“Self-Emancipation and Progressive Politics: The Legacy of Civil War Refugee Camps” by Dr. Diego Ramos-Toro
Dr. Diego Ramos-Toro
This paper examines the evolution of political outcomes in Civil War Refugee Camps, where 660,000 out of the 3.9 million enslaved African Americans achieved and experienced freedom for the first time. The evolution of political and social outcomes in counties with Refugee Camps reveals that these were sites of African American empowerment, where progressive politics had an electoral advantage in the short and long-runs. The legacy of refugee camps remains to this day, as proven by recent electoral returns and survey-data. A long-run view of the political patterns stemming from these places suggests that African Americans’ short-run accomplishments, despite followed by a political backlash, created the conditions that ultimately enabled the re-emergence of progressive patterns. African Americans’ educational engagement in Refugee Camps was particularly successful, contributing to durable lower rates of illiteracy and higher social status. By the second half of the 20th century, these achievements triggered a transmission of views from African Americans to white Americans, thus contributing to the re-establishment of a progressive political landscape. All in all, this paper shows that the process through which slavery ended, and not only slavery itself, had a lasting impact on the US’s political landscape.