Date of Award

Spring 5-3-2017

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


History and American Studies

Department Chair or Program Director

O'Brien, Bruce

First Advisor

Ferrell, Claudine L

Major or Concentration



Following emancipation, the freedmen began to seek out the highest expression of American conceptions of freedom: their own land. Because of the relationship between land and freedom, they focused their efforts on acquiring homesteads and farms that they could cultivate on their own terms. Southern landowners, however, quickly recognized that in order to recreate their antebellum social and economic positions, they would need a class of dependent laborers to maintain the plantation system which had been so immensely profitable for them before the war. In order to protect their own economic interests, they began to subvert the efforts of the freedmen to acquire economic independence. The insufficient response of northerners, the economic conditions of the South, the inadequacy of the Southern Homestead Act, and the persistent actions of southerners prevented the land reforms that the freed people and their allies desired and left most freedmen landless and dependent upon the class of people from whom they had only recently escaped bondage.

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