New ( Afrikan ) Refugees ” Contrabands of War “ or “ Captured Enemy Property “ U.S. would no longer return escaped slaves who went to Union lines. As the war progressed and Union troops moved deeper into Virginia, Afrikans began to leave their masters, seeking protection behind Union lines. By 1863, approximately 10,000 former slaves had come to Washington, primarily from Maryland and Virginia. The capital was not only a symbol of Union and freedom, but also an actual border which could be crossed to freedom.
“…the contraband were important to the construction and maintenance of the defense of Washington. Without the contrabands’ numbers and labor, the defenses would not have been as successful as they were.” – Civil engineer Edward Frost
Haki Kweli Shakur X Glasses Malone Descendants of Americans Slaves or Descendants of Nation/Tribes in Afrika
At Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, Union Maj. General Benjamin Butler refused to send three fugitives back into the bonds of slavery. He classified the escaping slaves as contraband of war. This term meant that once the fleeing slaves crossed Union army lines, they were classified as property. All enemy property that fell into Union hands constituted contraband and would not be returned. Because of Butler’s actions, a federal policy was instituted on August 6, 1861 – fugitive slaves were declared to be “contraband of war” if their labor had been used to aid the Confederacy in anyway. If found to be contraband, they were declared free.
I’m not a Descendant of American Slaves – Haki Kweli Shakur
After arriving in Washington, former slaves worked as laborers on the fortifications. They worked for less money and were often exploited. In August of 1862, workers were paid 40 cents, plus rations, a day for work-often they were not paid at all. By November 1863, it was recommended that a sum of $1.00 per day to contraband was a fair wage. Additionally, it was recommended that records be kept in order to make sure these workers were treated fairly. While the troops did the majority of fort construction, contraband labor made a significant contribution.
The migration of former slaves to the nation’s capital not only increased the city’s population but also increased the burden on its infrastructure. Some of the freed slaves in the Washington, D.C. area built settlements which were the foundations for later African American neighborhoods.