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(1864) Rev. J. P. Campbell, “Give Us Equal Pay and We Will Go To War”

As African Americans entered the Union Army in early 1863, they quickly found that racial discrimination followed them. The pay differential was one of the most egregious Federal discriminatory policies. African American soldiers were paid $10 per month, $3 of which was deducted for clothing, while white privates received $13 per month plus a clothing allowance of $3.50. When Maryland, which had recently abolished slavery, was called upon to fill its quota for the Union army, a meeting of African American men was held in Baltimore, on February 29, 1864, at the Methodist Episcopal Sharp Street Church, to hear addresses encouraging black volunteers. The discussion, however, quickly turned from recruitment to pay when Rev. J. P. Campbell of Trenton, New Jersey, the main speaker, used the opportunity to mobilize pressure upon Congress to pass a bill equalizing the pay of black soldiers. On June 15, 1864, Congress finally provided equal pay for African American soldiers. Rev. Campbell’s speech is presented below.

IF WE ARE ASKED the question why it is that black men have not more readily enlisted in the volunteer service of the United States government since the door has been opened to them, we answer, the door has not been fairly and sufficiently widely opened. It has been opened only in part, not the whole of the way. That it is not sufficiently and fairly opened will appear from the action of the present Congress upon the subject of the pay of colored soldiers. It shows a strong disposition not to equalize the pay of soldiers without distinction on account of color.

When the news of the first gun fired upon the flag of the Union at old Sumter reached the North, the friends of the Union were called upon to defend that flag. The heart of the black man at that hour responded to the call. He came forward at once and offered his services to the government, and failed to act immediately, because he was denied the opportunity of so doing. He was met with the cold, stern and chilling rebuke, that this was not the Negros

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