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During the post-bellum period, both Blacks and Whites fought to define the social structure of the New South following the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Blacks sought to express their freedom in the simplest terms through the control of their own political, economic, and social life. Nonetheless, humiliation and injustice defined freedom for Blacks in the New South as institutions, both federal and local, failed to support the rule of law. A rigid framework crafted through means of power and fear came to define the social status of the “New Negro”. However, within the framework existed a small amount of fluidity which acted as the motive power for African Americans as they transitioned from a long freedom struggle into the Civil Rights movement. The rigid social framework coupled with the small amount of fluidity acknowledges the harsh realities awaiting Blacks daily during the Jim Crow era while suggesting the opportunities afforded to Blacks indicates an overall improvement in quality life as opposed to the institution of slavery. For many blacks in the postbellum South, the only thing they possessed was their “freedom”. Litwack personifies the collective struggle through the stories of individuals like Charlie Holcombe. Charlie, growing up in the period following slavery, was confident in his ability to succeed in a period characterized by hope and possibility. However, in his attempt to express this confidence, Holcombe was confronted with “formidable obstacles” (Litwack 4). While natural forces may hurt the crop yield, the black dependence on land and capital rich whites ultimately left black farmers with the bare minimum. Unable to read or “figure”, Charlie, like many other blacks, could be hit with unfair charges a... ... middle of paper ... ... post-bellum South was paradoxical. In the material sense, Blacks were no longer bound to the institution of slavery as stated in the Thirteenth amendment. However, Whites were able to systematically control elements of southern society that kept the majority of blacks from being socially, economically, and politically free. Individuals like Benjamin Mays and Ida B. Wells were not capable of succeeding let alone existing before emancipation. The social fluidity demonstrated during the time period helped to motivate African Americans in their freedom struggle. However, for every Benjamin Mays, there are several individuals like Charlie Holcombe. Blacks could only be successful if they acted within the rigid framework established by the Whites. Their independence was circumscribed. Black Southern society was one of scant amounts of hope shrouded in fear and injustice.
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