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Albion Tourgée on downfalls of Emancipation Proclamation in that it didn't grant for freedmen in Bricks Without Straw, 1880


Albion Tourgée on downfalls of Emancipation Proclamation in that it didn't grant for freedmen in Bricks Without Straw, 1880


In this excerpt from Tourgee's Bricks Without Straw, he addresses the issue of civil liberties granted to African Americans as a way to see the inadequacies of the Emancipation Proclamation. In his writing he highlights the fact that though this abolished slavery in the Confederate states (though not the border states), the fact that it didn’t grant any other rights was truly problematic. With just freedom and no agency in order to promote their economic status, they were left in position by which they couldn't advance. By writing this, Tourgee is critizing a highly acclaimed document.


Albion Tourgée


Tourgée, Albion. Bricks Without Straw. New York & London & Montreal: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert; Sampson Low & Co.; Dawson Bros, 1880.



Original Format



The first step in the progress from the prison-house of bondage to the citadel of liberty was a strange one. The war was over. The struggle for autonomy and the inviolability of slavery, on the part of the South, was ended, and fate had decided against them. With this arbitrament of war fell also the institution which had been its cause. Slavery was abolished--by proclamation, by national enactment, by constitutional amendment--ay, by the sterner logic which forbade a nation to place shackles again upon hands which had been raised in her defence, which had fought for her life and at her request. So the slave was a slave no more. No other man could claim his service or restrain his volition. He might go or come, work or play, so far as his late master was concerned.

But that was all. He could not contract, testify, marry or give in marriage. He had neither property, knowledge, right, or power. The whole four millions did not possess that number of dollars or of dollars' worth. Whatever they had acquired in slavery was the master's, unless he had expressly made himself a trustee for their benefit. Regarded from the legal standpoint it was, indeed, a strange position in which they were. A race despised, degraded, penniless, ignorant, houseless, homeless, fatherless, childless, nameless. Husband or wife there was not one in four millions. Not a child might call upon a father for aid, and no man of them all might lift his hand in a daughter's defence. Uncle and aunt and cousin, home, family--none of these words had any place in the freedman's vocabulary. Right he had, in the abstract; in the concrete, none. Justice would not hear his voice. The law was still color-blinded by the past.

The fruit of slavery--its first ripe harvest, gathered with swords and bloody bayonets, was before the nation which looked ignorantly on the fruits of the deliverance it had wrought. The North did not comprehend its work; the South could not comprehend its fate. The unbound slave looked to the future in dull, wondering hope.

The first step in advance was taken neither by the nation nor by the freedmen. It was prompted by the voice of conscience, long hushed and hidden in the master's breast. It was the protest of Christianity and morality against that which it had witnessed with complacency for many a generation. All at once it was perceived to be a great enormity that four millions of Christian people, in a Christian land, should dwell together without marriage rite or family tie. While they were slaves, the fact that they might be bought and sold had hidden this evil from the eye of morality, which had looked unabashed upon the unlicensed freedom of the quarters and the enormities of the barracoon. Now all at once it was shocked beyond expression at the domestic relations of the freedmen.


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Albion Tourgée, Albion Tourgée on downfalls of Emancipation Proclamation in that it didn't grant for freedmen in Bricks Without Straw, 1880, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 26, 2024,