Virtual History Talk – “Pursuit of Freedom: Contrabands, the U.S. Army, and the Path Towards Citizenship”

On May 23, 1863, Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend, three enslaved men, arrived at Fort Monroe, Virginia, seeking freedom. The men were met by U.S. Army General Benjamin Franklin Butler who commanded the fort. Butler refused the request by a Confederate colonel demanding their return and labeled the freedom seekers as contraband – property to be used by the enemy against the Union. Following Butler’s decision, thousands of enslaved African Americans flocked to Fort Monroe and other U.S. Army camps throughout the south in the pursuit of freedom.

The actions of Mallory, Baker, Townsend, and Butler in addition to the thousands of formerly enslaved men, women, and children seeking emancipation transformed the Civil War from a conflict between the states into a struggle for freedom.

Wednesday, April 5, 12 p.m. ET

Audrey Davis will discuss the events at Fort Monroe, the Army’s designation of contrabands, and the outcome of those events.

Audrey P. Davis is the Director of the Alexandria Black History Museum. Throughout her tenure with the City of Alexandria, Davis has been recognized for her exemplary service and commitment to her profession. In 2004, she was appointed by Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner to the Board of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, and she was reappointed to that Board in 2007 by Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine, serving until her term ended in 2010. In 2008, she received a special merit award, from former Alexandria City

Wednesday, April 12, 12 p.m. ET

Kevin Bryant will discuss Frederick Douglass and his role in the development of recruitment of the United States Colored Troops.

Kevin Bryant is a Park Ranger at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC. He has worked for the National Park Service for 7 years, spending the last 5 at the Douglass Home. A native of Illinois, Kevin holds two Master’s Degrees and is a frequent guest on documentaries, podcasts, and all things related to Frederick Douglass.

Wednesday, April 19, 12 p.m. ET

Dr. Lindsey Bestebreurtje will discuss “Freedman’s Village: African American Community Building, Reconstruction, and Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery.” In this History Talk learn about the Freedmen’s Bureau and its relationship to the U.S. Army.

Lindsey Bestebreurtje, Ph.D. is a Curatorial Assistant at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Before joining the NMAAHC team in 2015, she worked in the field of Public History at diverse Washington, D.C. area institutions, including the National Park Service and the Historic American Landscape Survey. Dr. Bestebreurtje is passionate about museum education, believing in the decolonization of information with the aim to expand inclusion in the historical narrative.

Event Details

This event finished on 19 April 2023

Date & Time

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National Museum of the United States Army

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