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Article-a-Day #66: Encyclopedia Virginia-Bayley Wyat’s 1866 Freedman’s Speech on Closing Contraband Camps in Yorktown, Virginia

*Editor’s Note: runaway slaves were legally considered contraband

In a December 1866 speech Bayley Wyat, a freedman, protests the closing the contraband camps in Yorktown. The camps were established during the American Civil War (1861–1865) as places of refuge for men and women who escaped from slavery to Union territory. Wyat argues that African Americans have a rightful claim to the land based on their service to the Union Army and their contribution as enslaved laborers to building the American economy.