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African Canadians in Union Blue

Volunteering for the Cause in the Civil War

African American Studies, American Abolitionism and Antislavery, Award Winners, Civil War Era, Discover Black History, Military History, Understanding Civil War History

Why free blacks left home to fight in a foreign war

Award Star IconWinner of the Canadian Historical Association’s C.P. Stacey Prize

DescriptionWhen Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he also authorized the U.S. Army to recruit black soldiers for the war effort. Nearly 200,000 men answered the call, and several thousand of them came from Canada. What compelled these men to leave the relative comfort and safety of home to fight in a foreign war? In African Canadians in Union Blue, Richard M. Reid sets out in search of an answer and discovers a group of men whose courage and contributions open a window on the changing understanding of the American Civil War and the ties that held black communities together even as the borders around them shifted and were torn asunder.

“Richard M. Reid’s canvass is rich with innovative research and imaginative analysis illuminating the complex cross-border forces and motivations that drove almost 2500 British North American black men to the Northern side in the Civil War. Professor Reid’s compelling narrative brings to life the forgotten.”—Canadian Historical Association’s Stacey Prize committee

“Richard M. Reid’s study of African Canadians who served in the U.S. armed forces during the Civil War provides insight into an era rich in significance for both Canada and the United States. Reid dispels longstanding myths about who the men were and what prompted them to volunteer. Among other things, he finds that many were not fugitives from slavery in the U.S. and that their motives included the personal and the professional as well as the political. Engagingly written, this book does much more than fill in a fascinating niche about the Civil War. It offers a fresh perspective into familiar subjects that look different when viewed from north of the border.”—Joseph P. Reidy, Professor of History, Howard University

“This significant book helps us better understand the Civil War in a transnational context, as Richard M. Reid reveals the fascinating and compelling story of nearly 2,500 African Canadians who chose to leave the safety of British North America to cross the border and help fight for the Union and the end of slavery.”Christian G. Samito, author of Becoming American under Fire: Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship during the Civil War Era

This book received support from the Wilson Prize for Publishing Canadian History. 

Author Richard M. Reid is professor emeritus at the University of Guelph and the author of several books in Canadian and American history, including Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era.