Module I – Chapter Outline I. The Meaning of Freedom A. Blacks and the Meaning of Freedom 1. The destruction of slavery made freedom the central question on the nation's agenda. 2. African-Americans' understanding of freedom was shaped by their experience as slaves and observation of the free society around them. 3. Blacks relished the opportunity to demonstrate their liberation from the regulations (significant and trivial) associated with slavery. o Many moved to southern cities and towns, as they seemed to have more freedoms. B. Families in Freedom 1. The family was central to the post-emancipation black community. a. Widows of black soldiers successfully collected pensions. 2. Freedom subtly altered relationships within the family. o Emancipation increased the power of black men within the family. o Black women withdrew from work as field laborers and house servants to the domestic sphere. Eventually, many black women would go to work because of dire poverty. C. Church and School 1. The rise of the independent black church, with Methodists and Baptists commanding the largest followings, redrew the religious map of the South. o Black ministers came to play a major role in politics. 2. Blacks of all ages flocked to the schools established by northern missionary societies, the Freedmen's Bureau, and groups of ex-slaves. o Education also took place outside the classroom. o Black colleges such as Fisk, Hampton, and Howard started.
D. Political Freedom 1. The right to vote inevitably became central to the former slaves' desire for empowerment and equality. o Being denied suffrage meant "the stigma of inferiority." 2. To demonstrate their patriotism, blacks throughout the South organized Fourth of July celebrations. o For years, many white southerners would remain indoors on this holiday. E. Land, Labor, and Freedom 1. Former slaves' ideas of freedom were directly related to land ownership. o Many former slaves insisted that through their unpaid labor, they had acquired a right to the land. 2. Ex-slaves' definition of freedom resembled whites'. o Self-ownership o Family stability o Religious liberty o Political participation o Economic autonomy F. Masters without Slaves 1. The South's defeat was complete and demoralizing. o Planter families faced profound changes. 2. Most planters defined black freedom in the narrowest manner, as a privilege, not as a right. o Whites felt the slave was "free, but free only to labor." G. The Free Labor Vision 1. The victorious Republican North tried to implement its own vision of freedom.
o Free labor would result in the ex-slaves being more productive. 2. The Freedmen's Bureau was begun to establish a working free labor system. H. The Freedmen's Bureau 1. The task of the Bureau—establishing schools, providing aid to the poor and aged, settling disputes, etc.—was daunting, especially since it had fewer than 1,000 agents.
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