Slavery and the Civil War

April 13, 2011

I don't completely disagree with C. Lyon's letter "Civil war wasn't all about slavery" (April 11), but I do take issue with his take on "free" blacks in America at that time.

What Lyons fails to mention is that "free" blacks were nowhere near as free as their white counterparts, and that they faced constant hostility even from white Northerners, who viewed them as competition for jobs.

Moreover, the hostility they faced was often violent. Even after emancipation, blacks were nowhere near to being "free" if we consider their marginalization and lack of access to the same benefits of civilization as white people; the rise of lynching by terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan; and the Jim Crow laws passed under the legal doctrine of "separate but equal" that further marginalized them

Add to that the unfair sentencing of blacks in criminal courts and the inordinate incarceration rate of blacks in prisons.

Unless we think that pervasive racial hostility and government-sanctioned discrimination constitutes "freedom," then even blacks who were called free were anything but. And there's still room for improvement today.

Charles Hilton, Baltimore

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