The following information is from:  GRASS-ROOTS RECONSTRUCTION IN TEXAS, 1865-1880

This addresses “adjustments” African Americans had to cope with during Reconstruction.



While Harrison County's whites learned the meaning of defeat and oc­cupation, the black majority, nearly nine thousand in all, had an even larger adjustment to make. For the first time in their lives, they owned their own bodies and did not have to endure as someone else's property. One remem­bered a fellow ex-slave saying, "we is free-no more whippings and beat­ings." Another, however, recalled that many slaves found freedom fright­ening because "they knowed nothing and had nowhere to go." Planters and farmers generally urged their former bondsmen to remain with them and work for wages, and apparently a majority of freedmen chose that option, at least for a while. There was no difficulty in finding labor to pick the r865 cotton crop. On the other hand, enough freedmen left their former owners that in late June the Texas Republican complained about hundreds of idle blacks roaming the countryside. Some ladies, Loughery complained, have been "reduced to the necessity of doing their own housework without assistance." 16

Blacks might reasonably have expected some assistance in the transition from slavery to freedom, but the great majority received none from their former masters and very little from the national government. Local whites and federal officials alike agreed with the advice Governor Hamilton gave the former slaves: "You are free-free to work for yourselves and to do right. No man is free to do wrong and to live upon the labor of others." The first general order issued by Lt. Col. Wheaton after the arrival of his troops in Marshall stated that "Negroes will not be allowed to collect about the city or camps and all Freedmen must have passes from their employers or they will be arrested and punished as vagrants." Even the first representa­tive of the Freedmen's Bureau to arrive in Harrison County, Col. H. Sey­mour Hall, indicated that African Americans could expect little more than simply not being enslaved any longer. Soon after reaching Marshall in No­vember, r865, Hall published a circular urging freedmen to uphold their la­bor contracts, be responsible, and earn a living for themselves.

In spite of repeated statements from Governor Hamilton and federal of­ficials, blacks in Harrison County persisted in believing that the govern­ment intended to divide the property of slaveowners among their former bondsmen. This rumored redistribution was to take place at Christmastime r865. Colonel Hall denied the rumor in a speech to fifteen hundred freed­men in mid-November. Soon, however, a story began to circulate to the ef­fect that the agent did not speak for the government, and he had to refute that before another large crowd.[1]



[1] Randolp B. Campbell, Grass-Roots Reconstruction In Texas, 1865-1880 (Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State Press, 1997.