“In All Things American Citizens”: African Americans and Federal Employment in Post-Emancipation America


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




The project traces the history of African Americans' federal employment between 1863 and 1912. Drawing on research in black and white newspapers, the National Archives, and politicians’ personal papers, it follows three intertwined lines of inquiry. When and why did the US government employ African Americans in this period? What was the symbolic and cultural importance of African Americans’ federal employment, and how did it change over time? What did working for the federal government mean for black employees themselves? The resulting work reveals how black and white Americans grappled with African Americans’ emergence into citizenship and the polity; what partisanship meant to a minority group historically ill served by both major political parties; and how the Republican party sought, but ultimately failed, to become a bi-racial institution. In the broadest sense, this is a study of the legacies of slavery in American public life.