I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary Of Patsy, A Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina 1865
In December 1865, eight months after the Civil War ended, Congress ratified the Thirteenth amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States. However, this did not mean that the approximately four million formerly enslaved men, women, and children in the country were accepted as American citizens with equal rights under the law. They were no longer enslaved, but slavery's chains were hard to break.
Racism, hatred, and violence continued after the Civil War. Southern states passed laws and regulations called the Black Codes in an attempt to virtually re-enslave the newly freed people. In some states, a freed man could only be employed as a farmer or a servant. People would be arrested if they refused to sign work contracts even if that meant receiving low wages. Essentially, the Black Codes tried to bring slavery back into practice. The freed men and women, however, resisted the many schemes that Southern leaders used to try limiting them. They refused to sign work contracts that did not meet their wage demands. They were also determined that their children be educated, and they refused to work on plantations that did not allow them to have a school. The African-American community came together to form their own churches and organize black conventions in order to fight for and demand protection under the law, as well as an end to the Black Codes. Most of all, the freed men and women tried to obtain land so that they could farm for themselves and be independent of white control.
The struggles begun during this period of Reconstruction following the Civil War would not end until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. To learn more about the civil rights movement, click here.
Patsy began her life as a slave in South Carolina. Her ability to read and write made her a valuable member of the black community. She kept a diary beginning just after the Civil War, which recounts the confusing transition from slave to free.
We celebrated Emancipation Day. Some people came from other farms. Violet and the other women made greens and peas and rice, for good luck, for the new year. The people who visited brought sweet potato pies and pecan pies, and we had a good time. It seems as if everyone except me and the other children made a speech about how President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation three years ago, and what this day means to all of us.