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Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery Paperback – August 12, 1980
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"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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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.Read more ›
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.
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...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a brilliant and heart breaking book The terrible pain black people had to suffer for years and years.Published 2 months ago by Jeffrey Belman
Very good book. The book was very enlightening and informative. I appreciate the notes and documentation. I highly recommend this for everyone.Published 13 months ago by Gregoryx
A book that I have read multiple times, this book tells the story of the Civil War from the slaves point of view. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Sadie Robinson
This is an incredible account of the chaos that ensued after emancipation and should be read by everyone who cares about the horrifying cruelty of which we, as human beings, have... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Patricia Sherman