Civil War: Did slavery trigger it?

The next installment of “African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” takes a keen look at the role slavery had in waging the bloodiest conflict in American history.

I’m talking about the Civil War, which raged from 1861 until 1865.

“Into the Fire (1861-1896)” airs Tuesday night at 7 on Panhandle PBS and is the latest in a multi-part series examining the history of African Americans.

The Civil War killed more than 600,000 Americans. It was fought throughout the eastern United States and spilled into territory that was considered then to be “out west,” places such as Texas — which was one of the states that seceded from the Union in 1861.

If you ask folks to this very day whether slavery was a cause of the Civil War, you’ll get two distinctly different answers, depending on the point of the view of the person answering.

Die-hard sons and daughters of Confederate ancestors will say slavery had nothing to do with it. They contend the issue was about federal intrusion on states’ rights to set policy within their borders. It was no more complicated than that.

Equally die-hard sons and daughters of Union ancestors say that the fight to preserve states’ rights included the right of states to own slaves. Black Americans were held in bondage for three centuries before they were freed finally by presidential decree during the conduct of the Civil War.

The fight for equality for African Americans didn’t end when the Confederate surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865.

The PBS series examines the Civil War, its aftermath, the arrival of the Carpetbaggers who sought to rebuild the South after the war and the Reconstruction effort that continued through of the rest of the 19th century.

It wasn’t a serene time. The shooting stopped, but the hard feelings persisted as Reconstruction commenced throughout the South. Newly freed African Americans were caught in the middle.

The installment of “Into the Fire” sets up the next part, which airs Nov. 12, examining the effects of racial segregation and the beginning of the fight to integrate African American citizens into the entire American family.

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