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Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867

Series 3, Volume 1: Land and Labor, 1865

Steven Hahn

Publication Year: 2008

Land and Labor, 1865 examines the transition from slavery to free labor during the tumultuous first months after the Civil War. Letters and testimony by the participants--former slaves, former slaveholders, Freedmen's Bureau agents, and others--reveal the connection between developments in workplaces across the South and an intensifying political contest over the meaning of freedom and the terms of national reunification. Essays by the editors place the documents in interpretive context and illuminate the major themes.

In the tense and often violent aftermath of emancipation, former slaves seeking to ground their liberty in economic independence came into conflict with former owners determined to keep them dependent and subordinate. Overseeing that conflict were northern officials with their own notions of freedom, labor, and social order. This volume of Freedom depicts the dramatic events that ensued--the eradication of bondage and the contest over restoring land to ex-Confederates; the introduction of labor contracts and the day-to-day struggles that engulfed the region's plantations, farms, and other workplaces; the achievements of those freedpeople who attained a measure of independence; and rumors of a year-end insurrection in which ex-slaves would seize the land they had been denied and exact revenge for past oppression.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-6


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Publication of Land and Labor, 1865, the first volume of Freedom pertaining to the Reconstruction years, offers a welcome opportunity to thank the people and institutions that have made possible the work of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project. ...

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pp. xi-xviii

No event in American history matches the drama of emancipation. More than a century later, it continues to stir the deepest emotions. And properly so. In the United States emancipation accompanied the military defeat of the world’s most powerful slaveholding class. ...

Editorial Method

Elements of a Document

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pp. xxv-xxvi

Editorial Symbols

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pp. xxvii-27

Symbols Used to Describe Manuscripts

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pp. xxviii-28

Abbreviations for Record Groups in the National Archives of the United States

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pp. xxix-29

Short Titles

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pp. xxx-xxxi

Military and Other Abbreviations

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pp. xxxii-xxxiv

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Land and Labor, 1865

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pp. 1-70

As Confederate forces laid down their arms during the spring of 1865, concluding four years of civil war, events across the South bore witness to the dissolution of slavery and the collapse of the social order it had sustained.1 Everywhere, it seemed, the once unimaginable was becoming reality. ...

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Chapter 1. The Novel Condition of Freedom

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pp. 71-169

The end of slavery in the American South put former slaves and former slaveholders in situations for which they were not and could not have been fully prepared.1 Slavery had influenced every aspect of life; its death amid a bloody civil war would reshape all manner of human relationships. ...

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Chapter 2. Overseeing Freedom

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pp. 170-308

Victory in the Civil War confirmed for Northerners the superiority of their society, including the labor arrangements in which it was grounded. With slaveholders defeated and slavery destroyed, the way now lay open to remake the South in the image of the North. Liberating the slaves was an indispensable first step, ...

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Chapter 3. Coming to Terms

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pp. 309-391

For Northerners intent upon constructing a free-labor South, the contract was not only a legal instrument, but also a metaphor for the social relations that would replace chattel slavery. The very act of entering into contracts, they believed, would transform slaveholders and slaves into new people—employers and employees— ...

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Chapter 4. The Land Question

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pp. 392-493

The Civil War unleashed an assault on the foundations of Southern power and property, the limits of which were ill-defined when the fighting ended. By abolishing slavery without compensation to the owners, the United States accomplished one of the largest liquidations of private property in world history. ...

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Chapter 5. Points of Contention

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pp. 494-597

During the months that followed the end of the Civil War, former slaves and their employers navigated a tortuous passage from slavery to free labor. The journey’s hallmark was a struggle between newly liberated workers determined to define freedom on their own terms and former slaveholders ...

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Chapter 6. Dependency and Relief

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pp. 598-679

Constructing free labor on the ruins of slavery entailed not only a recasting of workplace relations, but also a reconsideration of the social arrangements that provided for individuals unable to support themselves. Under slavery, owners had been responsible for the maintenance of their slaves— ...

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Chapter 7. Measures of Independence

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pp. 680-745

Having long been forced to work under the direction and for the benefit of their owners, ex-slaves aspired in freedom to control their own labor and receive its fruits. Self-employment and independent access to productive resources would, they believed, place their liberty on a secure foundation ...

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Chapter 8. Settling Up

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pp. 746-795

The conclusion of the 1865 agricultural year brought with it a moment of reckoning: a settlement in which former slaves—now free laborers—were to be compensated for the work they had performed. The experience was a novel one for both the freedpeople and their former owners, and more was at stake than a mere tallying of credits and debits. ...

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Chapter 9. Specters of Insurrection

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pp. 796-908

During the closing months of 1865, as former slaves and former slaveholders tussled over the fruits of their first experience with free labor, substantial numbers imagined a further settlement still to come. Among freedpeople, rumors had been spreading of an impending moment—probably on Christmas or New Year’s Day— ...

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Chapter 10. Lessons Learned

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pp. 909-996

The first season of postwar labor concluded amid preparations for a new agricultural year. Wage settlements for 1865 and the negotiation of contracts for 1866 became occasions to look back on the tumultuous months since the Confederate surrender, to plan for the future, and to reflect on lessons learned. ...


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pp. 997-1073

E-ISBN-13: 9781469611082
E-ISBN-10: 1469611082
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807831472
Print-ISBN-10: 0807831476

Page Count: 1112
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2008

Volume Title: Series 3, Volume 1: Land and Labor, 1865