May 9, 2006
The African-American Odyssey
The Promise of Reconstruction, 1865-1868
The emancipation of the African slave who was now disconnected from their traditions and way of life after nearly 300 years, is seemingly a great gush from the dam to the ebbs and flows of the struggle. The end of slavery as we know it, presented a ball of mixed emotions among the nation; North and SOUTH. Some slaves were grossly ecstatic to be free. For example, when a slave girl named Caddy, from Goodman, Mississippi found she was free, went to her mistress, flipped up her dress and told her "Kiss my ass!" On the contrary, some slaves were apprehensive of being free. For example, one elderly slave woman reportedly said, "I ain' no free nigger! I is got a marster and mistiss! Dee right dar in de great house. Ef you don' believe me, you go dar an' see." Though most slaves were detached from their families, many managed to regroup and find their love ones after their emancipation and constructed close knit families. Land was an viable means of survival in the minds of newly freedmen and the government was eager to deem lands to the ex-slaves . On January 16, 1865, General William T. Sherman told the freedmen that they will receive the land they were in search of. They were granted the head of each family would receive "possessory title" to forty acres of land. Sherman also gave the use of Army mules, thus giving rise to the slogan, "Forty acres and a mule." Similarly in 1862 the Union military set aside land in Port Royal, South Carolina, which became known as the Port Royal experiment. The freedmen bureau was created to aid newly freed slaves in the transition from bondage to freedom in 1865. After Lincoln's assassination the succession of his Vice president, Andrew Johnson, to the presidency meant that the white owners of the lands, that were given to the freedmen, would be returned. Sharecropping became a sort of ebb in the river of the African-American progression as far as freedom was concerned. Presented as labor contracts by white land owners, the institution of slavery was extended under a cloud of debt. In which, the black family, oft times became debtors due to the lack of honesty on the account of their white lender. Aside from family, among African-Americans, the "black church" became the most important institution. "Not only did it fill deep spiritual and inspirational needs, it offered enriching music, provided charity and compassion to those in need, developed community and political leaders, and was free of white supervision." With the end of slavery, blacks who then had to attend services with white parishioners who treated them as second class Christians, could now organize and attend their own churches. The advent of the black church definitely brought about a flow in the river of struggle for African-Americans. Education was another "flow" in the river of struggle and a critical means of survival amongst people of color. It coincided alongside freedom. All who were versed in education of all sorts were summoned to teach the freedmen and their children. Teachers from all walks showed. Classes were held in churches, old slave markets, stables, taverns, homes, and former slave cabins. Funding came from various religious and political organizations and the Freedmen's Bureau. Although white teachers helped a bit, black teachers were praised throughout the negro community because, as Rev. Richard H. Cain said ", We must take into our own hands the education of our race... Honest, dignified whites may teach ever so well, but it has not the effect to exalt the black man's opinion of his own race, because they have always been in the habit of seeing white men in honored positions, and respected." Most colleges and universities for blacks taught elementary and secondary level curriculum. The introduction of the historically black colleges and universities was formed from the...