Freedom and wrong turns along the way. (The New

Freedom in TN

For the past 150 years our
understanding of racial freedom and its implication have evolved dramatically. Moreover,
the founding fathers laid down principles of American liberty that their
decedents have been applying ever sense as Abraham Lincoln put it ”augmenting
the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere”. There
are also many historians that disagree with simplicity like Eric Forner,
Professor of History at Columbia University, ”The story of American freedom,”
he says, ”is not simply a saga of a fixed set of rights to which one group
after another has gained access,” but ”a tale of debates, disagreements and
struggles” with lots of bumps and wrong turns along the way.  (The New York Times). However, I will look
specifically during the civil war and reconstruction era in Tennessee. As during this extraordinary period of transformation,
former slaves alleviated their family lives, sought to control their work settings,
founded their own schools and churches, and contributed in public life as
citizens.

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While these goals may appear granted to us today, they were very hard to
reach during the civil war time. The transformation from years of slavery to
freedom was as extremely hard as it was complicated. The state of Tennessee supplies
us with a particularly rich and unique case study of the transition from slavery
to freedom. “Second only to Virginia in the number of skirmishes and battles on
its soil, Tennessee was at the heart of the conflict between North and South”. (Center
for Historic Preservation). According to Tennessean scholarly work on liberation
of African American, “By the spring of 1865, few Tennessee blacks were still
living as slaves.” (Ira Berlin). While the war was going between union army and
confederate army the union started approaching Tennessee as early as 1862,
slaves could hear the battles, hoping and praying that it would change their
lives. By the end of 1862, the Union army occupied large areas of Middle and
West Tennessee.

After the union won the war against the south, a lot of African American
was confused as they did not know what they should do. They were born enslaves
and know nothing but slavery, so the freedom had a new taste that they have
never tested before. For that reason, many men and women went from Tennessee
and the south and went to the union army which make general William Tecumseh to
give military orders to help these freed slaves Like special field order 15.

Also, Congress created the Bureau in March 1865 to help freed slaves to take
payment for their work, get an education, and gain access to their civil
rights. However, many white land owners also sought to continue slavery. Moreover,
they started the sharecropping which were in big disadvantage to African
Americans, because the sharecropping system was not fair and made only for the
advantage of the white people. Because of the economic troubles that Tennessee
was going through during that time, even rich whites did not have enough money
to support freed slaves labor. On January 1, 1868, Murfreesboro’s Freedom’s
Watchman reported that “the Bureau agents of the various counties are being
applied to by scores of colored people who wish some aid in forcing their
employers to fulfill the contracts made with them.” (Leventhal) it was a devastating
time for colored and white people in Tennessee.

Besides their work lives, freed people found a
greater independence by founding their own churches and schools throughout
Tennessee. The first wartime schools in Tennessee were
begun by black people themselves during the fall of 1862.