Come and Join Us Brothers

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Come and Join Us Brothers
P. S. Duval and Son, Philadelphia
Peter S. Duval:  1804/5-1886
14 x 18 in.
Chicago History Museum, Charles F. Gunther Collection

This colorful poster is actually a recruitment broadside for African American men to join the Union army. It was printed by famous lithographer Peter S. Duval, sometime in the spring of 1863, when the Union army began enlisting black men under the authority of the Emancipation Proclamation. Notice the artist’s careful attention to the faces of the men and the details of their uniforms. In this period, it was common for black men to be depicted in cartoon-like fashion, often in very insulting ways. This lithograph presents quite a different image of dignity and pride. Note, however, that the soldiers stand with a white officer, highlighting the fact that until the last months of the war, Union policy forbade black men from serving as commissioned officers, except as surgeons and chaplains. Regiments were also segregated by race, and black soldiers received less pay than whites until 1864. At first, many were not allowed to fight but instead were ordered to do menial labor. Military successes by those who did fight meant a greater combat role for all black troops as the war continued. By war’s end, some 190,000 blacks had served the Union cause; of these, 36,000 died in the line of duty. Their brave service and dedication to the Union cause helped convince Abraham Lincoln, just before he died, to tentatively suggest that veterans deserved the right to vote. But not until the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1870 did that hope become a reality for African American men.

1. Do you think Lincoln was correct that whites would not serve with African American soldiers?

2. Why do you think blacks served in segregated units until the Korean War in the 1950s?

3. Does this poster seem like a persuasive call to join the army? Why or why not?

4. What do military recruitment posters look like today?

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