To What Extent Were African-American Slaves “Free” After the Abolition of Slavery by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863? What Challenges Did They Face After Their Emancipation?

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To what extent were African-American slaves “free” after the abolition of slavery by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863? What challenges did they face after their emancipation? This is a subject of continued interest. History is rife with records of decades of untold torture and harrowing experiences. African-American slaves suffered at the hands of their captors and masters. They were denied all natural rights as human beings and forced to live like animals. A slave was viewed as one-third of a person and the property of their owner(s) and treated as objects, mere things. One would therefore assume that after their emancipation, life would become significantly better because the slaves were free to move away from
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Other challenges also included deciding on a name as well as the more elusive task of creating an identity with no sense of one's ancestry, making choices for themselves about where they labored and the type of work they performed, the use of public accommodations, providing for one's daily needs and pursuing an education. When one lives at the hands and mercy of a master who controls every aspect of one’s life, starting fresh in a ‘foreign country’ can prove to be a difficult task. For many of them, the dream was short-lived.

In many respects, the slaves were not solely responsible for their burdens or inability to rise to freedom. Simply declaring that the slaves were free did not go far enough to enable them become self-determined. They needed the help and guidance of those in control not only to survive but also to thrive. Without much land, money, materials or no legal title to aid them, they soon became ‘freed’ in name only, rather than as legal citizens who were entitled to the most basic liberties. It was no wonder news about the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment in January 1865, was greeted with euphoria and relief. This new chapter in American history was to fully abolish slavery in the United States, ‘freeing’ four million African Americans. Men and women - black and white, and in the North and South began the work of rebuilding the