Article Review: Slaves No More by Leon F. Litwack


Article Review: Slaves No More by Leon F. Litwack


The end of slavery came after a prolonged period of civil war between the north and south armies. The outcome of the war within each region would determine whether the slaves within that particular region attained freedom. Political statements became the order of the day leading to the Emancipation Proclamation which would be interpreted as official recognition of the abolishment of slavery. The society was in a limbo as the political declarations were neither precise in application nor enforced fully especially in the confederate region which indicates the existence of other motives apart from abolishment. The period is covered with massive loss of lives and extensive suffering for the slaves as power shifted from one group to the next. The narrative has over the years changed thus the contemporary society enjoys freedom in the midst of new forms of enslavement.     

The article Slaves No More by Leon F. Litwack provides a chronology of the happenings during the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. During the time, slavery was used as a means of acquiring cheap labor for the various plantations and was generally accepted which took place in the North and South. The Union army in this case being referred to as the Yankees acted as liberators especially for the slaves that were held within the Confederate. The Union army would declare that all slaves were free in regions where they defeated the Confederates. However, upon the army moving to other regions the situation would revert back and sometimes the slaves would face harsher conditions. This resulted to a lot of uncertainty among the black slave population where some would beg to leave with the Union army or pretend of no knowledge concerning their freedom which eventually was realized.        

The author uses the article to indicate how the entire period of enslavement ended with both slaves and their owners presuming they were victims. The hostilities between the northern and southern states meant that any action taken by the Union army which hurt the prospects of the Confederates would create several groups of victims. However, the people that really suffered great loses were the black slaves who had to endure horrid treatment from their owners. The process had been normalized for too long that there were traders and shipments of slaves were expected every now and then. The torture the slaves had to endure extends to the breakdown of families and hard labor in the plantations. As slavery comes to an end, some slave owners lament that they have been treated unfairly and converted to slaves themselves by the North.     

The author provides an elaborate image of how the process of creating laws and their actual enforcement may differ given who in reality holds power. The victories of Union army would lead to the proclamation of an end to slavery within such a region. However, Confederate scouts would take over once the Yankees had left to go fight in other regions. From this point, the scouts would announce to the black slaves that they had no choice but to get back to working on the plantations. The slave owners would take this opportunity to mete out revenge on the slaves as a retaliation on their changed behaviors when they believed they had been freed. This would continue for so long that some slaves would start wondering whether it was even worth it to be freed by the Union army.    

The recognition of equality among people of different backgrounds still remains a challenge even in the modern society. While conditions and aspects of relations have changed, I find that people are always in a fight against one form of discrimination or another. The racist predispositions which slave owners directed towards their own slaves in spite of the work they did for them is an indication of how a society might sanction a behavior and make it acceptable. I also find that the behavior of normalizing such behaviors extend to the use of state machinery for enforcement given that Confederate scouts would be the ones telling the slaves to get back to work. Oppression can only continue for so long until the oppressed demand for recognition leading to the emergence of a new society.   

In conclusion, the article provides an insight to how the society operates when the denial of basic freedoms for one group is treated as acceptable. The slave owners can hardly fathom how they are going to function in the absence of slaves now that they are free. The back and forth swinging of control between the armies and the impact it has on the slaves illustrates how stability may be used as an oppressive tool. The black slaves reach a point where they are no longer certain which side to support and whether the freedom as stated through the Emancipation Proclamation is worth increased suffering inflicted by their owners. The idea that slave owners consider themselves as victims ascertains that freedom for the black slaves would not be instantaneous in spite of their current celebratory mood.


Litwack, L. F. (2015). Slaves No More. In K. McGaughy, American Perspectives: Readings in American History (Vol. 1, pp. 660-668). Pearson Learning Solutions.

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