Freedom In Ned Cobb's The Meaning Of Freedom

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As a former tenant farmer, Ned Cobb shares his experience of the Jim Crow era and reveals the limitations in which black freedom existed. Following emancipation, the African-American population understood their freedom as the basic rights given to the white population. However, after the failure of Reconstruction, the United States continued into an era of vast inequality among races. Southern society, without the institution of slavery, demanded white power was exercised by any other means. This made it difficult for freedmen to succeed in their new independent role. Though the black community was given more civil liberties post-slavery, the lasting oppression of white supremacy prevented any meaningful racial progress in the Southern United…show more content…
However, their participation in the economy was under white terms. This was demonstrated in Cobb’s experiences with the marketplace. Unable to negotiate as a black man, he chose to use a white friend to sell his cotton for a better price (Rosengarten 189). The blatant discrimination Cobb experiences was how many African-Americans were treated when they attempted to engage in the economy. For the Southern population, a successful black businessman did not compliment the preferred rhetoric of a “lazy nigger” (Foner 102). In Eric Foner’s “The Meaning of Freedom”, he discusses how economic independence for the freedmen threatened the white-dominated Southern market. Consequently, white communities sought to discourage black business transaction and participation (110). Therefore, economic independence for freedmen could not materialize. Oppression in the marketplace was also presented in the form of law, like the controversial Black Codes. Freedmen had to comply with conditions such as vagrancy laws that manipulated the market in favour of white men. Pressuring black vagrants out of the independent economy and into labour contracts expanded white control over the labour market. Above all, it promoted an inferior for…show more content…
Slavery would not recognize the black family structure, often separating mothers from their children or ignoring the relationship between husband and wife. Therefore, it was a great accomplishment for freedmen have control over its structure, such as removing their wives from the field and into a domestic role (85). Ned Cobb wanted to “keep the bucket out of [his wife’s] hands all expect to bring the milk in the house and strain it, prepare it for the family to drink and make butter” (Rosengarten 121). Although freedman like Cobb could exercise this freedom, the white community still did not recognize the black family unit. For example, white landowners did not value black women in domestic roles and often complained of their absence in the fields (Foner 85). By encouraging renting and sharecropping, they placed a premium on labour which sometimes required the wife to return to her labouring role (86). Freed women were viewed by their economic value, while white women were rarely held this perception. This shows how white superiority could inhibit the progression of black communities, even with their personal family
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