How did black people manage to survive the first 100 years after slavery?
Can you imagine: they were released with no money, no food or shelter, very few clothes, no education or skills into a mostly hostile environment.
How did they make it?
It may be an over-simplification to say they "found jobs in the north". ---They had to leave a warm southern climate with few warm clothes,many without shoes, no roof over them ,unable to bathe and no food to eat or water to drink while they searched for somebody who was willing to hire them, and I doubt that they got pay advances.
LOUISE C:---No I didn't assume their labor was no longer needed. I assumed their masters could no longer afford them once they were freed. Their businesses were based on nearly free labor.
Asked By: big j - 2/1/2009
You seem to be assuming that once they were free, their labour was no longer needed, but it was. Many of them continued to work as farm labourers or domestic servants for their former owners, who still needed their farms and plantations worked, and their housework and cooking done. However, many wanted to move on of their own accord. Patience, an ex-slave in south Carolina, passed up a profitable job cooking for her former owner. "I must go" she said "If I stay here I'll never know I'm free." The black population of Atlanta, about 20 percent before war, reached 46 perecent by 1870. Most were women who got jobs as laundresses, frequently working in their own homes where they could watch their children while making some money.
some women were even able to become housewives and stay at home. Many white people resented this, used to seeing black women labouring in the fields, they resented the idea that black women might stay at home with their children. The called it "acting the lady" and "the evil of female loaferism". Southern plantation owners were desperate for farm labour, and they regarded any woman who wanted her husband to "support her in idleness" as a threat to the agricultural economy. An agent for the Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina, which existed to look after the interests of ex-slaves, complained that "myriads of women who once earned their own living using the hoe, pass the days in dawdling over their trivial housework or gossiping among their neighbours."
White people were irritated by the behaviour of free blacks, who wanted things they had been deprived of, including pretty clothes. "Slavery to our Islanders meant field work, with no opportunity for the women and girls to dress as they chose and when they chose." said a teacher of ex-slaves in Georgia. Women who had spent their lives alternating between the two smocks they were given each Christmas by the master felt proud and independent walking down the street in colourfun dresses and hats. Their husbands felt proud too, because their wives' clothing showed the world that they were good providers. The whites concocted endless explanations for why that was inappropriate. "The airs which the Negroes assume often interfere with their efficency as labourers." complained a South Carolinian.
Some black people did go North, as a comment above suggests, and some also went West. In 1879, thousands of ex-slaves left the Deep South, intent on resettling in Kansas. They were fleeing post-Reconstruction Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee, where the fuy of ex-Confederates against the freed African Americans was bitter and frequently violent. They knew that if they could make their break from the South and farm 160 acres of Kansas land for five years, the law said it would be theirs. They were called Exodusters, and one of the main reasons for their migration was concern for the welfare of their women. "The white men here take our wives and daughters and serve them as they please, and we are shot if we say anything about it." one member wrote to the governor of Kansas. Thousands of African Americans took riverboats up the Mississippi or walked the Chisholm trail to Kansas. Armed whites, alarmed at losing their cheap labor, closed the Mississippi, and threatned to sink boats that transported the Exodusters. The poorest ran out of money as they waited helplessly on the riverbank for a boat with the courage to pick them up. Those who made it to Kansas arrived broke and exhausted. But within a few years most of the 15,000 Exodusters who stayed in Kansas were settled homeowners.
There was a shortage of good cooks in the west, and many black women, who had reputations as good cooks, went west to make their fortunes. One pioneer recalled seeing a crowd of people crossing the desert on foot an dnoted that one of them was "a black women. . . carrying a cast-iron bake oven on her head, with her provisions and blankets piled up on top - all she possessed in the world - bravely pushing on for California."
African Americans were about a fourth of the domestics in 1900, and half by 1930. Employment agencies went through the South offering jobs and transportation to women who were willing to come north and work as servants.Partly as a result of the demand for female domestic workers, most of the 750,000 blacks who moved north in the 1920s were women. There was a sexual imblanace in many black neighbourhoods - in New York City there were 10 women for every 8.5 men.
Answered By: Louise C - 2/2/2009