Digital Collections

Freedmen and Southern Society Project

Digital collection. Documents that help explain how Black people traversed the bloody ground from slavery to freedom between the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and the beginning of Reconstruction in 1867.
Time Periods: Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864, Reconstruction Period: 1865 - 1876
Themes: African American, Slavery and Resistance

The Freedmen and Southern Society Project was established in 1976 to capture the essence of that revolution in the words of its participants: the formerly enslaved and defeated slaveholders, soldiers and civilians, common folk and the elite, Northerners and Southerners.

Drawing upon the rich resources of the National Archives of the United States, the project’s editors pored over millions of documents, selecting some 50,000 [that help] explain how Black people traversed the bloody ground from slavery to freedom between the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and the beginning of Radical Reconstruction in 1867.

The documents convey with first-person immediacy the experiences of the liberated: the quiet personal satisfaction of meeting an old master on equal terms and the outrage of being ejected from a segregated street car; the elation of a fugitive slave enlisting in the Union army and the humiliation of a laborer cheated out of hard-earned wages; the joy of a family reunited after years of separation and the distress of having a child involuntarily apprenticed to a former owner; the hope that freedom would bring a new world and the fear that, in too many ways, life would be much as before. [Description adapted from website.]

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