After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the by Bruce Baker, Brian Kelly, Eric Foner

By Bruce Baker, Brian Kelly, Eric Foner

“Is there quite whatever new to claim approximately Reconstruction? the wonderful contributions to this quantity make it transparent that the answer's a powerful sure. jointly those essays let us reconsider the meanings of nation and citizenship within the Reconstruction South, a deeply important job and a laudable boost at the present historiography.”—Alex Lichtenstein, Indiana University

within the well known mind's eye, freedom for African americans is usually assumed to were granted and entirely learned while Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation or, at least, on the end of the Civil warfare. in fact, the nervousness felt by way of newly freed slaves and their allies within the wake of the clash illustrates a extra advanced dynamic: the that means of freedom was once vigorously, frequently lethally, contested within the aftermath of the war.

After Slavery moves past large generalizations pertaining to black lifestyles in the course of Reconstruction on the way to handle the numerous reviews of freed slaves around the South. city unrest in New Orleans and Wilmington, North Carolina, loyalty between former slave proprietors and slaves in Mississippi, armed rebellion alongside the Georgia coast, and racial violence through the zone are only many of the subject matters examined.

The essays integrated listed below are chosen from the easiest paintings created for the After Slavery undertaking, a transatlantic study collaboration. mixed, they give a variety of viewpoints at the key concerns in Reconstruction historiography and a well-rounded portrait of the era.


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And not so much for its shock value— although that, too, would not be a bad thing—but rather to try to refine the questions we might ask of ourselves, to gain a more reflexive insight into some of the contradictions of our current moment, by the discursive act of distancing ourselves from that moment. One way to do this, perhaps, is to ask why such “anomalies” as slave-like labor should occur in our otherwise progressive democratic era, when the notion of an ever-expanding freedom is the staple of American political discourse.

Others clean our houses and care for our children. They are found in the thoroughfares of the streets of our major urban areas, driving gypsy cabs or vending all sorts of merchandise. Their statuses and situation vary widely, but what they have in common is that they constitute a parallel class of “service” workers to the highly paid professional service sector manning the technology of the globalized economy. Arguably, they make the latter’s very existence possible. The scenario I have just described deviates from the iconographic image of the American immigrant that fills our school books and political stump speeches: poor but proud, living in nuclear households, struggling to climb the ladder of success.

22 Thomas C. Holt Of Slavery and Freedom “Freedom” is a word rife with ambiguity and contradiction, even in the more learned and careful discourse of scholars. 13 What all of this work underscores, I think, is that the concept of freedom has a history, and thus it is not some innate, transcendent quality of the human spirit, floating above particular histories. It is important, then, that we recognize how slave emancipation in the nineteenth century marked a radical break in that history, a breach in the conceptual framework that reframed freedom’s very conditions of possibility.

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