The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

What is, or was, the difference between slavery and white supremacy?

It was considerable, both on a material and a psychological level. The blacks were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, and many of them experienced a wonderful sense of release when the war ended. Economic and social conditions worked against most of the recently emancipated persons, however, and a majority began to fall into what some historians call the “second slavery” of the late nineteenth century.

It is difficult to throw off the effects of a system that has been in place for generations, and those blacks that remained in the South—about ninety percent—were subjected to all sorts of harassment and discouragement by those whites interested in keeping them “down.” To be sure, this experience was not uniform. There were Southern whites who wanted to see the blacks succeed, and there were blacks who got out of the South and thereby gave themselves a better chance at success. But at least three-quarters of all the blacks who lived in the South and were freed by the Civil War soon experienced conditions that led them to question whether they, and the Union, had in fact won the war.


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