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“Civil War Images: Depictions of African Americans in the War Effort,” a New Primary Source Set from the Library of Congress

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A newly-discovered photograph of Harriet Tubman, who served as a Union army scout and spy

Soldiers, sailors, nurses, artisans, laborers, officers, scouts, and spies: African Americans were at the center of the Civil War from the moment it began and played many roles in the war’s conduct and resolution.

The newest primary source set for educators from the Library of Congress, “Civil War Images: Depictions of African Americans in the War Effort,” explores the myriad ways in which African Americans who participated in the conflict were portrayed visually. Photographs, newspaper and magazine illustrations, envelopes, banners, and posters show African Americans in uniform, at work, in the heat of battle, and in the years after the war, all in images from the Library’s online collections.

Highlights of the set include a previously-unknown photograph of Harriet Tubman, who worked as a Union scout and spy during the war, and a portrait of Union army recruiter Sojourner Truth holding a portrait of her grandson, James Caldwell, who served in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.

The set also includes a historical background essay and teaching ideas that support students as they analyze these unique images and consider the perspectives that they provide on an aspect of the Civil War that often goes unexplored.

African American troops at a picket station in Virginia, November 1864

“Civil War Images: Depictions of African Americans in the War Effort,” was developed by Devon Burger, a Library of Congress Liljenquist Family Fellow. To learn more about the Liljenquist family and the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, read this essay.


  1. I am so glad that you have made this a set! Thank you!

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