American History - Research Paper Example

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With the end of slavery, many of the freed people didn’t really understand what “freedom” meant because their situations didn’t change just because they were suddenly freed. Joseph Holmes comments, “Miss tole us us wuz free but hit wuz ten or twelve years atter de…
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# With the end of slavery, many of the freed people didn’t really understand what “freedom” meant because their situations didn’t change just because they were suddenly freed. Joseph Holmes comments, “Miss tole us us wuz free but hit wuz ten or twelve years atter de Surrender befo’ I railly knowed what she meant” (p. 6). Mr. Holmes was a child when slavery ended; he states that when he went to school he began to understand what the Miss meant when she told the slaves they were free.
Occasionally slave owners would free their slaves when they died rather than giving them to a relative or selling them. Clayton Holbert’s mother and grandmother were freed in this way but later captured by “what they called ‘nigger traders’” and sold them back into slavery (p. 287). The Holbert family experienced the end of slavery like so many others: they were free, but had no way to earn a living, no place to go, and no education. The Holberts stayed on with their former master and eventually bought a small farm nearby (pp. 288-289). The concept of freedom for these families only meant that they were no longer owned by someone; they continued to live their lives in familiar places doing what they had always done.
Looking back on their slavery experiences, both Holmes and Holbert remember their former lives with some nostalgia. Clayton Holbert comments, “People were more friendly than they are now. They have almost lost respect for each other” (p. 286). Joseph Holmes comments, “in dose days white folks wuz white folks an black folks wuz black folks” (p. 7). Admittedly, both of them were children at the end of the Civil War, and both had lived a vast majority of their years as free men. The difficulties and hard living which happened to them and their families after the war affected how they felt about slavery, and when white people and black people mixed together freely the black people were exposed to many more hateful whites than when they were segregated.
Reading these interviews gives us an interesting perspective on what freed slaves felt and thought, both about their freedom and about their lives afterward. Everybody remembers their lives through the filters of time. These two men did not remember being mistreated by their masters, and so they have few bad memories of their former lives. For them the transition from slavery to freedom made little difference in how they eventually led their lives.
Works Cited
Interview with Joseph Holmes, June 11, 1937. Accessed August 16, 2009 from .
Interview with Clayton Holbert, May 17, 1937. Accessed August 16, 2009 from . Read More
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