Land and Labor, 1865
Land and Labor, 1865
examines the transition from slavery to free labor during the tumultuous first months after the Civil War. Letters and testimony by former slaves, former slaveholders, Freedmen's Bureau agents, and others reveal the connection between developments in workplaces across the South and an intensifying political contest over the meaning of freedom and the terms of national reunification.
In the tense and often violent aftermath of emancipation, former slaves seeking to ground their liberty in economic independence came into conflict with former owners determined to keep them dependent and subordinate. Overseeing that conflict were Northern officials with their own notions of freedom, labor, and social order. This volume of Freedom depicts the dramatic events that ensued – the eradication of bondage and the contest over restoring land to ex-Confederates; the introduction of labor contracts and the day-to-day struggles that engulfed the region's plantations, farms, and other workplaces; the achievements of those freedpeople who attained a measure of independence; and rumors of a year-end insurrection in which ex-slaves would seize the land they had been denied and exact revenge for past oppression.
Copies of Land and Labor, 1865 may be purchased from your local bookstore or ordered from the University of North Carolina Press. Credit card orders may be placed online, by telephone (800-848-6224; from outside the U.S., 919-966-7449), or by fax (800-272-6817; from outside the U.S., 919-962-2704). 1,073 pp. ISBN 978-0-8078-3147-2.
Sample Documents from the Volume
- Chairman of the Orangeburg, South Carolina, Commission on Contracts to the Freedmen's Bureau Commissioner, June 12, 1865, Enclosing a Speech to the Freedpeople, [June 1865]; and the Commissioner's Reply, June 21, 1865
Captain Charles Soule, a young Northern officer, described his efforts to instruct ex-slaves in South Carolina about what he considered to be their rights and responsibilities.
- Tennessee Freedmen to the Freedmen's Bureau Assistant Commissioner for Kentucky, Tennessee, and Northern Alabama, July 27, 1865
Convinced that their newfound liberty was imperiled by hostile former slaveholders and restrictive slave-era laws, a group of freedmen sought the appointment of a local Freedmen's Bureau agent and asserted their right to equality before the law.
- Testimony by Two North Carolina Freedwomen against Their Former Owner, [August 1865?]
A former slave and her daughter recounted the brutality they had experienced at the hands of former owners who were determined to deny their freedom.
- Northern Teacher to the Freedmen's Bureau Commissioner, August 4, 1865
A Northern observer transmitted resolutions adopted by freedpeople in northern Virginia that explained the importance of land to their future welfare.
- Cases Adjudicated by the Freedmen's Bureau Superintendent at Gordonsville, Virginia, August 16–September 13, 1865
A register kept by Captain T. Franklin P. Crandon described the cases brought before him and the actions he took.
- Commander of U.S. Forces at Columbia, Louisiana, to the
Headquarters of the Western District of Louisiana, September 20, 1865, Enclosing a Labor Contract, [August 1, 1865]
A U.S. military commander in Louisiana believed that, in terms of material welfare and the conditions of labor, the freedpeople near his post were faring as badly or worse than they had as slaves.
- Committee of Freedmen on Edisto Island, South Carolina, to the Freedmen's Bureau Commissioner [October 20 or 21, 1865]; the Commissioner's Reply, October 22, 1865; and the Committee to the President, October 28, 1865
In two eloquent petitions, freedpeople voiced outrage at news that the land they had been promised was to be restored to its former owners.
- White Tennessean to the Freedmen's Bureau Superintendent of the Subdistrict of Memphis, Tennessee, October 30, 1865
Fearing that armed and unruly freedpeople were planning to forcibly seize the property of white landowners, a resident of west Tennesssee implored federal authorities to take preventive measures.
- Statement of a Mississippi Freedman, November 21, 1865
Two freedmen preparing to cultivate land they had rented were warned by white neighbors that their presence was not welcome.
- Georgia Freedmen to the Freedmen's Bureau Subassistant Commissioner at Savannah, Georgia, November 28, 1865
Amid hard-fought negotiations over labor contracts for the coming year, ex-slaves in coastal Georgia indignantly rejected offers that failed to provide for nonworking members of the laborers' families.