First Advisor

Tim Garrison

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors




Freedmen -- Southern States -- Social conditions -- 19th century, African Americans -- Civil rights -- Southern States -- 19th century, Forced labor -- Southern States -- 19th century, Slavery -- Law and legislation -- United States




The United States emancipation narrative endures in the popular American conscious as a watershed moment in American history that marked the end of slavery and the beginning of freedom for African Americans. Freedom is also commonly thought of as something that was bestowed upon African Americans by the benevolent Northern government and the efforts of Union forces. The popular American conscious has been hard-pressed to question this romanticized narrative in American history. It is thus the goal of this analysis to challenge these commonly held, popular beliefs. This study argues that emancipation in many ways did not truly mark the end of slavery in the South, and that while the old institution of chattel slavery may have dissolved with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, new forms of forced labor took its place. From the contracted labor of sharecropping and tenant farming, to the brutal systems of debt peonage and convict leasing, African Americans throughout all parts of the South continued to toil in conditions akin to slavery during the decades following the Civil War. Still wedded and wholly reliant on forced labor, southern governments and the white planter class elite did everything in their power to maintain control of the lives and labor of newly freedpeople, while newly freedpeople did everything in their power to claim their rights to freedom.


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An undergraduate honors thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts or Science in University Honors and History

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