. Du Bois was a prominent black intellectual, writer, and activist who famously declared, “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.” He criticized the position of another important black leader, Booker T. Washington, who had argued that accommodation of post-Reconstruction racial segregation would bring incremental progress to the race. Du Bois, in contrast, advocated immediate, full political and social equality for African Americans. “Of the Dawn of Freedom” provides a history of Reconstruction and, specifically, the Freedmen’s Bureau. Du Bois explains that many whites, particularly in the South, questioned the necessity as well as the constitutionality of the agency. Their arguments inadvertently bolstered the case for black enfranchisement: If African American men could vote, they would not need the protection of the Freedmen’s Bureau. They could defend their own interests.
The outbreak of the Civil War forever changed the future of the American nation. The war began as a struggle to preserve the Union, not a struggle to free the slaves, but many in the North and South felt that the conflict would ultimately decide both issues. Many slaves escaped to the North in the early years of the war, and several Union generals established abolitionist policies in the Southern land that they conquered. Congress passed laws permitting the seizure of slaves from the property of rebellious Southerners. On September 22, 1862, following the dramatic Union victory at Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln presented the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
South Carolina saw slavery as the issue being used by the North to violate the sovereignty of states and to further centralize power in Washington. The secession document makes the case that the North, which controlled the US government, had broken the compact on which the Union rested and, therefore, had made the Union null and void. For example, South Carolina pointed to Article 4 of the US Constitution, which reads: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” Northern states had passed laws that nullified federal laws that upheld this article of the compact. Thus, the northern states had deliberately broken the compact on which the union was formed.