white dominance and violence.While many founded small communities in the countryside, others lived in black sections of towns either by choice or because of discrimination. They joined established denominations such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME),
AME Zion, or the National Baptist Convention. They built churches, hired their own preachers, started Sunday Schools, and worshipped with enthusiasm. Churches were centers of political activity and community awareness, and black preachers were respected members of the community.Each year, freedpeople celebrated their emancipation with ceremonies, parades, programs, barbecues, and feasts that honored ex-slaves and Union soldiers. In Texas, slaves first heard of their freedom on June 19, 1865—today known as Juneteenth Day—and annual celebrations followed each year. In Washington D.C. freedpeople celebrated their emancipation on April 16 because slaves there had been freed in 1862. But the majority of former slaves across the South celebrated on January 1, the day the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863.EducationSchooling was exceedingly important to freedpeople, and students from five to seventy walked to one-room schools to learn to read. Schoolteachers from the North—most of them women—came during the early years of Reconstruction to work in 1,000 Freedmen’s Bureau schools or in schools established by the American Missionary Association and by northern denominations. Eventually, black teachers took over the schools. Thirteen colleges opened for blacks in the South and in 1880 over one thousand former slaves graduated from these colleges before 1900. Many of these newgraduates filled the need for black schoolteachers in the South. Illustration of the first African Americans to serve as U.S. Senators and RepresentativesPolitical ActivismSouthern blacks actively worked to shape the nature and direction of Reconstruction. Although most freedmen found themselves destitute after the war, many believed that the promise of freedom gave them a new sense of direction. They moved into politics, formed Union Leagues, joined the Republican Party and voted and held office for the first time. Several hundred African American delegates attended state constitutional conventions. About 600 blacks, most former slaves, served as state legislators. The majority of the 2,000 black office holders were men who had achieved an education in northern or European schools. They were often the sons of white planters and slave
mothers who were raised as legitimate heirs. Francis L. Cardozo, South Carolina Secretary of State, was such a person, whereas U.S. Senator Hiram Revels from Mississippi was the son of free blacks. During Congressional Reconstruction fourteen African Americans from the South served in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate. No black man was elected governor and only a few served as judges.