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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 1 KO, NP, MB, GG
11/28/2012 7:31am

Life changed for african americans during reconstruction by letting them have the right to vote, granted citizenship, sharecrop, and were given their freedom. Life stayed the same for african americans by not letting them really earn a living,and have to work for their former workers.

11/28/2012 7:37am

Reconsruction is really when they were trying to reconstruct their country. During this time the slaves were getting to be free of slavery but it was'nt really working out so well.

to be continued

11/29/2012 6:22am

Part 2
The slaves wanted to have land but the land owners didnt really have the money to buy the land and the slaves didnt have the money either. The land owners wanted the slaves to work but with very little money. They were called sharecroppers when they worked and when they worked they made crops on the land owners land. But when the sharecroppers grow the crops and sell it the land owner gets about 50%. Wich gives the sharecroppers not much money to sell the crops.

11/28/2012 7:41am

sharacropping was just like slavery
for a year or two freedmen were not allowed to vote
women were not for still a long time
people were still mean to them
they were still doing the same work

when doing sharecropping they got some of the crop
they had to pay the land owners
soon they were allowed to vote
some people were nice
they had to give some of the crop to the owner
they got to keep some of the crop

Table 6 AN NK KD TS
11/29/2012 6:19am

1 Could not earn a living
2 Sharecropping was basically slavrery all over again
3 For a few years, free blacks did not have a lot of rights
4 Whites still were mad about the end of slavery and established the KKK
1 Blacks were granted their freedom
2 Blacks were granted citizenship
3 Blacks were granted the right to vote
4 Freedmens Breau was establlished

11/29/2012 6:28am

sharecroppers still had unfare treatment.
Freedmen were not allowed to vote.
There was no cruelty allowed from procedding concequences.
sharecroppers got paied.
sharecroppers got there own house 48 acres away.
freed slaves had more rights.


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