• Gettysburg National Military Park


    National Military Park Pennsylvania

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War for Freedom

The War for Freedom

(Library of Congress)

African American Experiences in the Era of the Civil War

Gettysburg is the best-known and most visited Civil War battlefield. It has become a touchstone for millions of Americans, taking on meanings that go beyond the battlefield and Civil War history.

The town’s African Americans, who likely understood the causes of the conflict better than any of the town’s residents, have been largely ignored by historians. The stories of these individuals — all free on the eve of war — raise important questions about the African American experience in the Civil War:

How did people become free?

How did they protect their freedom?

How did they expand their freedom?

And what, in the end, did it mean to them that the greatest battle in this war for freedom took place in their backyards?


Curriculum Materials (high bandwidth)

-All Materials (pdf-617kb)


Curriculum Materials (low bandwidth)

-Explore the Setting (pdf)-241.8k)

- Learning Activities

1. Choose and develop a character.(pdf- 24.9k)

2. What would you do, stay or flee? (pdf- 28.4k)

3. "A new birth of freedom."? (pdf- 14.1k)

4. Long Remember- Postwar (pdf- 11.6k)



1. African American Bios. (pdf-19k)

2-4. Supplementary Material. (pdf-29k)

5. Mag Palm Account. (pdf-112k)

6. The Gettysburg Address. (pdf-12k)

7. Lincoln on Race Relations. (pdf-12k)

8. Reactions to the Gettysburg Address. (pdf-21k)

9. Contemporary Views of the Lincoln Administration. (pdf-20k)

10. Worksheet. (pdf-13k)

11. Grave diggers at Gettysburg (photo; pdf-43k)

12. Basil Biggs and wife (photo; pdf-69k)

13. Owen Robinson (photo; pdf-66k)

13. John Hopkins (photo; pdf-32k)

Did You Know?

John Burns after the battle (Library of Congress)

John Burns, a 69 year-old veteran of the War of 1812 and resident of Gettysburg, fought side by side with Union soldiers on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg. His service is commemorated by a battlefield statue at Gettysburg National Military Park.