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On the one hand, African Americans were of course free after the Civil War. The war brought about the complete end of slavery. This was very important because it meant that African Americans no longer belonged to other people. They no longer had to worry about being sold away from their families or being sexually abused by those who owned them. They no longer had to bear seeing their children being sold away from them. These were very significant changes in their lives.
On the other hand, African Americans were not given the wherewithal to truly be free. Freedom in a real sense includes the ability to make a living for one's self and the right to be treated like everyone else in a society. Freed slaves had neither of these things, particularly once Reconstruction ended. They were never given the land that they wanted so that they could become small farmers. Instead, they ended up doing things like share cropping that left them very much dependent upon their land lords. They were also subjected to things like the Jim Crow laws that eventually sprang up, denying the equal citizenship.
So in some very important ways, African Americans were free after the Civil War. But there are also important ways in which they were not truly granted the freedom they deserved.
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