Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1865)

“This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863)

Brothers and sisters,

I hear a lot of you saying “finally”. Finally we are free. Finally the War is over. Finally we won’t suffer anymore. We can go where we want, when we want. We don’t have to fear the wrath of Master or any white man and their inexplicable hatred of Negroes. Finally we are equal. Finally.

For those of you who think the Yankees destroyed the slavery, racism and white power the South was built on, I pity you. If you think that a white man’s war was the answer to your prayers, I feel for you. Nigger, you didn’t win the War. The Yankees did. So, what makes you think it’s that easy? That everything is going to change just like that. If you really think the end of slavery is the end of our struggle answer me this, are we really free?

I hear you shouting “yes”, but listen to what I have to say. The chains may be broken, but we’re still Negroes. Whites still look at me with equal amounts of disgust and fear. My brothers and sisters, some years older than me, keep their eyes down whenever a white person passes by. We’ve had it beaten into us that we are nothing. That we’re not even good enough to look a white man in his eyes without his say. So, are we really free?

We didn’t end slavery. We’ve never been asked about what we want or how we feel. A Yankee government of white men decided that “maybe it’s time to give them Negroes a little something”. Throw them a bone, because now the North is tired of the slavery issue. We had to wait until they were ready, because we have no power. So, are we really free?

Tell me this, once the War ended what did you do? Did you take all that education you had and open your own business? No, because we weren’t allowed to read and write. Did you set off to the North and live happily ever after? Well no, because you’re still stuck in Louisiana. Or did you, like me, stay on the plantation and keep working for the man who beat you, who raped your women and sold your children even though you begged him not to? I didn’t even have to ask that, because I already know. The question I really need an answer to is, are we really free?

Now don’t get me wrong. I thank God that no-one can call me their slave, because I belong to myself. But, I want you happy fools to realise that our freedom is limited. They may have broken the chains that bound our feet, but the ones that control our minds will stay with us for generations. Whites have a power and control over us that cannot be voted out by a Yankee government. It cannot be defeated on a battlefield. And it certainly won’t be conquered by a bunch of free Negroes. So, I’ll ask you one more time, are we really free?

A freedman’s address.

Written by Shaurna Cameron

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