The Louisiana Native Guards were the first black regiments to ever fight in a war. They were also the only unit to have both black and white officials. Most of the Native Guards were men from New Orleans whose families had been given their freedom from the Federal government.
The breakout of the Civil War led to many free black men wanting to volunteer for the military service. Their courage and honor was praised by the public, but their praise did not always lead to acceptance. Southern officials believed that blacks were inferior to whites, so enrolling them at the same level as the white men would go against their beliefs.
Eventually, the blacks were allowed to join the military. The ex-slaves were treated very poorly, did not get paid, and received very little training, but they did not give up. When asked to express their feelings about joining the army, many would say they want to show the world that they are equal to any soldier. It was a long, hard fight for the Louisiana Native Guard regiments. After knowing the history about them, you can make connections to the title and some of Natasha Trethewey’s poems in Native Guard.
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