Were The Freed People Free


Library of Congress

This political cartoon from an 1875 issue of Harper’s Weekly was a response to calls for removing federal troops from the South during the Reconstruction period. It was printed with a quote from a Birmingham News editorial threatening extermination of African Americans in the South and depicts a United States Army soldier standing between a cowering African American and a threatening former Confederate.Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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Were the Freed People Free?

A study of evidence after the Civil War

The Civil War ( 1861-1865 ) in the United States was a war between the Northern Union and the Southern Confederacy over states rights and slavery. The time period of Reconstruction was the beginning of trying to understand justice between white people and black people. The Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments to the US Constitution were the beginning of justice. Today we are still growing into a more perfect union through civil rights justice. Today we still have some racism in America.


#1 How did the formerly enslaved define freedom?

Everyone should have freedom from God as a natural right. The formerly enslaved people had faith is a God who protects human freedom and delivers people from slavery.  But the government must be protect freedom with equal opportunity. The formerly enslaved people worked for freedom in the following ways:

  • Independent land ownership.
  • Voting rights and citizenship are a better possibility for justice.
  • The choice to work for wages and safety
  • Freedom of culture through religion and education.

Even as they faced slavery for so many years they were creating ways of being free.  Their freedom was always a belief and a guiding dream.  The progress to making it real was difficult.


#2 In what ways did freed people claim their freedom during Reconstruction?

The formerly enslaved define freedom with laws ,politics, sacrifice ,effort, friendship, and trust .They believed real freedom was possible. During the reconstruction period in the United States there was a lot of discrimination especially towards black peoples .The freedom lover country which declared certain inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence didn’t have equal rights for all the people. Black mixed people and freedmen were always separated from white people for 100 years following reconstruction. Studying evidence of primary sources from 1865 and 1866 it is clear that the freed people were claiming their freedom by seeking equal protection of the laws, voting representation, the political opportunity through education and economics and the basic need for food ,clothing, and shelter for family.

in this image there working and training. “Freedmen’s Bureau Industrial School, Richmond, Virginia, summer 1866, artist’s impression, detail.,” House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/45617.

#3 In what ways did white southerners limit the freedom of freed people during reconstruction?

White southerners limited the freedom of freed people during and after reconstruction by violence, Racism, limited voting rights ,and laws that were racist. When looking at evidence from 1860 to 920 it’s clear that racist whites used political violence against black citizens. The ku klux klan used terror fear to influence election results. The reconstruction laws allowed many black people in the south to vote; this caused black representation in government.  In the beginning of reconstruction there was a strong democracy of black people. White racists did not like blacks in government. After 1880 there was a big decline in voting representation for blacks and an increase in racist laws and acts of violence by whites against blacks.  In Virginia the voter turnout for black voters went from 60% in 1880 to 2% in 1912.


This 19th century political cartoon portrayed the widespread discrimination and intimidation Black voters faced throughout the South. (Library of Congress)


In conclusion every people are free but not everyone accepts the freedom. Some people are fearful of the freedom of others. This fear causes racism.  The message of freedom remains and justice works for its progress over time.