Before the Civil War, a lot of African-Americans were slaves, but there were plenty of free black people as well. Some black people were quite well off. And some of them were even slave-owners themselves. For those who were slaves, life was very hard before the war. They worked long hours in the fields, and lived in small cabins. The women would have to work all day in the fields beside the men, and then go home and do all the cooking, cleaning, and washing. Children were looked after by grandparents or older brothers and sisters until they were old enough to work. Families could be broken up at any time if their owners decided to sell a husband or wife, or their children.
After the Civil War, the ones who had been slaves were free. However, in the southern states, legislation was passed to restrict the rights of black people so that, for instance, although they were legally entitled to vote, it was made practically impossible for them to do so in many states by the so-called 'literacy laws' and by threats, intimidation etc. Many black people, who had been slaves wanted to move around after they were free - from job to job or plantation to plantation. Patience, an ex-slave in South Carolina, passed up a profitable job cooking for her former owner "I must go" she said "If I stay here I'll never know I'm free." The black population of Atlanta, about 20 percent before the war, reached 46 percent after the war. Most were women who got jobs as laundresses, frequently working in their own homes where they could watch their children while making some money. By the 1880s, nearly 98 percent of black women in the workforce were domestics. White people often resented the fact that free black people could now have things they never had as slaves, including pretty clothes. Women who had spent their lives alternating between the two smocks they were given each Christmas by the master felt proud and independent walking down the street in colourful dresses and hats. Their husbands felt proud too, because their wives' clothing showed the world that they were good providers. Newly freed families also wanted to keep the women at home. Mothers who had been forced to leave their children behind when they went out to the fields wanted to stay with them. Husbands revelled in the idea of having their wives devote all their time to cooking and keeping house. Everyone wanted to protect their daughters from the clutches of greedy employers. The white community, however, was horrified at the idea of black women becoming full-time housewives. Life after the Civil War however, was very different. Black children would most likely go to school and be given an education. The men who served as solders were given the right to vote and were treated as