In the first chapter of the book, “Been in the Storm So Long,” Leon F. Litwack deals with the psychological conditions of the slaves, their family members and the members of the family of their white masters. The tensions in their minds were showing in their conversation and deeds. …
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The white families were suspicious about the possible reactions of the black people, who had begun to sense that freedom would soon arrive and they would find a new identity, protected by the legal provisions of the constitution. The author describes one such sequence in the day to disposition between the blacks and whites. “The easy familiarity of the master and mistress gave way to suspicious glances, and the slaves were permitted less freedom of movement around the place.”(3)The author provides a factual presentation of a strange situation relating to the dilemma in the minds of the blacks and whites. The whites are worried about the indifference of the blacks to their emancipation and the lackluster approach to the issues. The white women are deeply apprehensive about the black majority in the farms. Civil War had created highly complex social situations. Litwack wrote, “Unprecedented in the disruptions, stresses, and trauma it generated among both whites and blacks, the Civil War threatened to undermine traditional relationships and dissolve long-held assumptions and illusions.”(4) In this chapter the author makes mention about the war preparations that were going on and the stake the whites of the South had in winning the war. Many blacks turned emotional when they saw their masters proceeding to the warfront and they knew it was life and death situation for them. The mutual suspicion amongst the plantation owners and the slaves had an element of cordiality about it. Litwack mentions about the observations of a North Carolina plantation owner to his slaves thus: “There is a war commenced between the North and the South. If the North whups, you will be as free a man as I is. If the South whups, you will be a slave all your days.”(5) 2. Black Liberators Liberation from the bondage was a fascinating experience for the blacks. This was also an opportunity for the so-called social workers and politicians to show themselves as the saviors of the black race. Such people saw an opportunity to build up their image for personal aggrandizement. The euphoria of the black race was understandable. Litwack describes their jubilation in their own words: “Now we sogers are men—men de first time in our lives.”(64)Not all black leaders were unselfish and not all white people were unsympathetic to the cause of the blacks. The hope of blacks had for effective implementation of the provisions of emancipation was the attitudes of the North to their cherished goal of reconstruction. But Washington was hesitant to go out and out to help the blacks. Their fate hung in balance between the two contending, sometimes co-operating federal power-centers—Union Army occupation forces and the Freedman’s bureau. These authorities did help the people but not to the extent needed. The section of blacks that suffered most during slavery was women. Their family life was fractured and their psyche almost destroyed. They were skeptical to take help from the so-called liberators. Litwack wrote, “Having already experienced forced separations from their loved ones, black women did not necessarily look with favor upon similar disruptions undertaken by their professed liberators.”(76) Legal safeguards for the blacks notwithstanding, the mutual distrust obstructed in more than one area the process of assimilation of the black race in the mainstream American society. 3. Kingdom Comin' The scene is indeed difficult for the printed pages to capture. What were the feelings of the masses of black men, women and children? After being in the dark cave for centuries, what would have been the feelings of the individual who experienced light for the first time in life! The
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