Abigail Cooper

Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities

20122013 Forum on Peripheries

Abigail Cooper


"Until I Reach My Home": Inside the Refugee Camps of the American Civil War

A different kind of Civil War history, this study casts its gaze away from the battles, away from the home front, to the space in-between—to the refugee camps where former slaves gathered to reimagine their homes out of bondage. These shanty-towns and freedmen's villages emerged on the peripheries of Union camps, but they have largely escaped historians' attention. This project offers three main scholarly interventions— an examination of the cross-cultural encounter between black slaves of different geographical and cultural backgrounds (rather than a focus on black-white relations), an assertion that these camps were the sites of religious revivals, and a challenge to the celebratory narrative of black military service as an unequivocal good for black refugees, viewing conscription as a trauma to formations of family and home.