When the Yankees Come

Former South Carolina Slaves Remember Sherman's March From the Sea

Paul C. Graham


Many Americans believe that the coming of the blue soldiers of the North, emissaries of emancipation, was a joyful event for African Americans. Nothing could be further from the truth.

How do we know this? Because we have their recorded accounts.

Ending slavery, contrary to self-congratulatory American myth, was not a righteous crusade. It was a byproduct of a brutal war of conquest and invasion—a total war against civilians in which black Southerners suffered as much if not more than whites. The devastation of the people’s resources in large areas of the South left African Americans as well as Southern whites suffering and sometimes starving.

For many, it was an experience of fear, disruption of life, and cruel uncertainty about their future, to which the liberators had given no thought.

The material gathered by Paul C. Graham makes this clear. Of late, Americans have had a taste for history by theory: the War Between the States was “about” slavery. A better understanding comes from seeing what the people who were there have to say about it. Such an approach to history as human experience can be both informative and enlightening.

This book expands and replaces Graham’s previous version of When the Yankees Come and includes selections from both the North Carolina and South Carolina WPA Slave Narratives.

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Paperback ISBN: 9781947660434

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