Students will examine the ways that people who were enslaved claimed their freedom after the Civil War. Maps to Key Concepts 7, 8, 9 & 10
What else should my students know?
18.A Congress officially ended slavery through the passage of the 13th Amendment.
18.B Freedpeople sought to exercise their freedom in several ways, including: 1. relocating (leaving the plantations where they had been enslaved); 2. pursuing education (in the numerous schools set up after the war); 3. living as families; and 4. participating in politics.
18.C Black voters became influential in southern elections during Congressional Reconstruction. Between 1865 and 1877, black men served in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and in state capitols. More than 600 black men also served in state legislatures.
How can I teach this?
- Charlotte Forten’s article “Life on the Sea Islands,” published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1864, describes her work teaching formerly enslaved students. George Mason University’s website History Matters provides an informative excerpt.
- In pursuing the freedom to live as families, many freedpeople searched for family members who had been sold during slavery. The Historic New Orleans Collection has archived more than a thousand “Lost Friends” advertisements from the Southwestern Christian Advocate. Last Seen: Find Family After Slavery also offers a free, searchable, online archive of such ads.
- In December 1865, 2,500 black residents of Washington, D.C. signed a letter to Congress outlining their loyalty to the Union and contributions to the community and thereby requesting the right to vote. The letter is available on the site of The Freedmen & Southern Society Project.
- The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship, from the Library of Congress, provides a variety of sources (both images and text) to explore the activities of freedpeople in the South. For example:
- The account book from Hampton Plantation in South Carolina shows formerly enslaved people being paid for their work.
- The November 16, 1867, cover of Harper’s Weekly was a drawing by Alfred R. Waud titled “The First Vote." It showed African-American voters casting their first ballots.
- In 1878, African-American representatives in the South Carolina legislature outnumbered white legislators. A photograph of the legislature is archived at the Library of Congress.
- The first African American to serve in the Senate was Hiram Revels of Mississippi. This group portrait, “The First Colored Senator and Representatives,” was published by Currier and Ives in 1872.