Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University

Advisor

Lang, Andrew F.

Committee Member

Osman, Julia

Committee Member

Marshall, Anne E.

Committee Member

Robinson, Morgan

Date of Degree

12-10-2021

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Major

History

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of History

Abstract

For civilization and citizenship: emancipation, empire, and the creation of the black citizen-soldier tradition examines the origins and evolution of black military service and its relation to how black and white Americans understood citizenship from the Civil War Era to the First World War. This dissertation analyzes how different generations of black soldiers pursued full, civic citizenship through their military service and formed their own vision of citizenship rooted in military service and how the War Department sought to deal with the tensions created by a biracial Army. While it asserts that a separate, black citizen-soldier tradition linking service and citizenship emerged over the course of the nineteenth century, this dissertation argues that this tradition was informed by and rooted in American military culture and traditions.

Concentrating on the nexus of American racial ideologies, War Department policies, and black aspirations for citizenship, this dissertation not only reveals the early, firm connection between military service and citizenship among African Americans, but also reveals the ironic nature of the black citizen-soldier tradition. Far from simply examining black soldier’s failures to translate their service into fuller, civil status, For civilization and citizenship analyzes the unique ways in which black soldiers resisted American racial ideologies and the rise of Jim Crow as well as the overall Americanness of black efforts to attain citizenship. In contrast to other studies’ emphasis on either direct, nonviolent or armed resistance to white supremacy, this dissertation proposes that the black citizen-soldier tradition represented a distinct, powerful form of black resistance that manifested as accommodation to American civilization’s institutions and imperial agendas while seeking to fundamentally change their meaning and ethos. As black soldiers served in the armies of the Union in the American Civil War, those of the western frontier in the postbellum era, and those of overseas empire at the end of the nineteenth century, they confirmed their status as Americans while countering the dominant racial tropes of American civilization. For citizenship and civilization reveals the links between emancipation, empire, and changing meanings of citizenship in the U.S. through the black citizen-soldier tradition.

Available for download on Friday, December 15, 2023

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