After the Civil War

Freedmen: When is a Slave not a Slave?

Freedmen: When is a Slave not a Slave?
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 5
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.78

     challenging words:    ex-slaves, landowner, sharecropper, slavery, federal, provided, reading, teaching, writing, plots, imagine, payment, especially, slave, bondage, whim
     content words:    United States, Civil War

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Freedmen: When is a Slave not a Slave?
By Toni Lee Robinson

1     Imagine having a bad dream. You can't wait to wake from this nightmare and be free. Your longing might be a little like what black people felt who were slaves in the southern United States. They yearned for freedom. They wanted more than anything to wake up and not be slaves anymore.
2     Happily, this day of liberty came. Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This law did away with slavery everywhere in the U.S. The Civil War ended, and the slaves were free. No more overseers. No more forced labor. No more selling off family members at the owner's whim. If you had been a slave, how thrilled you would have been! What a joyous day! What would you have done to celebrate? Many of the slaves gathered together for dances, picnics, and parades.
3     Soon after your great day of freedom you might have seen that life wasn't going to be easy just because you were free. As a slave, you had lived in housing provided by your master. Now you would have no home. Before, your food had come from your employer, too. Now you would have to find your own food. To make matters worse, the white people around you were angry and unfriendly toward black people who had been their workers.
4     Some people realized that freedmen, as the former slaves were called, had many needs. The federal government set up the Freedmen's Bureau to help black freedmen and poor white people find food, clothing, and homes. The Bureau started schools so that poor people could learn basic things like reading, writing, and math. Church people helped by teaching in the schools and giving food and shelter.

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