Chapter 15: Reconstruction, 1865-1877
In the years following the civil war, former slaves and their white allies, North
and South, would seek to redefine the meaning and boundaries of American
Does freedom mean just “the bare privilege of not being chained?” (549)
African-Americans understanding of freedom was shaped by their
experiences as slaves and their observation of free society around them.
Families in Freedom
Family was central to the post-emancipation black community.
Women began to stay at home to take care of their families, and the men
saw it as a badge of honor.
This later changed, due to the dire poverty of the black community.
Church and School
Blacks abandoned white-controlled religious institutions to build churches
of their own.
The church was the largest institution independent of white
control, and played a central role in the black community.
Black churches were a place of worship, housed schools, social events,
and political gatherings.
Black ministers came to play a major role in politics.
Freed blacks had a great desire for education, and many considered it “the
next best thing to liberty.” (550)
took place outside the classroom .
“I had occasion very frequently to notice that porters in stores and
laboring men in warehouses, and cart drivers on the streets, had
spelling books with them, and were studying them during the time
they were not occupied with their work” (551)
“The right to vote became central to the former slaves’ desire for
empowerment and equality.” (551)
Excluding ANY group in a democracy meant “branding them with the
‘stigma of inferiority.’” (552)
Blacks would demonstrate their patriotism by reminding whites of the
blood spilled during the war, and organizing Fourth of July celebrations.
Land, Labor, and Freedom
“Like rural people throughout the world, former slaves’ ideas of freedom
were directly related to land ownership.” (552)
“Many former slaves insisted that through their unpaid labor, they had
acquired a right to the land” (552)
In some parts of the south in 1865, blacks
that it belonged to them.
“For whites, freedom, no matter how defined, was a given, a birthright to
be defended. For African-Americans, it was an open-ended process, a
transformation of every aspect of their lives and the society and culture
that had sustained slavery in the first place.” (552)