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"No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."

—Booker Taliaferro Washington
Atlanta Compromise, 1895

The period immediately following the Civil War was a time of enormous change, not only in the South but in the cities, on the Great Plains and in America's factories and other workplaces. Standards of living rose and fell at the same time—for many it was the best of times, for millions of others, an ongoing nightmare.

This section is about the former slave population in the South, the Freedmen and Women who, after 200 years of bondage, suddenly found themselves free.African Americans celebrated the end of slavery, but were soon disillusioned as they discovered that there is much nore to freedom than the absence of slavery. For them, and for whites as well, Reconstruction was a frustrating experience, yet it contained the distant promise of future reform in the area of civil rights. Much of the population and the political leadership seemed either incapable of grasping what was going on or powerless to do anything about it.





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