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Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery Paperback – August 12, 1980

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Litwack displays a keen sense of the revealing expression and incident; a controlled passion against injustice and cruelty; and a grasp--not always in evidence these days--of the elements of genuine tragedy in the black-white confrontation that has shaped southern history."--Eugene Genovese, The New York Times Book Review

"As a comprehensive study of the coming of freedom, Litwack's book has no rival."--C. Vann Woodward, The New York Review of Books

From the Publisher

"As a comprehensive study of the coming of freedom, Litwack's book has no rival."--C. Vann Woodward, The New York Review of Books
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Books ed edition (August 12, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394743989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394743981
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By MarkK VINE VOICE on November 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
Few populations in history have gone through the dramatic changes that African Americans underwent at the end of the Civil War. People who had suffered slavery for generations suddenly found themselves free, a welcome yet uncertain status that required considerable exploration and adjustment. Leon Litwack's book examines this transition, concentrating on how freed African Americans perceived freedom and how they shaped the conditions of their freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War.

For many African Americans, change began with the Civil War. Slaves in areas occupied by Union soldiers would be liberated from bondage, while many African Americans took up arms as the war went on. The end of the war and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment meant freedom for African Americans, freedom to live their lives as they wanted. For most, the first step was finding their scattered families and coming to terms with their time as slaves. Freedom also meant discovering a new identity, especially with regards to their former masters, as African Americans now had to deal with whites in new ways both socially and in the workplace. Finally, African Americans faced the challenge of creating a new society free of the restrictions of slave life, which led to the establishment of modes of religion, politics, and the press to serve their particular interests.

Litwack's book is an indispensable study of African Americans in the aftermath of emancipation. Based on a wealth of primary sources (including the invaluable collection of oral interviews conducted by the Federal Writers' Project during the 1930s), he argues that no set experience defined how African Americans dealt with freedom.
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Anyone with a serious interest in the Civil War should read Been in the Storm So Long. Litwacks's work is more than just black history; it explores the principle cause and consequence of the war. Unlike many general histories that preceded it, "Been in the Storm" relies heavily on primary sources. War-era diaries and letters of whites, Union Army records, Freedman's bureau reports, and Depression-era interviews of former slaves and their children, provide most of the material. The outrage of southern whites who watched trusted slaves pick up and leave when freedom came, echoes throughout the book. So too does the uncertainty of the era. Some blacks may have dreamed big, but most just wanted freedom, security, and opportunity. Though some lasting gains were made, the struggle for full freedom would be much longer.

Certainly, "Been in the Storm" is the place to start for Emancipation reading. Though the coverage of early black politics was not as strong as in Eric Foner' Reconstruction, I know of no equal for the early social consequences of Emancipation.
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Format: Paperback
This book is gives an excellent synthesis as to how freedom was experienced in various regions of the South after 1863. One of the finest books within the historiography of American slavery and freedom. Litwack goes to great lengths explaining the freedom experience, the failures of the Freedmen's Bureau and the hesitations ex-slaves felt after 1863. A must read and must have for anyone interested in slavery, its aftermath and Reconstruction.
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Format: Paperback
During the Civil War and the years of reconstruction which immediately followed, blacks experienced an interlude of optimism and hope from the harshness and repression of slavery. It was a time of great social upheaval and former masters and slaves were forced to adjust to a new order. In, "Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery, "Litwack writes of slavery's aftermath with a slave's point of view from contemporary accounts, diaries, and interviews conducted under the Federal Writer's Project. We learn how blacks perceived and experienced freedom.

Freedmen articulated their independence in many and varied ways, but fundamental to being free, was having one's own land. Former slaves soon found that land was not easily acquired despite their newfound freedom. Powerful forces conspired against them. Their fate became tied to plantations, working in the fields, just as before but now as contract laborers.

The new relationship as planters and laborers kept blacks from exercising the full range of privileges which should have belonged to them as citizens. Land ownership should have meant independence and self-sufficiency to former slaves. In slavery, they had worked the land and harvested its bounty but they were not the beneficiaries of their labor. With emancipation the idea of owning land "remained the most exciting prospect of all." (399) It epitomized the meaning of freedom.

The expectation of land redistribution, "forty acres and a mule," was ill founded and unrealized. The success of "such experiments [that] took place at Davis Bend, Mississippi, where blacks secured leases on six extensive plantations...
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