The Story: Emancipation

"On the morning of April 15th, 1861, I left home with my master to go to the war and whip the Yankees in three days; I carried a club for the first three days to knock off Yankees' horns with, for my master told me that they had horns."

William H. Robinson, Wilmington, N.C.

News about the war spread among slaves by word of mouth from farm to farm. Slaves heard that the Union Army would be invading the South and many wondered if the invasion would bring freedom. Many slaveholders tried to destroy such hopes, telling slaves that the Yankees were evil and would kill them immediately if they invaded North Carolina. This didn’t stop rumors about the coming emancipation from spreading among African Americans across the state.

"Master came home that night, and after supper five or six of the leading men from Wilmington came…I pulled off my shoes, tip-toed down stairs and peeped through the keyhole, and not making an exception to the rule, my ear did its share of listening. They got into a hot discussion, and I heard one of them say, "if the Yankees whipped, every negro would be free." I became satisfied that the negro was the bone of contention, and that the light of liberty was probably about to dawn, so I went to bed."

William H. Robinson, Wilmington, NC