Professor Dr. Lauren Braun-Strumfels
History 202: U.S. History from 1877 to the Present
March 3, 2015
Although by definition each groups meaning of freedom is the same, however, the freedoms each group needed were different. Freedom for African-Americans meant that they would have the same equal rights as those that White Americans had. For factory workers, freedom meant that they would have unions and better pay. For women, freedom meant that they would have the same freedoms as men. Over time these much needed freedoms in each group would change immensely but freedom itself as defined in our vocabulary still rings true today.
African-Americans yearned for the same freedoms that Whites were so easily given. They fought and died in order to go from a slave to a freed man. However, once they fought in the Revolutionary War the equal rights they had anticipated would be given to them, were not. Leaders in the South felt that the new government was corrupt and favored blacks. The reconstruction period never occurred because white southerners needed blacks for their labor force and did not want to see them having the same equal rights they had like, voting, holding office and enjoying equality before the law. (Foner) The only thing that African-Americans were left with was sharecropping. The freed blacks were to be given to them with accordance of Special Field Order 15 land but were denied of the land and the land was given back to its former owners. (Bram) In the book, “Voices of Freedom”, a letter that was sent to President Johnson from a freed African-American goes as follows, “Shall not we who are freedman and have been always true to this Union have the same rights as are enjoyed by others?” (Bram) Few former slaves acquired farms for themselves and most ended up working on white-owned land for a share of the crop. The Sharecropping Contract of 1866 was a contract for the Freedman to work on the land that they were once enslaved to work on for a share of land so that they could plant and raise crop on. Much time passed after the stop of the Reconstruction period and African-Americans suffered greatly with inequalities that were reoccurring like lynching .Even after African-Americans were drafted in what was one of the worst wars, World War 1 they were still fighting for the same equal rights as whites. W.E.B. DuBois writes, “This country of ours, despite all its better souls have done and dreamed, is yet a shameful land. It lynches. And lynching is barbarism...” (DuBois) Many blacks could not personify freedom and understand how the ways that liberty could cohabit with such brutal racial violence occurring. DuBois writes, “Make way for Democracy! We saved it in France, and by the Great Jehovah, we will save it in the United States of America or know the reason why.” African-Americans had hoped that fighting in the war would aid them in finally receiving the same equal rights as whites but would only come home to find out that there was still a battle that they had to fight at home. Hence, the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. African-Americans only wanted and have always only wanted the same opportunities as other citizens in the U.S. have.
Factory workers were another group of people seeking out the freedoms that this country claimed it offered its citizens. For factory workers freedom meant that they would have unions, have a decent pay and that their working hours would be shortened. As Social Darwinism was being incorporated by the business and professional class nor the government and unions could get involved with “the laws of contract”. “Labor contracts reconciled freedom and authority in the workplace.” (Give Me Liberty 622-623) Workers were demanding that the government enforce an eight-hour work day but liberals felt that government involving itself would be misuse of political power and would position itself a threat to liberty. John Mitchell a labor leader and progressive...
Cited: Give Me Liberty. n.d.
Voices of Freedom. New York: w.w.norton & Company, 2014. 80-81.
Bram, Henry et al. "Petition of Committee on Behalf of the Freedman to Andrew Jackson." Foner, Eric. Voices of Freedom. New York: W.W.Norton & Company, 2014. 4-5. Document.
DuBois, W.E.B. "Returning Soldiers." The Cisis. 1919. Document.
Foner, Eric. ""What Is Freedom?": Reconstruction." Foner, Eric. GIVE ME LIBERTY! New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014. 577. Document.
Foner, Eric. "Safe for Democracy." Foner, Eric. Voices of Freedom. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014. 104-109.
Foner, Eric. "The Progressive Era." Foner, Eric. GIVE ME LIBERTY! New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014. 684-685. Document.
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