Vol. 13   No. 12
JUNE 11, 2018
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Editor's Corner
Reflections
by Jonathan Gramling
          
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Jonathan Gramling
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From UW-Madison News
Paying the Price for Freedom

The urge to be free has been around since the dawn of life on our planet, whether it was
freedom from the predators that surrounded you or the person with the power who could
enslave anyone who didn’t believe in ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ All of us yearn
to be free from being coerced into doing something against our wills.

The yearning to be free by Africans who were enslaved probably began when their legs
and hands were shackled before being forced aboard a slave ship in West Africa in
preparation for the Middle Passage where many died en route to the New World, a place
for freedom of certain Euro-Americans and slavery or death for others who did not bend
to their wills.

For 250 years or more, Africans who were enslaved yearned to be free from the master’s
whip and the harshest of working and living conditions, always vulnerable to the whims
of the master’s family.

And the Africans who were enslaved and their descendents fought their slavery as best
they could whether through rebellions, sabotage of the plantation’s equipment or escaping
to the North where conditions were a little better, but hardly perfect. And some relied
upon spiritualism, both to get a spiritual release from the harsh conditions they
experienced or as a way to plan their next escape to freedom.

While the Civil War has often been billed as the war to abolish slavery, I don’t think that
was necessarily the case. I tend to think it was a clash between economic models, between
the industrial North and its use of free, mobile labor and the agrarian South with its
enslaved, fixed-in-one-place labor. Abolition would only be the byproduct advocated for
by Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists.

And even the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on
January 1, 1865, wasn’t truly about emancipation of the slaves. Lincoln still hoped for
reunification of free and slave states. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in
the Confederate States over which Lincoln had no “legal” or practical authority. It didn’t
free the slaves who resided in the Border States that remained in the Union during the
Civil War. So the Emancipation Proclamation was more of a war propaganda document
that would be used to cause disruption within the Southern economy and war effort,
which used slave labor to produce munitions and other war supplies.--
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