History of the American South Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1726 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies

History Of the American South

Freedom in a "Free South"

The end of slavery in the U.S. generated much controversy and influenced African-Americans in the South in believing that they would finally be recognized as equals. However, white people in former Confederate states were unwilling to accept their defeat and decided that it was essential for them to reduce the effects that emancipation would have on the South. The Emancipation Proclamation influenced people in believing that things would change significantly and that African-Americans would no longer be discriminated. Even though they were freed by the Emancipation proclamation, former slaves were confused in regard to their status consequent to the war as white Southerners were reluctant to provide them with assistance as they struggled to improve their personal well-being.

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People who were formerly slaves were uncertain in regard to what they should do next and concerning what liberties were available to them. While some believed that they had access to virtually every concept that white people had access to at the time, others realized that it would be long before they would be recognized as equals and treated accordingly. Southerners were dedicated to preserving slavery by all means possible and they were not willing to give up their position simply because laws changed. Everyone in the U.S. acknowledged that slavery as they knew it was gone "but that did not mean that those who had been its beneficiaries, and who had inaugurated and carried on the war to maintain the institution were convinced that either the holding of slaves, or the attempted secession in order to set up a new government with slavery as its social and industrial cornerstone was wrong" (Wilbur 148).

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Freed slaves knew very little regarding their status and could be easily exploited because it was difficult for them to integrate society. White people also had trouble understanding the position that black people had in their society because they associated the typical African-American with "a distinct creature, lying somewhere between beast and man, as a creature to be hated or pitied or, most often, to be feared" (Hornsby). One of the principal reasons for their fear was the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation left them outnumbered, this making it possible for freed slaves to rise against their former masters as an act of retaliation (Torres). The masses generally believe that conditions were different in the free South and that black people were actually acknowledged as free people who had the right to do everything that white people were entitled to. Although the American government promotes the belief that African-Americans experienced a rapid and uncomplicated evolution consequent to the moment when they were emancipated, their ascension was actually retarded because the masses expressed a general reluctance in supporting them (Hornsby).

Consequent to being defeated, Confederate states were significantly affected by the war, as they were both physically and economically devastated. White people in the South were also negatively affected as a result of the fact that they no longer had slaves who could work for them. Most individuals had little to no resources and were unable to pay African-Americans to work and were thus forced to reevaluate their options.

In spite of the fact that the U.S. was founded in accordance with the principle regarding how "all men are created equal," African-Americans failed to benefit from it consequent to their emancipation. While the U.S. government promised them equality and apparently provided them with a series of rights that assisted them as they progressed, they were actually forced to integrate in lower class positions and they were generally discriminated as they interacted with white people in the South. Mostly everyone in the U.S. believed that African-Americans would no longer have problems consequent to the Emancipation Proclamation. However, the majority of individuals were uninterested in respecting new laws imposed by the government and they continued to discriminate black people on account of their presumably inferior position. It was especially difficult for Southerners to accept black people as equals consequent to treating them as slaves for several centuries.

The authorities installed Sharecropping and Black Codes with the purpose of being able to maintain their influence over freed African-Americans. The dominant whites in the South used these acts and managed to legally discriminate blacks on account of a series of absurd legislations. African-Americans who were accused of having committed a crime were forced to work as slaves in order to complete their punishment. "White southerners would find any excuse to place African-Americans into the sharecropping system" (Torres). Black people were persuaded to continue to work as slaves in exchange for protection offered by their masters against white people who would presumably kill them for fun on account of the fact that they were freed.

Black Codes were some of the most important laws prohibiting African-Americans from being accepted as equals in the American society consequent to their emancipation. For example, Section 1 of the Louisiana Black Codes stated that "Be it ordained by the police jury of the parish of St. Landry, That no Negro shall be allowed to pass within the limits of said parish without special permit in writing from his employer. Whoever shall violate this provision shall pay a fine of two dollars and fifty cents, or in default thereof shall be forced to work four days on the public road, or suffer corporal punishment as provided hereafter" (Belmonte). These codes limited African-Americans as they struggled to experience progress and practically forced them to maintain most of their previous values. Segregation was performed on a large scale in the South as the authorities devised a great deal of laws which discriminated black people and did not allow them to perform most activities that white people could perform.

The government promised former slaves that they would be provided with land and homesteads that they could use to live in and to sustain themselves. However, the authorities failed to do so and gave away (principally to Southerners who were returning from the war) most of the lands that they claimed they would provide former slaves with. Former slaves were surprised with this condition, especially considering that they believed themselves to be allies to the government and knew that Southerners were former enemies of the Union. Not only were African-Americans provided with no place to live in, as they also had to answer to their former masters for their rebellion. Former slaves virtually discovered that freedom was nothing as they considered it to be.

In an attempt to resolve matters as easy as possible, the government influenced black people in accepting their conditions and actually advised that they should forgive their former masters and cooperate with them in making the U.S. A better place where everyone would be equal. However, former slaves were well aware of the gravity of conditions and did not hesitate to put across their frustration concerning the overall condition of their freedom. Individuals who were previously forced to work and treated very poorly found it difficult and almost impossible to forgive their former masters. A former slave could not possibly forgive "the man who tied me to a tree and gave me 39 lashes and who stripped and flogged my mother and my sister and who will not let me stay in his empty hut except I will do his planting and be satisfied with his price" (Berlin 1986, 127-128). While black people saw freedom as a means to severe their relationship with the former masters and as a means to ensure former slave-holders that they would no longer have anything to do with the 'lazy' African-Americans whom they considered to be a threat for their well-being, white people realized that is was essential for them to keep former slaves dependent on their resources. This made it possible for a blanket form of slavery to exist and for African-Americans in the South to keep their status as inferior individuals who could only survive if they received compensation in exchange for performing toiling jobs.

In spite of the fact that most African-Americans who were formerly slaves did not want anything to do with their former masters and simply wanted to be able to sustain themselves while being free, individuals who have previously been slave-owners took advantage of the opportunity to exploit blacks by denying them access to a series of basic needs. As a consequence, many African-Americans were forced to satisfy demands imposed by their former masters in order to be able to survive. Even with the fact that the government acknowledged the wrongness in legislations that were passed throughout the South, it did little to remedy conditions there, as one of its principal war motives was to bring back seceding states. African-Americans who were freed were virtually considered to be collateral damage. It was practically as if the masses were aware that change was going to happen but they did not want to get actively involved in making it happen in the near future.

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