Working it Out: From Emancipation to Economic Independence

After centuries of receiving no or minuscule compensation (by being hired out) for their labor, formerly enslaved people, at the stroke of a pen, were responsible for their own livelihood.

Seamstresses, servants, cooks, carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights and masons could ply their trade. Most, however, of this country’s enslaved workforce had been deployed to cultivate monocrops. No matter their occupation, they were responsible for negotiating wages, securing housing, paying rent, purchasing supplies, buying and/or growing their own food, clothing themselves and their families.  After centuries of laws that denied them literacy, property and ownership of their own bodies and those of their children, thousands of people were thrust into a world that did not welcome their newly acquired status.

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