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Children and Youth during the Civil War Era$
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James Marten

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814796078

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814796078.001.0001

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“Free Ourselves, but Deprived of Our Children”

“Free Ourselves, but Deprived of Our Children”

Freedchildren and Their Labor after the Civil War

(p.160) 10 “Free Ourselves, but Deprived of Our Children”
Children and Youth during the Civil War Era

Mary Niall Mitchell

NYU Press

This chapter examines the debate over the labor of black children after the Civil War. Most freed people remained in rural areas of the South after emancipation, working parcels of plantation land for a share of the crop or for wages and rations. The labor of freed children for their families was critical to the survival of most households. The greatest point of conflict regarding freed children's labor was the apprenticeship system, a form of labor contract written into state laws since the colonial period. Former slaveholders seized upon apprenticeship just after the Civil War as a way to hold onto the children of their freed slaves, often regardless of whether the parents were living or dead. This practice not only deprived freed people of their children and the labor they could contribute to black households but also limited the mobility of both freed children and their parents and relatives, who wanted to remain near their bound children.

Keywords:   black children, youth, freed children, slave emancipation, labor system, apprenticeship system

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