- ›› Eras and Sub-Eras : African Americans and Emancipation
From long before the United States claimed its independence through revolution or established its governmental structure based on its grand Constitution, the contradiction of a freedom-loving people tolerating and profiting from depriving their fellow human beings of freedom was central to any understanding of the nation’s formation.
Lincoln’s presidential “war powers” only gave him authority to reach slaves in rebel-held territory. Above all, Lincoln worried about the federal courts, which were reluctant to recognize any such presidential war powers. The only way to make emancipation stick, and to cleanse the nation entirely from slavery, was to amend the Constitution.
When the New York National Guard was called into federal service for World War I, the 15th was not an integral component of the 27th Division (formerly the 6th Division). When the regiment arrived in France in December 1917, it deployed as a labor unit—building roads, digging canals, and unloading ships. The work was not only arduous but demeaning and demoralizing, as these men had trained for combat.