Making Freedom Pay
North Carolina Freedpeople Working for Themselves, 1865-1900

Sharon Ann Holt

How freedpeople in North Carolina built rewarding lives in spite of legal and social disadvantages


"Rich, imaginative, and suggestive . . . Simultaneously demonstrates the immense burdens that freedpeople shouldered in the pursuit of family and community development and the multifaceted and creative energies they brought to the tasks. . . . This small but fascinating book makes a number of important contributions to our understanding of black life in the postemancipation South."
Journal of American History

"Provides a wonderfully nuanced look at the actual lives of African American farmers over the course of the late nineteenth century."
Georgia Historical Quarterly

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The end of slavery left millions of former slaves destitute in a South as unsettled as they were. In Making Freedom Pay, Sharon Ann Holt reconstructs how freed men and women in tobacco-growing central North Carolina worked to secure a place for themselves in this ravaged region and hostile time. Without ignoring the crushing burdens of a system that denied blacks justice and civil rights, Holt shows how many black men and women were able to realize their hopes through determined collective efforts. Holt's microeconomic history of Granville County, North Carolina, drawn extensively from public records, assembles stories of individual lives from the initial days of emancipation to the turn of the century.

Making Freedom Pay uses these highly personalized accounts of the day-to-day travails and victories of ordinary people to tell a nationally significant story of extraordinary grassroots uplift. That racist terrorism and Jim Crow legislation substantially crushed and silenced them in no way trivializes the significance of their achievements.

Page count: 216 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $25.95

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Sharon Ann Holt has taught history, women’s studies, and urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rutgers University, Camden, and Bryn Mawr College. She is a recipient of the Southern Historical Association’s Greene-Ramsdell Prize.