Slavery in America

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Confusion abounded in the still-smoldering South about the precise meaning of “freedom” for blacks. Emancipation took effect haltingly and unevenly in different parts of the conquered Confederacy. As Union armies marched in and out of various localities, many blacks found themselves emancipated and then re-enslaved. Blacks from one Texas county fleeing to the free soil of the liberated county next door were attacked by slave owners as they swam across the river that marked the county line. The next day trees along the riverbank were bent with swinging corpses – a grisly warning to others dreaming of liberty. Other planters resisted emancipation more legalistically, stubbornly protesting that slavery was lawful until state…show more content…
As slaves, blacks had worshiped alongside whites, but now they formed their own churches pastored by their own ministers. Black churches grew robustly. The 150,000 member black Baptist Church of 1850 reached 500,000 by 1870, while the African Methodist Episcopal Church quadrupled in size from 100,000 to 400,000 in the first decade after emancipation. These churches formed the bedrock of black community life, and they soon gave rise to other benevolent, fraternal, and mutual aid societies. All these organizations helped blacks protect and maintain their newly won freedom. Among the first acts passed by the new Southern regimes was the passage of the iron-toothed Black Codes. These laws were designed to regulate the affairs of the emancipated blacks. Mississippi passed the first such law in November 1865, and other Southern states soon followed suit. The Black Codes varied in severity from state to state, but they had much in common. The Black Codes aimed at first to ensure a stable and subservient labor force. The crushed Cotton Kingdom could not rise from its weeds until the fields were once again put under plow and hoe – and many whites wanted to ensure that they retained the tight control they had exercised over the blacks in the days of slavery. Dire penalties were imposed by the codes on blacks who “jumped” their labor contracts, which usually committed them to work for the same employer for one year, and

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