Connecting the dots on my tree with solid lines! Many African American students know little about their ancestors. Given the chance to examine their own DNA and family histories, Gates argues, they are likely to become more engaged in their history and science classes.
A page from a contract between M. Coleman, Asa May, and a group of freedmen, indicating the terms of employment, the signatures of the employers, and the "X" marks of the laborers. This set of freedmen's contracts contains handwritten agreements between landowners in Jefferson County and laborers, primarily, African-Americans, who agreed to farm the land in exchange for a share of the crop and the means necessary to live and complete their work.
They are part of a larger collection of Jefferson County court documents held by the State Archives of Florida Series Lwhich covers a broad period from the s to the s.
The Freedmen's Bureau, established in by the United States government to assist former slaves through the difficulties attending the end of the Civil War, helped landowners and laborers write these contracts, and filed them in the county's records.
Generally, each contract identifies the landowner or overseer, the individuals agreeing to work the land, the kind of work to be performed, the form and amount of compensation, and any additional stipulations.
The level of detail in these contracts varies. In some, only the most basic conditions afrigeneas write away program explained, while in others, the employer goes so far as to specify the length of the mid-day break, the foodstuffs to be provided to the laborers, and even restrictions on foul language.
Background When the Civil War drew to a close, slavery had been outlawed, but the futures of the millions of African-Americans who had labored under that system were far from certain.
For the most part, the freedmen had no money, no land of their own, and the family and community ties they had relied on for a lifetime were all associated with the plantations they had previously worked on as slaves.
At the same time, their former masters were also in a serious bind. They owned a tremendous quantity of land, but without the modern agricultural equipment of today it was useless without a large labor force to plant, tend, and harvest the crops.
The Freedmen's Bureau initially provided the newly liberated African-Americans with rations, medical care, and educational opportunities, but these measures were designed to be temporary.
With the South's economy still almost entirely dependent on labor-intensive agriculture, former slaves and their former masters soon found themselves reuniting to fulfill their respective needs.
Although under the new circumstances the freedmen were employees rather than slaves, the lack of cash for wages and lack of experience with wage labor led workers and employers to develop a very different kind of system called sharecropping.
Under this arrangement, laborers did not earn a wage for their work, but instead received the basic materials they needed to live and work from the landowner whose crops they raised. At harvest time, the employees received a share of the crop, which they could then sell for cash.
Sharecropping solved the immediate problems of both landowners and former slaves, but it had serious drawbacks. Very often, a sharecropper's expenses outran the very small income he or she received from the harvest, especially since that income only came once per crop cycle.
To get by between crops, sharecroppers were often forced to rely on "crop liens," essentially mortgages taken out on crops that had yet to be harvested. Like any other mortgage, it had to be paid back with interest, which frequently kept sharecroppers in a perpetual cycle of debt.
Moreover, droughts, storm damage, and other factors affected the value of each year's harvest, which added another element of uncertainty to the sharecroppers' financial lives. As time progressed, some sharecroppers were able to acquire enough tools and personal wealth to pay a flat rental fee to a landowner and farm independently rather than serve as a direct employee.
This system, called tenant farming, was in many ways a step above sharecropping, but it also had its pitfalls. Ironically, although sharecropping and tenant farming encouraged their practitioners to be as productive as possible, this happened just as the demand for Southern cotton was decreasing, and higher productivity only glutted the market and drove prices further down.
Although the inefficiency of the system was painfully clear, only after World War II did the South's economy become diversified enough to break away from it.
Selected Bibliography Baker, Bruce E. Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South. University Press of Florida, Nor Is It Over Yet: Florida in the Era of Reconstruction, University of Florida Press, History of Jefferson County.Our Write Away Together training focuses on how to use feedback to improve writing.
A Write Away Together session involves a dialogue between a child and a trained partner about a piece of independent writing. The aim of the dialogue is to help the child understand how they can improve their work at text, sentence and word level and to embed strategies that will improve children's independent.
AfriGeneas- African Ancestored Genealogy. AfriGeneas is a site devoted to African American genealogy, to researching African Ancestry in the Americas in particular and to genealogical research and resources in general.
Below are links to various repositories of data on slavery and slaves on the Internet. Afrigeneas Slave Data Collection. African Americans in Missouri. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem.
I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In , in , at my birth in , I know that I never had it made. The Hampton Ethnographic Team & the National Park Service present "Tracing Lives, Slavery to Today" symposium and tours at Maryland's Hampton Plantation Oct.
, /5(29). I have maintained a message board on the AfriGeneas family of boards for more than 10 years. In fact, the African-Native American Genealogy Message Board is the oldest continually operated genealogy board devoted to the research and ancestry of African-Native American people.