Explain and discuss how the definitions of freedom changed for the newly freedmen and Southern whites after the Civil War.

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Before the Civil War, there were moral concerns as to whether or not slavery is justifiable. Most citizens from Northern states believed that it was wrong, while slavery traders and owners from the South argued that they were doing the African American community a favor by enslaving them. The stalemate...

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Before the Civil War, there were moral concerns as to whether or not slavery is justifiable. Most citizens from Northern states believed that it was wrong, while slavery traders and owners from the South argued that they were doing the African American community a favor by enslaving them. The stalemate led to the rise of the abolitionist movement. Southern states threatened to leave the United States Union if an abolitionist ever became president, which he did. When Abraham Lincoln came into power in 1860, South Carolina declared itself an independent state and went on to take control of its military and arsenal. Other southern states, such as Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama followed suit. The civil war began to save the union and prevent its collapse.

During the war Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation that declared the slaves of seceded states free. This made the freed slaves more eager to fight for the Union because they believed that it was worth saving.

After the civil war ended, the Thirteenth Amendment came into force and ended slavery in America. The law made it illegal for anyone to own or sell slaves. Freedom was for everyone. However, the president gave the southern whites total freedom over how they handle the situation. As a result, the white southerners enacted the black code to limit the freedom of freed slaves since the majority still believed in white supremacy. Hence the definition of freedom changed from a right guaranteed in the constitution to a privilege defined by race.

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The definition of freedom overall changed for the United States after the Civil War. The newly freed slaves in 1865 were happy that they could openly form churches and get an education. However, many saw that their problems were far from over. While many former slaves wanted to grow foodstuffs directly after the war, many were virtually forced to keep growing cotton for meager wages in order to meet industrial demand. Many former slaves, though being free to move, were compelled to stay on the land through sharecropper agreements. African Americans agitated for citizenship status in 1868, in order to have some legal protections against an often-hostile white population in the South. In 1870, African Americans gained the right to vote. While all of these were important pieces of legislation, they were often thwarted by things such as grandfather clauses, literacy tests, and poll taxes after Reconstruction ended in 1877 which marginalized African American freedom.

Southern whites resented what they perceived as the loss of their freedoms. Many former plantation owners resented the new property taxes levied by the new Reconstruction-era state governments. The former slaveowners also resented losing millions of dollars of chattel property without any compensation. Poor whites had little opportunity in the post-Civil War South and often fell into generational poverty through sharecropping in order to make ends meet. Some Southern whites even turned to violence in the Ku Klux Klan in order to intimidate both African Americans and the whites who came South to help them.

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After the Civil War, the definition of freedom changed in the nation, as slavery was ended with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865. The practice of slavery was disallowed, but definition of the freedom that would take its place was a subject of controversy, ongoing debate, and even violence in the decades to come. 

For freedmen, freedom often meant reconciling with their families, who were broken up by slavery; choosing which church to belong to without being ordered to attend religious services (or not to attend) by their masters; and choosing to educate themselves and their children. They also defined freedom as political rights, which were granted in the 14th and 15th Amendments, which granted citizenship to everyone born in the United States and the right to vote to men, respectively. In addition, freedmen sought freedom of movement and economic opportunities as extensions of their new freedom.

However, many southern whites felt that the freedmen's sense of freedom came into direct conflict with their own sense of freedom, which they believed relied on slave labor. They instituted laws to roll back the gains that freedmen had made and to tie African-Americans to sharecropping plots. Southern whites also believed that federal laws infringed on their freedoms, which were protected by states' rights. The white southerners' ideas of freedom and the freedmen's ideas of freedom came into conflict well into the 20th century during the era of Jim Crow laws in the south.  

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