First Fruits of Freedom: The Migration of Former Slaves and Their Search for Equality in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1862-1900

First Fruits of Freedom: The Migration of Former Slaves and Their Search for Equality in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1862-1900

by Janette Thomas Greenwood

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A moving narrative that offers a rare glimpse into the lives of African American men, women, and children on the cusp of freedom, First Fruits of Freedom chronicles one of the first collective migrations of blacks from the South to the North during and after the Civil War.

Janette Thomas Greenwood relates the history of a network forged between Worcester County, Massachusetts, and eastern North Carolina as a result of Worcester regiments taking control of northeastern North Carolina during the war. White soldiers from Worcester, a hotbed of abolitionism, protected refugee slaves, set up schools for them, and led them north at war's end. White patrons and a supportive black community helped many migrants fulfill their aspirations for complete emancipation and facilitated the arrival of additional family members and friends. Migrants established a small black community in Worcester with a distinctive southern flavor.

But even in the North, white sympathy did not continue after the Civil War. Despite their many efforts, black Worcesterites were generally disappointed in their hopes for full-fledged citizenship, reflecting the larger national trajectory of Reconstruction and its aftermath.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807895788
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 03/01/2010
Series: The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Janette Thomas Greenwood is professor of history at Clark University. She is author of Bittersweet Legacy: The Black and White "Better Classes" in Charlotte, 1850-1910, and The Gilded Age: A History in Documents.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1 The Guns of War 11

2 The Prettiest Blue Mens I Had Ever Seed 27

3 These Are the Children of This Revolution, the Promising First Fruits of the War 48

4 A New Promise of Freedom and Dignity 88

5 A Community within a Community 130

Epilogue 174

Appendix 179

Notes 181

Bibliography 215

Index 225

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Beautifully written, deeply researched, and humane, this book chronicles the struggles of ordinary black people in the South and the North during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Greenwood reveals the interconnections of missionaries, teachers, and Northern soldiers fighting in the South and in tracing black migration to Worcester reveals the persistence and transformation of southern social ties and identities in the post-Civil War North.—Elizabeth Pleck, University of Illinois

This is a wonderfully human and humanized story. Not only does Greenwood achieve a holistic interweaving of usually separated stories, but she also brings characters to life in each segment and keeps them in focus over the course of decades. In North Carolina and then in Worcester, in war and then in peace, Greenwood peoples her story with those who embodied the freedom struggles of the second half of the nineteenth century. Her literary skill and human empathy bring us to know and care about her subjects.—Sydney Nathans, Emeritus, Duke University

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