Sharp Bargainers

Several years ago, I started composing an essay titled “They Were Sharp Bargainers: John Eaton, Jr.’s 63rd United States Colored Troops.” I have not completed the article about the Civil War Superintendent of Freedmen and his black guard regiment because I have not felt satisfied that I had enough evidence to make the case — that still felt partly intuitive to me — that formerly enslaved people who succeeded at farming or other endeavors after the war had an abundance of skills, which they leveraged during the war and at its end. Besides their wisdom to participate in organizing a postwar community on Memphis’ President’s Island, other skills included the art of bargaining — finding a meeting ground between one’s own interests and another’s.

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