The View from the Bottom Rail

Published: 2021-07-30 11:25:08
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After the defeat of Confederates in Civil war of America (Apr 12, 1861 – May 13, 1865), black Africans who were slaves to the Confederates were freed. The lives after the freedom have been studied over the time by many researchers with various conclusions. The combined results from studies have been highly equivocal since the claims from different schools of thoughts have remained contradictory. This text investigates the prior research is done, the problems with the findings of research and the questions which are required to be answered to establish the credibility of research.The indicated text tries to explore these answers by a retrospection of archives. Although it admits that the lives of black slaves had improved after the freedom, the emphasis is laid upon the authentication of sources. “The View from the Bottom Rail” signifies the sense of independence that the slaves had been experiencing after the war as the archives reveal. The slaves are portrayed as becoming more casual and as exhibiting victory toward the previous masters. But the writer views this investigation as being exaggerated and biased in favour of Union to portray their protagonist side.The text is complex one since it tries to find the facts from established history. In the first part, it narrates how pleased the slaves had been with the arrival and conquest, of the territory they lived in, by Union. They have been shown dancing and singing in recognition of Union victory. To Such studies, the narrators have added opposite reactions too so that reader does not see the narration by suspicion. A similar text (Brown) has shown black population as getting stable in the post-war scenario. A combination of these studies show people relieved by the occupation of the Upper South by Union Army. These people were largely given funny names which they changed later to assume a proper identity.The contradiction to the established beliefs mentioned above bases the argument upon the authenticity of the investigation. These views object the interviews conducted and the notes written to consolidate the position. This objection raises the suspicion around primary sources indicating the underrepresentation of some regions, especially the Upper South where black population density is the most. Other sources in an endorsement to this viewpoint object the age group of the ones being surveyed. One source adds the evidence of rewarding people for biased conduction of surveys (Helton et al.).To investigate further, an analysis of historical perspective is necessary by traversing through the events and searching for their impartiality. Civil war hit the United States following the victory of President Abraham Lincoln’s in 1860 elections. The understandable reason for war is the lack of consensus about freeing African Black slaves and providing them with the rights as the ones enjoyed by White community referred to as Yankees. The war was fought for four years between Union Army that controlled the northern and Western parts of the United States and the newly-born Confederate Army that was largely present in Upper South regions between North Carolina in the East to the farthest end of Texas in West. New Mexico was partially controlled.The Africans slaves were used to work under their masters. Most of the masters in the Confederate region were associated with agriculture, and hence, slaves used to work in fields. Some of them were taught by their masters, and as the sources describe, a huge number of people wanted to learn reading and writing (Trowbridge). Some of those who were not allowed opted to learn without informing their masters. Such slaves were deceptive to the masters as being illiterate. Some teachers, both black and white, from missionaries volunteered to teach the emancipated black population in Upper South region.During the war, a significantly large number of slaves switched their loyalty in favour of Union soldiers, but some remained with their previous masters. The reason for the switch is believed to become free of slavery since Union defied it, whereas the reason for retaining loyalty is given to be the fear of unknown community and, at times, expectations of reward. Another reason for slaves to stay loyal to masters was the belief that it was their duty to fulfil what masters demand because the survival of slaves was dependent upon their masters’ stability (Helton et al.).Primary sources in the post-war decade and the secondary sources later have tried to give an account of black lives immediately after the war and a few decades later. Some of these sources highlighted the improvements in lives by citing their standards of living, self-respect, general reputation, prospects of getting work and business rights. The conception that they started to give proper names to them accounts for this fact that freedom was exhibited (Brown).The studies also uncover that some former slaves did not consider slavery as bad because they believed to serve their masters who made them feed and survive. The free and unhindered migration of emancipated population gives clue that the war had relieved this chunk of the population. After a decade since the war ended, liberated people began to own businesses too. Though the property rights were obtained by them later, documents prove that the black people from relatively privileged backgrounds owned lands too. But such examples are rarely found in Southern Mid-Atlantic region.The rebuttal to these views comes with the study of archives with interviews and surveys conducted from freedpeople of those times to get closer to the actual course of events. The studies suggest that the notion of “freedpeople” was unfounded as black population was still considered inferior after the freedom under people from Union. This is reflected in the fact that coloured people, especially Black community were denied their share of lands and jobs while educated class managed to do better but illiterate and ignorant groups remained under-privileged (Helton et al.). Freedpeople chose their spokesperson which belonged to an educated class, and they preferred to favour the people from their class or status (Masur).Furthermore, an examination has gone as far as calling the situation of freedpeople as post-war slavery. It adds further that comparison of the post-war situation with contemporary times reveal the freedom was not realized in its true essence. The same race that had been slave enjoys the freedom of expression, opinion and actions. These privileges were not enjoyed by the post-war slaves. Before and during the war times, slaves served as the labour force for Confederacy. The potential change of loyalty could result in the weaken Confederacy units.At this point, some deliberation is needed over some questions. Whether the authentication of archives and research is established as being credible? What can be a plausible motive of writers’ stance? Was the writing done under any conditions from the external force? Are there any discrepancies in the archives?By and large, these questions remained unanswered because the impartiality of most number of writers, editors and researchers who have contributed in this area cannot be established. The sources explored in the text either support one conception or the other. The disparity of thoughts is significant with no clear triumphant. However, in the contemporary times, while the slavery in the United States has been eliminated, the disparity between lives of the black population and those of others is substantially reduced.Works CitedBrown, Elsa Barkley. “Negotiating and transforming the public sphere: African American political life in the transition from slavery to freedom.” Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader (2000): 343-76.Helton, Laura, et al. “The Question of Recovery An Introduction.” Social Text 33.4 125 (2015): 1-18.Masur, Kate. “The African American Delegation to Abraham Lincoln: A Reappraisal.” Civil War History 56.2 (2010): 117-144.Trowbridge, David J. “Schooling the Freed People: Teaching, Learning, and the Struggle for Black Freedom, 1861—1876.” The Annals of Iowa 71.3 (2012): 278-280.

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