Making Freedom Pay

North Carolina Freedpeople Working for Themselves, 1865-1900

Title Details

Pages: 216

Illustrations: 5 figures

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 01/06/2003

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2442-5

List Price: $26.95

Making Freedom Pay

North Carolina Freedpeople Working for Themselves, 1865-1900

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  • Description
  • Reviews
The end of slavery left millions of former slaves destitute in a South as unsettled as they were. In Making Freedom Pay, Sharon Ann Holt reconstructs how freed men and women in tobacco-growing central North Carolina worked to secure a place for themselves in this ravaged region and hostile time. Without ignoring the crushing burdens of a system that denied blacks justice and civil rights, Holt shows how many black men and women were able to realize their hopes through determined collective efforts. Holt's microeconomic history of Granville County, North Carolina, drawn extensively from public records, assembles stories of individual lives from the initial days of emancipation to the turn of the century. Making Freedom Pay uses these highly personalized accounts of the day-to-day travails and victories of ordinary people to tell a nationally significant story of extraordinary grassroots uplift. That racist terrorism and Jim Crow legislation substantially crushed and silenced them in no way trivializes the significance of their achievements.

Rich, imaginative, and suggestive . . . Simultaneously demonstrates the immense burdens that freedpeople shouldered in the pursuit of family and community development and the multifaceted and creative energies they brought to the tasks. . . . This small but fascinating book makes a number of important contributions to our understanding of black life in the postemancipation South.

Journal of American History

Provides a wonderfully nuanced look at the actual lives of African American farmers over the course of the late nineteenth century.

Georgia Historical Quarterly

A valuable resource for those interested in the struggle of freedpeople in the South.

Labor History

A useful study of national policy implemented on the local level. Freedom obtained after the Civil War raised questions about the exact status of the former slaves and about how they would fit into the social and economic structures of the South. . . . As an integral part of this study, Holt emphasizes the important role that the freed women played in the transfer from a slave to a free society, showing that even though many histories ignore their role, their household production made a significant contribution to family well-being. This book is useful for a better understanding of the impact made by the Civil War beyond its military and political effects. It is also useful in understanding late-19th-century women's history and economic history.


Celebrates the vision and achievements of the first generation of freedpeople in North Carolina.

Florida Historical Quarterly

Highlights the role of household production played after the Civil War in advancing the economic condition of the freedpeople. It accomplishes this through painstaking and detailed research as well as innovative methodology.

—Robert C. Kenzer, author of Enterprising Southerners: Black Economic Success in North Carolina, 1865-1915

About the Author/Editor

SHARON ANN HOLT has taught history, women’s studies, and urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rutgers University, Camden, and Bryn Mawr College. She is a recipient of the Southern Historical Association’s Greene-Ramsdell Prize.