Historical Background Notes

After the Civil War, the South went through a period called Reconstruction in which the political systems, economies, and areas damaged by the war were rebuilt.  Before the war, landowners had  a ready source of labor for their crops with slaves.  Southern landowners faced a dilemma in the form of how to keep their plantations productive after the war ended.  In order to receive a pardon from the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, they had to agree that they would not utilize slave labor for their crops any longer.  Over the next decade, a system where former slaves provided the labor required for a successful plantation emerged.

Freed former slaves did not see an end to their suffering when they were granted emancipation, or even when the war finally ended.  With the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments, slaves were given their freedom, made citizens of the United States, and, for men, given the right to vote.  The Reconstruction plans pursued by different groups in power allowed for constitutional and legal rights of the former slaves, but did nothing to provide a way for those people to make a living.

The freedmen no longer had to work on the plantations, but they were not given an alternative way to earn a living (Tindall and Shi 1996, 755).  In 1865, General Sherman tried to give emancipated slaves land in
the coastal areas and islands of Georgia and South Carolina by promising “forty acres and a mule”
(Divine et al. 2002, 517).  “As one black man in Mississippi put it: ‘Gib us our own land and we take care ourselves; but widout land, de ole massas can hire us  or starve us, as dey  please’”(Tindall and Shi 1996, 756).  Unfortunately, President Johnson and Congress did not support any plan that effectively confiscated and redistributed land of former confederates (Divine et al. 2002,  517)

Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau in March of 1865 in order to help alleviate the problems facing the former slaves (Kennedy et al. 2002, 480).  Local sections provided provisions, clothing, and fuel to the
freedmen and their families.  The Bureau took over abandoned and confiscated land to rent out in forty-acre plots to freemen who might be able to buy it within three years.  Freedmen and women used the Bureau to
negotiate labor contracts with planters.  Providing medical care and setting up schools were other services offered by local bureaus.  Finally, the Bureau had its own court to deal with labor disputes and land titles, as well as supervise trials that involved former slaves in other courts.  Congress did not give the Freedmen’s Bureau much power and it expired in 1872 (Kennedy et al. 2002, 480).

Four clear options emerged for the freedmen and women after the war: obtain land, move, work for former
masters, or sharecrop.  Some freedmen were able to obtain their own personal land to work to support themselves and their families. Others opted to move to the cities and the North to find work that was not agrarian based.  Directly after the war, plantation owners established a contract labor system that employed their former slaves (Divine et al. 2002, 518).  The freedmen and women would commit to work on the plantation for a year in return for fixed wages, which were often paid with part of the harvest.  
Sharecropping eventually extinguished the contract system (Divine et al. 2002,  518).  Sharecroppers worked a piece of land and received a fixed share of the crop, which was usually one-half.  Landowners did not have to invest much at the beginning of the season and the tenant shared the risk of the crop.  At first,
freedmen saw sharecropping as a step up from wage labor because they felt it was on the way to landowning.  Actually, the system turned into another form of servitude because the tenants had to live on
credit from the landowner until the cotton sold.  Often sharecroppers never quite caught up to what they owed because the landowners would charge high prices and interest, which they took
out of the crop earning at the end of
the season leaving little or no profit and
usually a debt they could try to
work off the next season.

OK, now describe
(lists are OK) how life both changed and stayed the same for newly freed African
Americans during this crucial period.  Post in the Comment section.

table 2
11/28/2012 8:26am

It was hard on the slaves because they did not have that much money. The slaves had a chotce to leave but most stayed to earn money. Southerners were going through a process of getting reaccepted into the Union.

Table 3
11/28/2012 8:29am

Its way to short!!!!!

you're friend,

Table 3, Elise T Hayden G Tommy W Corey F AM
11/28/2012 8:26am

African Americans were now free
African Americans could now vote
Former slaves could now earn money from sharecropping
Former slaves could own or rent
Some former slaves could move to the North to work in factories
Freedmen's Bureau was established to help African Americans courts. It also provided education and sometimes food.

Sharecroppers were basically still slaves, because they couldn't get out of their debt to landowners.
Sharecroppers only earned about $600 a year, but they had to pay the landowners back almost all (if not all) of that, because they borrowed and they had to pay interest.
Former slaves were still poor.
Women could still not vote.

table 2
11/28/2012 8:27am


table6 JM, ES, CW, SC
11/28/2012 8:28am

-former slaves became citizens
- slavery was ended
- former slaves owned land
- former slaves became maids
- former slaves got jobs
- former slaves could vote

This was a mixed up time in history. Slavery was ended and former slaves were free to do whatever they liked. Except they had no food, no shelter, and no money to buy those things. So former slave owner created a sysytem called sharecropping where former slaves were allowed to use the former slave owners land if they gave them half of their crops. Former slaves usually werent able to get out of debt so they were stuck there working just like slaves.

Table 4 (JakeG, JennyZ, JohnLU, ChaseH)
11/28/2012 8:28am

How Life Changed For African Americans:
1. The Emancipation Proclamation made them free
2. Former slaveowners were trying to keep their slaves by making them sharecrop. That was the only way for most slaves anyway because most did not have enough money.
3. Congress was trying to help them by trying to get rid of sharecropping.
4. The former slaves were allowed to be citizens.
5. The men were allowed to vote (only men)

llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllcccccccccccccccccccccccc, sh
11/28/2012 8:29am

after slavery:
- freed men got paid
- house were spread out as well as land
- wern't slaves anymore
- had dedts to pay
- still treated unfairly but not harmed
before slavery:
- treated unfairly
- did'nt get paid
- houses and land closer together
- forced to work

11/29/2012 7:02am

Things that changed slaves are,freedom,MEN of all races got to vote,slaves were citizens,no more plantations for slaves,Freed Men's Beru,new schools and chuches and hospitals,Sharecropping,allowed to travel to the North,and Landowners had only half the crop. Things that stayed the same for slaves are, Still had masters and work,The masters were still cruel to slaves,and Blacks were still "different".


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