Jubilee and the Limits of African American Freedom after Emancipation
Research output: Research - peer-review › Article
Scholarship generated in the post-civil rights US underpins a growing consensus that any honest confrontation with the American past requires an acknowledgment both of the nation’s foundations in racially-based slave labour and of the critical role that the enslaved played in ending that system. But scholars equally need to examine why the end of slavery did not deliver freedom, but instead – after a short-lived ‘jubilee’ during which freedpeople savoured their ‘brief moment in the sun’ – opened up a period of extreme repression and violence. This article traces the political trajectory of one prominent ex-slave and Republican party organiser, Elias Hill, to assess the constraints in which black grassroots activists operated. Though mainly concerned with the dashed hopes of African Americans, their experience of a steep reversal is in many ways the shared and profoundly significant legacy of ex-slaves across the former plantation societies of the Atlantic world.