|Vol. 13 No. 12
JUNE 11, 2018
by Jonathan Gramling
by Jamala Rogers
by Heidi M. Pascual
Columns & Features
Paying the Price for Freedom
The urge to be free has been around since the dawn of life on our planet, whether it was freedom from the predators that surrounded
you or the person with the power who could enslave anyone who didn’t believe in ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ All of us yearn to
be free from being coerced into doing something against our wills.
The yearning to be free by Africans who were enslaved probably began when their legs and hands were shackled before being
forced aboard a slave ship in West Africa in preparation for the Middle Passage where many died en route to the New World, a place
for freedom of certain Euro-Americans and slavery or death for others who did not bend to their wills.
For 250 years or more, Africans who were enslaved yearned to be free from the master’s whip and the harshest of working and living
conditions, always vulnerable to the whims of the master’s family.
And the Africans who were enslaved and their descendents fought their slavery as best they could whether through rebellions,
sabotage of the plantation’s equipment or escaping to the North where conditions were a little better, but hardly perfect. And some relied
upon spiritualism, both to get a spiritual release from the harsh conditions they experienced or as a way to plan their next escape to
While the Civil War has often been billed as the war to abolish slavery, I don’t think that was necessarily the case. I tend to think it was a
clash between economic models, between the industrial North and its use of free, mobile labor and the agrarian South with its enslaved,
fixed-in-one-place labor. Abolition would only be the byproduct advocated for by Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists.
And even the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1865, wasn’t truly about emancipation of
the slaves. Lincoln still hoped for reunification of free and slave states. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the
Confederate States over which Lincoln had no “legal” or practical authority. It didn’t free the slaves who resided in the Border States
that remained in the Union during the Civil War. So the Emancipation Proclamation was more of a war propaganda document that would
be used to cause disruption within the Southern economy and war effort, which used slave labor to produce munitions and other war
What turned the tide in the Civil War was when Lincoln allowed African Americans to join the ranks of the Union Army to fight. What had
been a fight between Euro-Americans about whether or not free and slave states should co-exist became a flat-out war for freedom, in
some ways, the African American Revolutionary War.
African Americans had a lot at stake and took some of the heaviest casualties in the bloody Civil War fighting. But their infusion into the
fight turned the tide in the North’s favor. Victory came at a heavy price for African Americans, but the Civil War legally set them free
with the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments after its conclusion.--READ MORE