This Week in Reconstruction, October 23-31, 1866

Two years ago, they were enslaved people, today they own business, are building a uniting system of African-American churches, they are sending their children to school and taking classes themselves, they are forming unions and fighting for their rights. Black Richmonders are not idle, worthless, or incapable of leading their own lives. Every day they are debunking the myth that black people needed slavery. Every day black men and women who spent most of their life as property, not people, are determining their own futures and the future of their city. Some of the first schools dedicated to teaching former slaves have opened. One school, created by an African-American church, is currently teaching eighty students. The school employs four teachers, two black and two white. This is just one of the new institutions dedicated to the education of former slaves. One report suggests that over 1,000 black Richmonders are currently being educated. Black Richmonders are working to ensure their freedom is a prosperous one. They are organizing, aided by their educations, to fight their unequal treatment. The city barbers, most of whom are black, have joined together and created a union that has the collective power to demand better treatment. Small business are opening almost every day, giving families who for generations could be split up for the right price, a chance to participate in their own American dream. These advances are not made easily. At every turn they face fierce competition from a society that prefers to see them enslaved rather than in power. But the freedmen have gain their freedom, and they are determined to expand it.

Contributed By

Nat Berry