War for Freedom

WAR FOR FREEDOM: African American Experiences in the Era of the Civil War

“Gentleman Jim”: Tough Choices in a Time of Crisis

When the Civil War broke out, James Robinson faced some tough choices:

  • How would he defend his property and keep his family safe in the face of violence that reached right into his front yard?
  • Whom could he trust to hide his family or guard his possessions?

Robinson made many fateful decisions in the war years.

After the war, Robinson found that his actions in this time of crisis would be judged with serious consequences for himself and his family. Had he proved himself a loyal Union man? Or had his dealings with local Confederates shown otherwise?

In this unit, you will learn his story, re-create his hearing before the Southern Claims Commission and then take a stand.

CURRICULUM MATERIALS: (click on each to download)

Educational Standards:
National standards/Virginia SOLs (pdf)

Explore the Setting:
View Manassas Battlefield Through the Eyes of its Inhabitants (pdf)

Learning Activities:
- War Comes to James Robinson (pdf)
- What was it like to live through the battles of Manassas? (pdf)
- Re-creating the Southern Claims Commission hearing on James Robinson (pdf)
- What is loyalty in a time of crisis? (pdf)

Resources/Primary Source Documents:
1. Biography of James Robinson (pdf)
2. The Robinson family homestead (pdf)
The Southern Claims Commission (pdf)
4. James Robinson's testimony to SCC (pdf)
5. James Robinson's SCC claim (pdf)
6. Witness testimony at Robinson hearing (pdf)
7. SCC claim of John Brawner (pdf)
8. SCC verdict on Robinson claim (pdf)
9. Alexandria Gazette/local history (pdf)
10. Death of Judith Henry (pdf)

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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