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In their efforts to achieve freedom, ex-slaves mounted a dual struggle to elude the personal domination of the old order and to blunt new coercions embedded in terms of emerging wage employment. This book draws on a rich documentary record to allow ex-slaves to express in their own words and behavior the aspirations that underlay their efforts. The author discusses the labor disputes that convulsed the post-Civil War South, in which can be read former slaves' critiques of both Southern slavery and Northern freedom.Read more
- Goes beyond current discussions about the meaning of freedom for former slaves by offering portraits of freed people's actual social lives
- Ex-slaves express in their own words their aspirations and goals
Reviews & endorsements
"Saville's work makes a significant contribution to the literature on the origins of the postwar agricultural labor system." Civil War HistorySee more reviews
"...a brilliant combination of theoretical insight and deep research....and conviction that teaches us something about ourselves as well as about our past. This is a book to be read more than once. This is a book to ponder." ILWCH
"In The Work of Reconstruction she [Saville] displays the theoretical depth, the penchant for indefatigable research, and the eye for the big questions that make her a prime candidate for the authorship of the big book on Reconstruction we badly need." Eugene Genovese, Journal of Social History
"Saville is especially successful in demonstrating how the transition from slavery to wage labor affected the lives of the freed people. The book is well organized to provide the reader with an understanding of the development of Reconstruction policies in South Carolina, with an emphasis on how the freed people perceived those policies...The author's treatment of the work of Reconstruction in South Carolina not only provides a strong foundation for understanding ex-slaves' experiences in other states but also contributes valuable evidence for the study of race and labor in post-Civil War America as well." Julie Doyle, The North Carolina Historical Review
"The argument that the ex-slaves desired to own land and to control their daily lives is far from new, of course, but Saville is to be commended for the sophistication with which she documents their struggle. She is also particularly successful at demonstrating the political manifestations of the freedpeople's efforts to control wage relations, the study's most original contribution." Robert Tracy McKenzie, American Historical Review
"...sensitive and painstaking examination of the meaning of freedom from the point of view of former slaves. Thoroughly researched and imaginatively written, The Work of Reconstruction presents former slaves as free people whose lives were grounded in family....As a result of this study, Reconstruction can no longer be seen as an essentially political phenomenon." Historian
"Saville's book is truly commendable. It provides us with an informed reconstruction of the freedpeople's local and daily struggles." Jeffrey Kerr-Ritchie, The Journal of Southern History
"What sets this book apart in the Reconstruction field is its primary focus on rural black workers and the processes between them and landowners. Deeply rooted in primary sources...Saville's labour history of emacipation...is usually convincing, consistently engaging, and uncoomonly valuable." John T. O'Brien, Labour/Le Travail
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- Date Published: April 1996
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521566254
- length: 240 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 13 mm
- weight: 0.33kg
- contains: 4 b/w illus. 1 map
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
List of abbreviations used in notes
A note on spellings
Part I. Freedom Versus Freedom: Competing Visions of Emancipation:
1. Antebellum field slaves' labor: regional overviews
2. Twilight of slavery, dawn of freedom
3. Rebels and 'rebels in disguise'
Part II. A Measure of Freedom: Plantation Workers and the Wartime Introduction of Wage Labor in Port Royal:
4. Eluding the confederacy's grasp
5. Inducing wage labor behind federal lines
6. Wartime planting
7. 'A dollar a task'
8. 'As hard times as they has see with the rebel'
Part III. Restoration and Reaction: The Struggle for Land in the Sherman Reserve
Part IV. The Reconstruction of Work:
9. Remaking family life and labor in the interior
10. Control of the crop
11. Control of supplemental plots
12. Working on shares
13. Holding onto land and time in the low country
14. Uncertain harvests: seasonalization of agricultural employment
Part V. The Work of Reconstruction:
15. Light in August
16. 'Why can't we be friends?'
17. 'There's a meeting here tonight'
18. A perfect system?
19. 'On duty' in the league
20. 'We the laboring men out of doors'
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