Families & Freedom Essay - Critical Essays

Families & Freedom

Edited by Ira Berlin and Leslie S. Rowland, FAMILIES AND FREEDOM: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN KINSHIP IN THE CIVIL WAR ERA poignantly explores the impact of federal policies on the personal lives of slaves and freedmen and the fervor with which African Americans tried to reunite, configure, or define their own families.

Made up mostly of documents previously published (or planned for future inclusion) in the more comprehensive FREEDOM: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF EMANCIPATION, 1861-1867 (4 volumes), FAMILIES AND FREEDOM is organized by theme and region. It is made up primarily of letters written by slaves and former slaves, including African American soldiers who served in the Civil War. It also includes observations of military officials and others involved in the wartime and postwar occupation of the South.

The selected documents profoundly illustrate the pain of forced separation from loved ones, efforts to maintain relationships in spite of physical distance, and the violence experienced under slavery. They also dramatically record the inequities of payment and treatment that black soldiers confronted in military service (and the consequences of impoverishment faced by their wives and children) and the ways in which the experience of the war and emancipation differed for free blacks of the North, residents of the occupied South, and inhabitants of the slaveholding border states of the Union.