A Social History: Knoxville’s Undocumented Civil War

The roles of women and African-Americans often were undocumented in Knoxville during the Civil War, according to McClung Museum’s Civil War curator Joan Markel.

Delving into the records of women, Markel said that, depending of their class status, women were limited to teaching or domestic service jobs.

“Mostly, women certainly did not have independent professions … and were usually undocumented.”

According to Markel, African-Americans were slaves at the time and even if they served in the military, they were not recognized as citizens.

“One of the things about a slave is that they are undocumented,” said Markel, “Slave records are not a good way to go after personal history.

Markel’s lecture drew a crowd of about 80 to 90 people.

“It’s just fascinating, the people are so interesting,” said Markel. She has been compiling information since 1995.

“There was this conversion in the mentality culture here that slavery was okay,” said Markel. She said that not enough people here cared about the abolition of slavery to go and fight in the war.

Markel said that although her expertise stops at the Civil War, she believes that Knoxville’s mentality had much to do with later civil rights movements.

Markel’s next Civil War lecture will be about the lawyers and lawmakers in Knoxville during the war.


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