“to put forth almost superhuman efforts to regain their children”

Mary Farmer-Kaiser

in Freedwomen and the Freedmen's Bureau

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780823232116
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823234943 | DOI:

Series: Reconstructing America

“to put forth almost             superhuman efforts to regain their children”

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Emancipation and the legal recognition of the African-American family that it conferred had granted, at least in theory, black parents the right to claim and control their own progeny. In some ways, black parents found that maintaining the integrity of their families in emancipation could be as difficult as it had been in slavery. In particular, the privileges that came with parenthood—that is, the right to custody and control of children—were far more difficult to secure. Perhaps the most serious threat to black families and African-American parental authority in the immediate post-emancipation era was the apprenticeship system. Yet black mothers also faced custody battles with freedmen who sought to assert their rights as free and independent men by claiming control over the lives and labors of their families. Clashes over freedchildren demonstrated the willingness of the Freedmen's Bureau to intervene in African Americans' lives in an effort to defend free labor and, with that, to prevent black parents from being “deprived of the services of their children”.

Keywords: Freedmen's Bureau; black parents; custody battles; emancipation; parenthood; parental authority; apprenticeship system; freedchildren; African-American family

Chapter.  21356 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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