The decades before, during and after the Civil War were the most tumultuous in our Nation’s history. For members of the black community, this period brought about a radical transformation in their lives. For four million slaves, the Civil War ended with the promise of freedom and a better life. For black women and men living in the North, securing the right to vote validated the sacrifices made by thousands in the struggle against racism and discrimination. New York State was squarely in the middle of this social maelstrom and played a leading role for the nation. Our State was home to a group of leaders, both black and white, who demonstrated to the Country and world perseverance in the cause of eliminating slavery, courage on the battlefield and wisdom in rebuilding a new society.
Without an understanding of this time in our history, we will not be able to adequately confront the many challenges that still face our Republic. Issues of racial and gender equality, economic opportunity and political empowerment continue to test American society and the lessons learned from this time in our history will help guide our way in becoming a “more perfect union.”