1900

Saluting the flag at the Whittier Primary School, Hampton, Virginia, circa 1899 – 1900;  Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1864-1952, photographer. Click on the image for a larger/higher resolution version of the photograph.
Image Source: Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-65770; see here for more details

The picture was taken in 1899 or 1900, just as the full force of segregation was tightening itself around the necks of African Americans – sometimes in a literal way.

Yet, these children – or their parents or teachers – still saw fit to salute the flag. But then, that flag might have freed those children’s grandparents, or even their parents, from bondage in the wake of the American Civil War. Some of them might have had family who served in the Union army or navy, or provided labor to the army at nearby Fort Monroe. So the United States flag was still something to respect and cherish, perhaps even without a sense of irony.

The Whittier School was a school for children that was “used as a practice ground for teaching students of the Hampton Normal School, (“Normal Schools” were schools for teachers) which was part of Hampton Institute, in Hampton, Virginia. Hampton Institute was one of many institutions established after the war provide education and training to the former slaves as they made the transition to free citizens.

Close-up on boy holding the flag

See also here, A Field Trip to the Freedom Fortress by Hampton Institute Students.


Monuments to the United States Colored Troops (USCT) [African American Civil War Soldiers]: The List

A great way to celebrate Memorial Day is by visiting one of the dozen monuments that have been erected to honor the United States Colored Troops (USCT) who participated in the Civil War. I have identified the following monument sites which are in several states and the District of Columbia. [If you know of any that I’ve missed, please write to me and I will make an update.]

(While these monuments are great, the public landscape is still deficient in representing the fullness of the African American experience during the war. Refer to this post: Missing Monuments – The Unfinished Work of Commemorating the African American Experience in the Civil War.)

The information about each monument site is brief. Originally, I wanted to include a lot more information, but then the post became too large and unwieldy. I’ve provided links that give additional details, and I encourage you to follow them and explore.

My main focus is on monuments, which I define as large, usually sculpted outdoor pieces. There are many other markers, which are smaller commemorative pieces, that honor the USCT (and which may identify themselves as monuments); I have indicated a few of these in this blog entry. Over time, I may add more.

This is an example of a smaller memorial marker which I have not included in my list of USCT monuments. I have listed a couple more of these below.
This marker is from the Cabin Creek Battlefield near Pensacola, Oklahoma, and commemorates the First Kansas Colored Infantry. Click on the image to see a larger size version of the photograph.

If a particular monument is a sculpted piece, I’ve tried to include the sculptor’s name. Some monuments are simply large headboards with engravings, and would not have required a dedicated sculptor to produce original art.

For those who are interested in visiting USCT burial sites, please go to RESTING PLACES OF UNITED STATES COLORED TROOPS.

Of note is that at least fifteen of these monuments were erected in the past 20 years. My speculation is that this recent interest in memorializing the USCT got its impetus from the 1989 movie Glory, which is a fictionalized account of the 54th Massachusetts regiment that served in the Union army.

List of USCT Monuments shown in this blog entry:
1. The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry; New Haven, Connecticut.
2. The African-American Civil War Memorial – The Spirit Of Freedom; Washington, District of Columbia
3. Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment; Washington, District of Columbia
4. 2nd Regiment Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops; Fort Myers, Florida
5. Colored Soldiers Monument (AKA Kentucky African American Civil War Veterans Monument); Frankfort, Kentucky
6. In Memory of More Than 400 Prominent United States Colored Troops from Kent County; Chestertown, Maryland
7. Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment; Boston, Massachusetts
8. African American Monument; Vicksburg, Mississippi
9. 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Civil War Monument – “Battle of Island Mound”; Butler, Missouri
10. 56th United States Colored Troops Monument; St. Louis, Missouri
11. Soldiers’ Memorial at Lincoln University, Missouri; Jefferson City, Missouri
12. In Memory of the Colored Union Soldiers; Hertford, North Carolina
13. Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Cleveland, Ohio
14. United States Colored Troops National Monument; Nashville, Tennessee
15. West Point Monument (AKA Norfolk African-American Civil War Memorial); Norfolk, Virginia
16. Civil War Monument; Portsmouth,Virginia

Other USCT monuments which are not shown in this blog entry (click on the links to see and read about these monuments):
17. Freedom Park – Helena, Arkansas (see also here). This site features several sculpted pieces and information markers which commemorate the experience of black soldiers and civilians in the city during the Civil War. Helena was the site of a large refugee camp for slaves who fled their owners; these camps were sometimes called “contraband camps.” According to this information marker, black enlistees from the Helena/Phillips County area formed “the 54th, 57th, and part of the 69th (regiments) of the U.S.C.T.”
18. African American Soldiers Monument, Danbury, Connecticut. This monument is dedicated “to the memory of the black soldiers of Greater Danbury who served in the 29th and 30th Regiments Conn. Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War 1981-1865.” The back of the monument bears 70 names from the 29th Conn., and honors 16 who were killed in service, as well as nine names from the 30th Conn., including three who were killed. The monument also lists a dozen names from other Connecticut and New York regiments and the U.S. Navy, including one soldier who lost his life.
19. African American Medal Of Honor Recipients Memorial, Wilmington, Delaware. This monument is dedicated to the 87 African Americans who were awarded the US Medal of Honor. The sculpted piece includes a depiction of a Civil War era African American soldier.
20. African American Civil War Monument in Decatur, Illinois. This monument commemorates the entire African American Civil War experience, and includes images of Colored Troops, slaves, freedmen/contrabands, and Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
21. Union Monument at Fort Butler in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. This monument is dedicated to the African American soldiers who fought at the Battle of Fort Butler.
22. United States Colored Troops Civil War Memorial Monument in Lexington Park, Maryland.
23. 54th Regiment Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Plaza in New Bedford, Massachusetts. This plaza/park features a columned archway and water fountain that commemorate the all black 54th Regiment, and is near the location of a recruiting station where many of the regiment enlisted for service.
24. Corinth Contraband Camp, Corinth, Mississippi. This site is a monument to freed blacks, AKA “contrabands,” and includes sculptured pieces of African descent soldiers.
25. Monument to 26th Regiment United States Colored Infantry, Ithaca, New York. This monument is located at an African Methodist Episcopalian (AME) church which served as a recruiting station for African Americans in upstate New York.
26. All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers & Sailors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This monument is not strictly for USCT, and it physically depicts World War I era soldiers. But it’s on the list because it honors all African Americans soldiers through World War I.
27. Camp William Penn memorial in Cheltenham, PA, which is just outside of northwest Philadelphia. Camp William Penn was the first federal facility dedicated to training African Americans who enlisted in the United States Army during the American Civil War. Just under 11,000 men of African descent were trained at the site, and they formed 11 regiments in the United States Colored Troops (USCT).

Finally, these are some noteworthy memorial markers to African Americans who fought in the Civil War:
28. Monument to the 1st Regiment, Kansas Colored Volunteers, Honey Springs Battlefield, Checotah, Oklahoma. This commemorates the black soldiers who fought at Honey Springs in what was formerly Indian Territory.
29. Monument at Petersburg National Battlefield, Petersburg, Virginia. This recognizes the service of United States Colored Troops who participated in the Siege of Petersburg during 1864-65.
30. See the memorial to the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers at the Cabin Creek Battlefield near Pensacola, Oklahoma, which is shown above in the beginning of this blog entry.

This list was developed mainly from research done on Internet. The ‘net can be unreliable at times, but then, this post would not have been possible without on-line resources. I invite one and all to identify any errors in the text below, and I will work toward making the corrections on a timely basis.

[1] The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry
New Haven, Connecticut.

The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry Memorial
Photographer: Richard E. Miller; taken: July 6, 2009
Click on the image or here to see a larger version of the photograph from the Historical Marker Database site.

This monument to the much storied Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment is, to me, one of the most visually striking of the USCT memorials. It is in a circular space that features a large obelisk at its center which is partially encircled by eight stone markers that feature the names of regiment members. The obelisk has images of the soldiers and an inscription which tells the history of the regiment. More regiment history is here.

The memorial was erected in 2008 by the Descendants of the Connecticut 29th Colored Regiment, C.V. Infantry, Inc. The sculpture was designed by Ed Hamilton of Louisville, Kentucky. Images of the monument dedication are here.

The memorial is in the northwest corner of Crisuolo Park (a.k.a. Quinnipiac Park) off Chapel Street. The park is just east of the Mill River and north of the Quinnipiac. It is accessible from northbound I-91 off exit 5 (State Street) via James Street. Click for map.

From the obelisk on the monument site
Source: 29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Colored) website

For additional information:
Entry in the Historical Marker Database
A Sketch of the 29th Regiment of Connecticut Colored Troops by Isaac J. Hill, 1867
Connecticut African American Soldiers in the Civil War, 1861-1865 (PDF)

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Display of the Emancipation Proclamation in Dearborn, MI; and an invite to USCT organizations

Note: This is from Yulanda Burgess of the of the “United States Colored Troops Brigade” Yahoo discussion group:

In conjunction with its “Discovering the Civil War Exhibit” which opened on May 21, The Ford Henry (AKA Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum) will have the original Emancipation Proclamation on display from the National Archives for three days only, June 20-22, 2011.

The nationally renown museum is located in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburban of Detroit. The entire exhibit is free only during the display of the original Emancipation Proclamation. Those visiting before or after the June dates will see only a facsimile as part of the overall Civil War exhibit. This original document has very, very limited viewing due to its fragility. The last public display of the Emancipation Proclamation was in Los Angeles at the Getty’s Gallery in November of 2003.

For more information see:

NOTE: The Henry Ford is hoping for additional responses to its invitation to US Colored Troops groups/units to participate during the Emancipation Proclamation’s display. Any unit that has received a personal invitation to participate in a vigil and encampment and act as a honor guard is urged to contact the museum as soon as possible.

Norman Hill: “We must participate in our own re-awakening.”

Norman Hill, member, Tennessee Historical Commission, Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission
Source: Screenshot from Nashville Cemetery USCT Sculpture YouTube video from the Veterans Health Administration

A hot topic regarding the Civil War Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) is the interest, or perceived lack thereof, of African Americans in the War and related commemoration activities and events. A discussion of African American attitudes toward the war is here.

An essay on the subject is provided by Norman Hill, who is a member of the Tennessee Historical Commission, the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, and is a United States Colored Troops re-enactor. Hill wrote this after visiting historic sites in Tennessee with content related to African Americans in the Civil War. I found this piece interesting and thought-provoking.

I want to give thanks to the people at the Eagle News newspaper for granting permission to re-print this piece:

I am traveling today with the Historic Commission, visited the 13th US Colored Troops (USCT) exhibit at the Clement museum in Dickson, Tennessee, and the “Promised Land settlement” in Dickson, Tennessee.

I participate as a member of the Historic Commission of the State of Tennessee consisting of gubernatorial appointees from all the Grand Divisions.

Even as we visited the historic African American settlements, we were distracted by rebel flags and auto horns sounding “Dixie.” The implications were quite clear that the old guard is not going away.

Many black and white historians agree that it is our challenge to fill the void of our own silence, recognize the legacy we have inherited. We should be cautious not to spend our valuable time and resources counteracting every Rebel flag, or worse to hide away and hope that we are not noticed. Visual opposition is necessary, but it must not be our only course of opposition.

It is time to put aside the fear of our past, and face the promise of our future. We must celebrate and promote the opening of the Bradley Museum because it is our legacy. We must also the “Promised Land Settlement” in Dickson County. Their representative visited and supported our Bradley Festival and we should return and support their efforts.

Monuments and memorials such as Bradley Museum, Promised Land, and Freedom Hill in Gallatin are a part of an even larger renaissance of Black culture and History that has included the USCT Museum in Washington, DC, and the recent CBS Broadcast “Who do you think you are” featuring Vanessa Williams’ family history and revealing a USCT relative, as well as one of the first Black members of the Tennessee Legislature.

All over the Middle East, people are pushing back years of fear and suppression to express their desire for freedom. We are not immune from the implications and we must participate in our own re-awakening.

We are fortunate to be alive to witness and participate in the revival of our own Heritage and Pride.

Scene in Pleasant Valley, Maryland, October, 1862

Scene in Pleasant Valley, Maryland; Staff of Union General George McClellen, circa 1862
Source: Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. The book and its contents are available for browsing on the web at several sites, such as at the Library of Congress, the George Eastman House site, and Luminous Lint: for Collectors and Connoisseurs of Fine Photography.
This is a cropped image; the full image can be seen here (this is a link to a large file that might take a little bit to load to your web browser).

This picture, by Alexander Gardner, is from the book Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Volume 1. Gardner was a photographer with the famous Matthew Brady studio, which was responsible for a large number of Civil War photographs. The image is described in the book:

The house of Mrs. Lee, situated in Pleasant Valley, Maryland, was selected by General McClellan, after the battle of Antietam, as a temporary home for Mrs. McClellan, who paid a brief visit to the army. The General spent much of his time here, when not occupied with military matters, and in the vine-clad porch the officers of the Staff whiled away many a pleasant October day.

Two of the officers shown in this group were members of General Burnside’s Staff, and one of General McClellan’s. It was intended that General McClellan should make one of the group, and all the necessary arrangements had been perfected by the photographer, when heavy cannonading on the Virginia side of the Potomac, caused by a reconnoitring party of cavalry, drew the General away.

The photo description in the book makes no mention of the black woman at the edges of the picture. Physically and symbolically, she is at the margins.

According to Donna Thompson Ray at Picturing U.S. History,

Pleasant Valley was a rest location for the Union Army after the Battle of Antietam, and the scene depicts the temporary residence of General McClellan’s wife, among Generals McClellan and Burnside’s staff, and their wives.

[This] scene in Pleasant Valley, Maryland, may have been far from tranquil for the lone black female figure that occupies a space of margin among the seated and standing group. During the war, black men and women escaped from their owners and resided at Union camps as contraband. In exchange for their freedom, many slaves labored at the camps and offered information about the environs to aid military advances of the Union Army.

This picture was taken in October 1862, just after the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Union president Abraham Lincoln. Black women and men would have a far greater impact on the war than this picture would indicate.

The Anti-Slavery Alphabet: a pamphlet from 1846

Source: Image from The Anti-Slavery Alphabet pamphlet at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

The Anti-Slavery Alphabet was a poem-based pamphlet that was produced for an 1846 Anti-slavery Fair in Philadelphia. As noted by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History,

In the January 1847 Pennsylvania Freeman, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society reported profitable sales at its December 1846 fair of “an Anti-Slavery alphabet, written and presented to the Fair by Hannah and Mary Townsend, of this city.” The slim volume targeted young readers, with the hope of inspiring a new generation of abolitionists.

The Alphabet consists of sixteen leaves, printed on one side, with the printed pages facing each other and hand-sewn into a paper cover. Each of the letter illustrations is hand-colored.

Despite its simplicity – the poem was clearly made to be memorized by children – the Anti-Slavery Alphabet is a compelling and comprehensive condemnation of slavery. It discusses all the critiques of the institution: the separation of family members; its use of physical cruelty; and the overall unfair treatment of slaves, who are “Brothers with a skin of… darker hue” but nonetheless “dear” in the eyes of God.

Notably, the poem takes Northerners to task, saying, “M is the Merchant of the north, Who buys what slaves produce— So they are stolen, whipped and worked, For his, and for our use.”

The pamphlet begins with another poem titled To Our Little Readers which tells the young, “there’s much that you can do… plead with men that they buy not slaves again.” It also suggests that young people boycott slave produced goods.

The text of the pamphlet is shown below, and taken from the EBook version from Project Gutenberg; see the note at the bottom of this blog entry. The pamphlet is also available for browsing at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as a slideshow of images of each page.


Listen, little children, all,
Listen to our earnest call:
You are very young, ’tis true,
But there’s much that you can do.
Even you can plead with men
That they buy not slaves again,
And that those they have may be
Quickly set at liberty.
They may hearken what you say,
Though from us they turn away.
Sometimes, when from school you walk,
You can with your playmates talk,
Tell them of the slave child’s fate,
Motherless and desolate.
And you can refuse to take
Candy, sweetmeat, pie or cake,
Saying “no”—unless ’tis free—
“The slave shall not work for me.”
Thus, dear little children, each
May some useful lesson teach;
Thus each one may help to free
This fair land from slavery.


A is an Abolitionist—
A man who wants to free
The wretched slave—and give to all
An equal liberty.


B is a Brother with a skin
Of somewhat darker hue,
But in our Heavenly Father’s sight,
He is as dear as you.


C is the Cotton-field, to which
This injured brother’s driven,
When, as the white-man’s slave, he toils,
From early morn till even.

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Confederate President and Vice-President: Secession was Due to Slavery

Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis and Vice-President Alexander Stephens: Founding Fathers for a nation that “rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.”

What are children being taught about the causes of the Civil War? I ask because in a recent Pew Research Center poll, 48% of respondents said that the war “was mainly about states’ rights,” while 38% said it “was mainly about slavery.”

I have issues with the way the question concerning the causes of the war was worded, but even so, it is perplexing that almost 50% of those polled thought that states’ rights was the cause of the war.

That runs counter to the thinking of modern historians. Consider the comments of historian Elizabeth Varon, author of the book Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859, in a lecture two years ago: “there’s emerged in recent years a strong consensus, which scholars call the fundamentalist school, that slavery was the root fundamental cause of the civil war and that the political antagonisms between the North and South flowed from the fact that the North was a free labor society while the South was a slave labor society which remained committed to slavery and indeed to extending its domain.”

That view – that slavery was the “root cause” of the war – is not shared by many folks today, and I wonder why there is a disconnect between what scholars understand and what non-scholars understand. It makes me wonder: what are children being taught about the war in school? And specifically, what are they being taught about the views of the Confederate Founding Fathers, such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and Vice-President Alexander Stephens?

Just before Davis became President of the Confederate States, he was a United States senator for the state of Mississippi. When Mississippi seceded, it issued A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union. This document was basically Mississippi’s declaration of independence from the United States government. This is how the declaration begins:

In the momentous step which our State [Mississippi] has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Following that declaration, Davis made a farewell speech to the Senate on January 21, 1861, to announce that he was leaving the Congress to join with his disunionist state, and to give some reasons for the state’s actions:

..if I had not believed there was justifiable cause; if I had thought that Mississippi was acting without sufficient provocation, or without an existing necessity, I should still… because of my allegiance to the State… have been bound by her action. I, however, may be permitted to say that I do think she has justifiable cause, and I approve of her act.

I conferred with her people before that act was taken, counseled them then that if the state of things which they apprehended should exist when the convention met, they should take the action which they have now adopted…

It has been a conviction of pressing necessity, it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi into her present decision. She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions [i.e., slavery]; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races.

On March 21, 1861, Confederate States Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens, gave what is now called the “Cornerstone Speech” which, among other things, talked about the reasons for secession:

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.
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Pew Research Center: Asking the Wrong Questions about the Causes of the Civil War

The Pew Research Center recently released the results of a poll about American attitudes toward the Civil war. The poll results are here, in a piece titled Civil War at 150: Still Relevant, Still Divisive.

One poll question was about the causes of the Civil War. These are the results:

As noted by Pew, “There is no consensus among the public about the primary cause of the Civil War, but more (48%) say that the war was mainly about states’ rights than say it was mainly about slavery (38%). Another 9% volunteer that it was about both equally.”

I have a major problem with this question. As posed, it makes the two suggested reasons for the war – slavery and states’ rights – into separate, mutually exclusive propositions. That is, they’re saying the war was either about slavery or about states’ rights.

Which I think is wrong.

Why not ask if the war was caused by the desire to protect states’ right to maintain slavery?

States’ rights was not some mere or vague abstraction. The Confederates had a particular right in mind when they seceded: the right to protect, as the state of Mississippi put it, “the institution of slavery”… which in their minds, was “the greatest material interest of the world.”

If people are asked the wrong questions, we can’t help but get the wrong answers. If Pew does another poll, I’d like to see them ask this question:

Q: Assuming “states’ rights” was the cause of the war, what states rights were the Confederate States trying to protect?
(a) right to maintain slavery as they saw fit
(b) right to control tariff policy
(c) other

I’d love to see how people respond to that.

Nina L. Brown and Children

Nina L. Brown with Daughters [Photograph of Nina L. Brown with Frances and Lois (daughters)], probably very late 1890s or early 1900s; additional details are here.
Source: Ohio Historical Society; from the Hallie Q. Brown/Frances Brown Hughes Collection. The photograph is located at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, OH.

These photographs are from the Hallie Q. Brown/Frances Brown Hughes Collection at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. Hallie Q. Brown (1845? – 1949) was a teacher, elocutionist, civil and women’s rights advocate, and Wilberforce University graduate, instructor, and trustee. Nina L. Brown was Hallie Q. Brown’s sister-in-law.

The photos are part of an online exhibit at the Ohio Historical Society’s website, the African-American Experience in Ohio 1850-1920.

Nina L. Brown and Jere Brown Jr., circa 1906-07; additional details are here.
Source: Ohio Historical Society; from the Hallie Q. Brown/Frances Brown Hughes Collection. The photograph is located at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, OH.

On the eve of the Civil War, in 1860, Ohio had the third largest population of blacks in the free states/the “North,” with 36,000 African American residents. Among northern states, only Pennsylvania (57,000) and New York (49,000) had more free blacks than Ohio. In fact, Ohio had more free blacks than any Confederate state, except the state of Virginia (58,000). Maryland, a “border” state that was considered part of the South, had the most free blacks of any state (84,000).

Wilberforce was (and still is) the location of Wilberforce University. Wilberforce was opened in the late 1850s as a place where youth of African descent could gain an education; it is considered the oldest private, historically black university in the United States. It was named after William Wilberforce, the 18th century abolitionist. It was a joint collaboration of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, although the AME became its sole operator during the course of the Civil War.