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Section 2: Building the Black Community: The Family Section 2: Building the Black Community: The Church Section 2: Building the Black Community: The School Section 2: Quest for Economic Autonomy and Equal Rights Section 2:  Memory and Mourning Section 2: Violence
Marriage certificate, 1862

Marriage certificate, 1862.
(National Archives)

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Before the Civil War, slave marriages had no legal standing. During the war, blacks serving in the Union Army married under military authority. Henry M. Turner, one of the first black chaplains to serve in the Union Army, officiated at the wedding of Rufus Wright and Elisabeth Turner.

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On June 21, 1864, six months after his marriage, Wright died of abdominal wounds received in action at Petersburg. His widow's legal status enabled her to receive pension benefits from the federal government.

Copyright 2003
A New Birth of Freedom: Reconstruction During the Civil War The Meaning of Freedom: Black and White Responses to Slavery From Free Labor to Slave Labor Rights and Power: The Politics of Reconstruction Introduction The Ending of Reconstruction Epilogue Additional Resources Credits for this Exhibit