Introduction: On January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. Below is a photograph of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first black regiment, listening to the official reading of the Proclamation.
Although the Proclamation only applied to slavery in states still in rebellion, it nonetheless marked the beginning of the end of the South's "peculiar institution." As Union armies gradually extended their control, hundreds of thousands of "contrabands" crossed their lines in search of freedom. Some of these former slaves volunteered for military service in regiments like the First South Carolina Volunteers. Others became teamsters and stevedores, providing needed labor. Still others remained refugees, dependent upon the military for food and shelter. Out of this need to provide housing and other services came the Freedmen's Bureau. The Bureau organized communities of free blacks on seized Confederate land. It coordinated the efforts of thousands of volunteers, many of them women, from the North who set up schools. It helped reunite families. Bureau chaplains solemnized marriages, baptized children, and buried the dead.
When the war finally ended, still more newly freed African Americans turned to the Bureau. They too needed to locate husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings who had been sold away. They too needed shelter, food, health care, education. They needed to find jobs. The legislation creating the Bureau anticipated their needs and thus authorized the Bureau to continue its work for a year following the war.
Lincoln's assassination led to a power struggle between President Andrew Johnson, former Democratic Senator from Tennessee, and the Republican Congress over how to "reconstruct" the South. Both sides agreed on the abolition of slavery but on little else. The extension of the Freedmen's Bureau beyond April 1866 was one of the earliest and most important of the battles between Johnson and so-called "radical" Republicans. Often overlooked in the struggles over national policy were the everyday experiences of the newly freed slaves.
- How did they attempt to build lives for themselves?
- What were the principal obstacles they faced?
November 6, 1860 Abraham Lincoln elected president
12 Civil War begins with Confederate attack on federal garrison at Fort Sumter, South Carolina
6 First Confiscation Act nullifies owners' claims to fugitive slaves who had been employed in the Confederate war effort
12 President Lincoln appeals to congressmen from the border states to support gradual, compensated emancipation, with colonization of freed slaves outside the United States, warning that if they do not act soon, slavery in their states "will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion--by the mere incidents of the war"; two days later, a majority of the congressmen reject Lincoln's appeal
17 Second Confiscation Act frees the slaves of persons engaged in or assisting the rebellion and provides for the seizure and sale of other property owned by disloyal citizens; it also forbids army and navy personnel to decide on the validity of any fugitive slave's claim to freedom or to surrender any fugitive to any claimant, and authorizes the president to employ "persons of African descent" in any capacity to suppress the rebellion
17 Militia Act provides for the employment of "persons of African descent" in "any military or naval service for which they may be found competent," granting freedom to slaves so employed (and to their families if they belong to disloyal owners)
22 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln; it announces that all slaves in those states or portions of states still in rebellion as of January 1, 1863, will be declared free, pledges monetary aid for slave states not in rebellion that adopt either immediate or gradual emancipation, and reiterates support for the colonization of freed slaves outside the United States
1863January1 Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln; it declares free all slaves in the Confederate states (except Tennessee, southern Louisiana, and parts of Virginia) and announces the Union's intention to enlist black soldiers and sailors. [At left, African Americans hold a "watch meeting" to count down the time to the moment the Proclamation went into effect. For a larger version, click on the image.] By late spring, recruitment is under way throughout the North and in all the Union-occupied Confederate states except Tennessee
8 Senate approves constitutional amendment abolishing slavery
June15 House of Representatives fails to approve constitutional amendment abolishing slavery
1865January 12 General William T. Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton meet with twenty black leaders in Savannah, Georgia, to discuss the future of the ex-slaves
16 General Sherman issues Special Field Order 15 setting aside part of coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida for settlement exclusively by black people, settlers to receive "possessory title" to forty-acre plots
31 House of Representatives approves constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, sending it to the states for ratification
3 Congress approves a joint resolution liberating the wives and children of black soldiers
3 Congress establishes Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen's Bureau) to oversee the transition from slavery to freedom
9 Surrender of the army of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Virginia
14 President Lincoln assassinated; Vice-President Andrew Johnson succeeds to the presidency; Johnson refuses to call a special session of Congress, thereby inaugurating "Presidential Reconstruction"
Southern whites organize new state governments, approve the Thirteenth Amendment, and pass "Black Codes" restricting rights of freedmen and women to serve on juries, testify against white people, travel freely, among other matters. Meanwhile, President Johnson signs thousands of individual pardons, thereby allowing former Confederate leaders to run successfully for office in the new state governments and for the U.S. House and Senate
Congress, elected in November 1864, convenes for the first time and refuses to seat newly elected representatives and Senators from the former Confederacy, thus beginning the struggle between President Johnson and the Republican-dominated House and Senate
18 Thirteenth Amendment to U.S. Constitution ratified; it abolishes slavery throughout the United States
Early in 1865 Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Major General William Tecumseh Sherman (fresh from his celebrated March across Georgia to the Sea) held a meeting with a group of black clergy to discuss the needs of newly freed men and women. Sherman came out of the meeting convinced that the most important step was to provide former slaves with land. He therefore issued Special Field Order 15 setting aside part of coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida for occupation by blacks. This step became the key to what would become the program of those who favored "radical" Reconstruction -- breaking up plantations and redistributing the land to former slaves, each receiving forty acres. Sherman's order applied only to land under his command and only for the duration of the conflict. Many historians argue that whether the victorious North would expropriate Confederate land and redistribute it or not was the most important question of Reconstruction. The final answer would be "no." That, however, was by no means clear until 1868.
New-York Daily Tribune, "Negroes of Savannah," Feb. 13, 1865
MINUTES OF AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN THE COLORED MINISTERS AND CHURCH OFFICERS AT SAVANNAH WITH THE SECRETARY OF WAR AND MAJOR-GEN. SHERMAN.
HEADQUARTERS OF MAJ.-GEN. SHERMAN,
CITY OF SAVANNAH, GA., Jan., 12, 1865--8 P.M.
On the evening of Thursday, the 12th day of January, 1865, the following persons of African descent met by appointment to hold an interview with Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, and Major-Gen. Sherman, to have a conference upon matters relating to the freedmen of the State of Georgia, to-wit:
. . . .
Garrison Frazier being chosen by the persons present to express their common sentiments upon the matters of inquiry, makes answers to inquiries as follows:
First: State what your understanding is in regard to the acts of Congress and President Lincoln's [Emancipation] proclamation, touching the condition of the colored people in the Rebel States.
Answer--So far as I understand President Lincoln's proclamation to the Rebellious States, it is, that if they would lay down their arms and submit to the laws of the United States before the first of January, 1863, all should be well; but if they did not, then all the slaves in the Rebel States should be free henceforth and forever. That is what I understood.
Second--State what you understand by Slavery and the freedom that was to be given by the President's proclamation.
Answer--Slavery is, receiving by irresistible power the work of another man, and not by his consent. The freedom, as I understand it, promised by the proclamation, is taking us from under the yoke of bondage, and placing us where we could reap the fruit of our own labor, take care of ourselves and assist the Government in maintaining our freedom.
Third: State in what manner you think you can take care of yourselves, and how can you best assist the Government in maintaining your freedom.
Answer: The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land, and turn it and till it by our own labor--that is, by the labor of the women and children and old men; and we can soon maintain ourselves and have something to spare. And to assist the Government, the young men should enlist in the service of the Government, and serve in such manner as they may be wanted. (The Rebels told us that they piled them up and made batteries of them, and sold them to Cuba; but we don't believe that.) We want to be placed on land until we are able to buy it and make it our own.
Fourth: State in what manner you would rather live--whether scattered among the whites or in colonies by yourselves.
Answer: I would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a prejudice against us in the South that will take years to get over; but I do not know that I can answer for my brethren. [Mr. Lynch says he thinks they should not be separated, but live together. All the other persons present, being questioned one by one, answer that they agree with Brother Frazier.]
Fifth: Do you think that there is intelligence enough among the slaves of the South to maintain themselves under the Government of the United States and the equal protection of its laws, and maintain good and peaceable relations among yourselves and with your neighbors?
Answer--I think there is sufficient intelligence among us to do so.
Sixth--State what is the feeling of the black population of the South toward the Government of the United States; what is the understanding in respect to the present war--its causes and object, and their disposition to aid either side. State fully your views.
Answer--I think you will find there are thousands that are willing to make any sacrifice to assist the Government of the United States, while there are also many that are not willing to take up arms. I do not suppose there are a dozen men that are opposed to the Government. I understand, as to the war, that the South is the aggressor. President Lincoln was elected President by a majority of the United States, which guaranteed him the right of holding the office and exercising that right over the whole United States. The South, without knowing what he would do, rebelled. The war was commenced by the Rebels before he came into office. The object of the war was not at first to give the slaves their freedom, but the sole object of the war was at first to bring the rebellious States back into the Union and their loyalty to the laws of the United States. Afterward, knowing the value set on the slaves by the Rebels, the President thought that his proclamation would stimulate them to lay down their arms, reduce them to obedience, and help to bring back the Rebel States; and their not doing so has now made the freedom of the slaves a part of the war. It is my opinion that there is not a man in this city that could be started to help the Rebels one inch, for that would be suicide. There were two black men left with the Rebels because they had taken an active part for the Rebels, and thought something might befall them if they stayed behind; but there is not another man. If the prayers that have gone up for the Union army could be read out, you would not get through them these two weeks.
Seventh: State whether the sentiments you now express are those only of the colored people in the city; or do they extend to the colored population through the country? and what are your means of knowing the sentiments of those living in the country?
Answer: I think the sentiments are the same among the colored people of the State. My opinion is formed by personal communication in the course of my ministry, and also from the thousands that followed the Union army, leaving their homes and undergoing suffering. I did not think there would be so many; the number surpassed my expectation.
. . . .
Even as General Sherman was pushing for providing freed men and women with land, many black soldiers worried that their families were not even receiving the subsistence rations promised them. These families were among the millions dependent upon the Freedmen's Bureau. This petition to Bureau chief General Oliver Howard provides key details.
Stop and Consider:
- What did the Savannah clergy press upon Secretary Stanton and General Sherman as the most important desires of the newly freed men and women?
- The black soldiers' petition to Freedmen's Bureau chief Oliver Howard demonstrates the potential for corruption and abuse within the Bureau. What were their complaints? What problems with the Bureau do their complaints illumine?
War's end was supposed to signal the beginning of a new life for African Americans. Not only was slavery ended, but the heroic service of black soldiers, many believed, would lead northern whites to support their right to be full citizens. Below is an illustration of the demobilization of a black regiment in Arkansas.
Thomas Nast, the leading illustrator of the day, drew an idyllic vision of this new life (center and right) which contrasted sharply with life under slavery (left). At the center of this vision was a loving family, cleanly dressed, gathered around a stove. In the background a young couple stand in front of a window. The curtains are a mark of respectability. So is the mantel and the framed picture. Note the banjo hanging from the wall.
Nast also drew, two years later, the nightmare alternative .
Under the slogan "The Union As It Was," which echoed the platform of peace Democrats during the war, representatives of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Leage shake hands over a cowering black family. In the background on the right is a burning school house, a stark contrast to Nast's depiction of the school in his earlier drawing. In the left background a lynching victim hangs from a tree. The parallel with the slavery scenes of the first drawing is obvious.
Which vision would prevail? For "radical" Republicans, the answer depended upon who won the battle over control of Reconstruction. President Johnson seized the initiative, simply by refusing to summon a special session of Congress. This meant that, between April and December, 1865, the president had the field to himself. He demanded white Southerners repudiate Confederate debts, swear allegiance to the Union, and ratify the Thirteenth Amendment. Once they did so, he held, Reconstruction was over. White Southerners did as he bid. By summer the former Confederate states adopted new constitutions, which prohibited slavery. The new governments also adopted so-called Black Codes. These replaced the antebellum laws which had regulated slaves. Under the new Codes, blacks could not testify against whites, could not own rifles and other weapons, could not freely contract for jobs until given permission by their former "masters," among other restrictions. White Southerners also returned the old Confederate leadership to office. This last required the active collaboration of President Johnson who spent hours each day signing the pardons which made leading Confederates eligible for office. Thomas Nast characterized the president as the deceitful Iago betraying Othello, a wounded African-American Union soldier. For the full drawing, click on the image at left.
Feeling in the North ran high. Here were the very people who started the great war returning to Washington as Congressmen and Senators. Other former Rebels were seeking to restrict blacks to a state as close to actual slavery as they could manage. And all the while President Johnson, himself a Southerner, insisted that he was merely carrying out Lincoln's wishes.
When the Republican-dominated Congress finally convened in December 1865, it immediately challenged Johnson's policies by refusing to admit the newly elected Southern Representatives and
Senators. (Under the Constitution, each house has complete freedom to determine the qualifications of its members.) Looming was another battle, the renewal of the Freedmen's Bureau. It was due to expire in April 1866.
President Johnson, determined to end the Bureau's activities, sent Generals Steedman and Fullerton to investigate accusations of corruption and abuse of power. Steedman and Fullerton found much to criticize. But they also found conscientious Bureau agents doing vital work. Their refusal to give President Johnson what he wanted, while still pulling no punches in describing corruption and abuses of power, makes their report signally useful. One of the most telling cases of abuse of power involved a Rev. Mr. Fitz, a Bureau agent in North Carolina:
THE CRUELTIES OF REV. MR. FITZ.
Opposite Newbern, on the south bank of the Trent river, there is a settlement composed exclusively of freedmen, and containing a population of about four thousand, whose condition is truly deplorable. These unfortunate people came within our lines and were located there during the war. They are living in small huts, built by themselves of lumber manufactured by hand; these huts, generally containing but a single room, each of which is occupied, in most cases, by large families. The appearance of this settlement, recently scourged with the small-pox, is well calculated to excite the deepest sympathy for the helpless condition of its inhabitants. The decrepid and helpless among them are supported by the Government of the United States, and the remainder procure an uncertain and scanty living from little jobs about Newbern--from fishing from small boats, huckstering, &c. The Rev. Mr. Fitz, formerly an array chaplain, presides over this colony as assistant superintendent of the Bureau for the Trent river settlement. This agent has exercised the most arbitrary and despotic power, and practiced revolting and unheard-of cruelties on the helpless freedmen under his charge. The outrageous conduct of this man was brought to our attention by a delegation of freedmen from the settlement, who called upon us and made statements in relation to his oppressions and outrages which we could scarcely credit. After hearing their statements we visited the settlement, convened the freedmen, investigating the charges against this man, and ascertained that he had been guilty of even greater wrongs and oppressions than had been complained of. In addition to the testimony of the freedmen, we took the statements of four intelligent ladies from the North, who are teaching school in the settlement. Among the many acts of cruelty committed by Superintendent Fitz, we found that he had in two instances suspended freedmen with cords around their wrists, their feet not touching the floor, and kept them in this position, in one case four, in the other case six hours; that he sentenced a freedman to an imprisonment of three months for a trivial offence--that of wrangling with his wife. He kept another man, who was arrested for debt, shut up in the black house--the prison--for months, while his wife and children, reduced to abject destitution, died with the small-pox, and took him from the prison under guard and compelled him to bury his last child in the cradle in which it died. On another occasion, when one of his guards reported to him that a colored woman had spoken disrespectfully of him, without even inquiring what the woman had said, he ordered her to be imprisoned until the next morning at nine o'clock, when she would be brought before him to answer for the indignity. In one instance he imprisoned six children for ten days for playing in the streets on the Sabbath day. He imposed a fine of sixty dollars upon an aged freedman for having told another freedman that he was about to be arrested by Mr. Fitz. This poor old man not having the money to pay the fine, was imprisoned until the next day, when his son paid the same, with three dollars additional as jail fees.
"Everything," they concluded, "depends upon the agents." In contrast to the Rev. Mr. Fitz, was Major Clinton A. Cilley:
From Raleigh we proceeded to Salisbury, where we found Major Clinton A. Cilley, Superintendent in the Bureau, having Charge of the Western District, embracing fifty-one counties of the State. This efficient and competent officer has administered the affairs of the Bureau within his district with much ability and impartiality. We conferred with the leading white citizens, embracing both those who had formerly been Rebels and those who had been Union men, and also with a delegation of intelligent colored people representing the Freedmen, all of whom agreed in the statement that the Freedmen were at work, were perfectly satisfied, and that good feeling and harmony prevailed between the whites and blacks throughout the district. Major Cilley is not interested in the cultivation of any plantation, or in any other business not directly connected with his official duties, and he has prohibited all officers serving under him within his district from engaging in any enterprise which would enable them to appropriate or control the labor of Freedmen under their jurisdiction to advance their private interests. We attribute much of the order and contentment of the Freedmen in the Western District to Major Cilley's judicious and honest administration.
Also working against Johnson's campaign to proclaim Reconstruction over and to return power to the traditional leadership of the white South were well-publicized instances of white violence against blacks. In 1866 whites in Memphis and New Orleans went on murderous rampages. Below is how Harper's Weekly reported the Memphis riot.
Below is an idealized image of the Freedmen's Bureau from Harper's Weekly from 1868. In it the stalwart officer of the Bureau, framed by the Stars and Stripes, separates angry whites and blacks. Left to themselves, a race war would break out. However exaggerated the portrait, the events in Memphis, New Orleans, and elsewhere throughout the South proclaimed the need for a federal presence.
The following excerpts from an annual report from Alabama give some idea of the challenges facing the Bureau.
Head-Quarters, District of Alabama,
Montgomery, Alabama, Oct. 10, 1867.
Major-General O. O. Howard,
Commissioner Bureau Refugees and Freedmen,
Washington, D. C.
General: I have the honor to submit the following Annual Report of the operations of the Bureau in this District.
At the beginning of November, 1866, the status of the freedmen, by the laws of Alabama, was nominally the same as that of other non-voting inhabitants. They were, it is true, prohibited from testifying in cases in which whites only were concerned, and for a single crime a different penalty from that imposed upon white persons was prescribed for them. But in all those rights of more important and ordinary use, of holding and acquiring property of all kinds, of suits and contracts, of travel and inheritance, no difference against them was expressed in terms.
Laws were in force, however, of the harshest nature, which, though nominally applicable to all persons, were put in execution only against freedmen, and were designed to permit the exaction from them of forced labor, and the withholding of its dues. The wrong thus contemplated by the Legislature was in part restrained among the people by the impulses of honesty and the desire to retain the laborer beyond the current year, combining with the efforts of the Bureau officers to avert and to redress it. Enough remained, however, to create a succession of cases calling loudly for reform. Several attempts were made to remedy this evil at its source, and the repeal of the "vagrant law" was finally accomplished.
Yet it was not from this cause more than from their express disabilities, that the severest injury to freedmen came. Constant and severe wrongs, inaccessible to relief because wholly intangible, were wrought out by a feeling on the part of jurors and magistrates, that freedmen were not persons by or for whom the laws were made, or to whom their protection or benefits need be faithfully extended. There was no feeling, that the situation of the parties might one day be reversed--none of that scruple which responsibility engenders. The result was continually experienced in verdicts and decisions contrary to justice, and more widely, in the tenor of all those transactions with the freedmen which were liable to be reviewed in court.
. . . .
For this year's labor, many freedmen were able to secure land to work upon their own account, and the facilities for doing so by purchase or by lease are constantly increasing. Those who worked as before quite generally contracted to receive a portion of the crop "and found" in lieu of money wages; an arrangement preferred by the laborer as more secure, and by the planter, from his inability to pay until the crop was prepared for sale.
Throughout the close of last year and the first of this, much hardship was experienced by freedmen from unfair application of the law giving authority to probate judges to apprentice minor children, who from orphanage or poverty of parents were left unprovided for. A custom had grown up to have the force of law--that every former slaveholder might have the children of his former slaves apprenticed to him until they were twenty-one. Cases were known of attempts made to seize young men but two or three years under age and hold them under such a system, and loud complaints were made by parents who were well to do, of younger children taken from them as the result of judicial process of which they had never before received any intimation. An amendment to the law was speedily procured, requiring that the parents in all cases should be summoned; but this did not reach the corrupt exercise of a discretionary power.
A parallel to this was found in the system of "chain-gangs," a savage mode of punishment adopted in the several counties in lieu of sending their convicts to the jail or to the penitentiary, and in the cities as a means of working out the fines imposed for misdemeanor. This was among those measures authorized by law without distinction, but confined in practice to the punishment of freedmen.
In March, the "Military Reconstruction Bill" was passed, and the Assistant Commissioner remaining in command, authority was found to remedy the two last evils by an order which was speedily applied.
- "I. Complaints of hardships in the needless apprenticing of minors, "particularly in pursuance of the preference given to the "former "owner" in the law, have been almost incessant. It is enjoined "upon Probate Judges, upon application, to revise the action taken "in such cases, and as a rule, to revoke indentures made within the "past two years of minors who were capable of self-support.
- "II. The attention of Magistrates is called to the repeal by the "last Legislature of the vagrant law," approved December 15, 1865, "and published with the Code. Attempts which are still made to "put it in execution, will hereafter be the subject of military" cognizance.
- "III. The use of "chain-gangs" as a mode of legal punishment, being found to involve serious abuses, will be henceforth discontinued "except in connection with the penitentiary."
This was, however, but one feature of what followed from the passage of the Reconstruction Bills. A general amendment in the treatment of the freedmen signalized the fact, and has been steadily progressing. The sense of coming power brought immediate respect. A new and summary process menacing those ruffians who eluded or defied the civil law, brought a degree of order which has been a sensible relief. The very passage of the bill, regarded as a punishment by those who were opposed to it, has vindicated those among them who had previously insisted upon justice, and brought a new responsibility to bear on those who had been pandering to the animosities of race.
The freedmen themselves promptly took new heart at the improvement in their prospects. Laboring with as much industry as ever, they seem to study with more zeal, to have new confidence in trying to improve. Already they have been admitted to the jury box, and some of them employed in the lower branches of the public service, so that they have little need to fear injustice in the future.
And the Convention which is soon to meet, will hardly fail to properly enlarge their scope of opportunities, or to provide their children with facilities of education, such as are required by their new capacities and powers.
With these, and with such fair rewards of industry as average years afford, it is not difficult to see how they may before many years present, if not as large, as bright an illustration of the worth of freedom as the world has known, and at the same time of the Providence by which their freedom has been wrought.
I have the honor to be, General,
Very respectfully, your ob't serv't,
B'v't Maj.-Gen. U. S. A., Ass't Com'r.
Summary: Congress did renew the Bureau for several additional years in 1866. Its chief, Oliver Howard, sought to find honest and capable agents. Sometimes he did not succeed. If few agents were as reprehensible as the Rev. Mr. Fitz, not nearly enough of them were as competent as Major Cilley or Brevet Major-General Swayne. As a result, corruption and inefficiency continued to dog its efforts. Nonetheless, the Bureau accomplished much. It helped reunite thousands of families, it organized schools, it sometimes managed to protect freedmen and women from vigilante violence. It supervised elections. It was not able to follow through on wartime experiments in land redistribution, however.
Pause and Respond: In 1880, three years after the withdrawal of federal troops from the former Confederacy, Frederick Douglass assesssed the situation of freed men and women. Douglass had escaped from slavery in the early 1840s, had become a noted abolitionist, and newspaper editor, and had campaigned vigorously for both emancipation and the use of black troops. His dismay is palpable:
. . . today, in most of the Southern States, the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments are virtually nullified.
The rights which they were intended to guarantee are denied and held in contempt. The citizenship granted in the fourteenth amendment is practically a mockery, and the right to vote, provided for in the fifteenth amendment, is literally stamped out in face of government. The old master class is to-day triumphant, and the newly-enfranchised class in a condition but little above that in which they were found before the rebellion.
Do you ask me how, after all that has been done, this state of things has been made possible? I will tell you. Our reconstruction measures were radically defective. They left the former slave completely in the power of the old master, the loyal citizen in the hands of the disloyal rebel against the government. Wise, grand, and comprehensive in scope and desire as were the reconstruction measures, high and honorable as were the intentions of the statesmen by whom they were framed and adopted, time and experience, which try all things, have demonstrated that they did not successfully meet the case.
In the hurry and confusion of the hour, and the eager desire to have the Union restored, there was more care for the sublime superstructure of the republic than for the solid foundation upon which it could alone be upheld. . . . The old master class was not deprived of the power of life and death, which was the soul of the relation of master and slave. They could not, of course, sell their former slaves, but they retained the power to starve them to death, and wherever this power is held there is the power of slavery. He who can say to his fellow-man, "You shall serve me or starve," is a master and his subject is a slave. . . .
Use the first-hand accounts and other materials here to assess Douglass' analysis.
- Was the "former slave [left] completely in the power of the old master"? If so, how did this happen?
- What "solid foundation" might have enabled the freed men and women and the "honorable" statesmen who wished to help them to achieve the rights promised them in the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments?