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Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South$
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William A. Link, David Brown, Brian Ward, and Martyn Bone

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780813044132

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813044132.001.0001

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Citizenship and Racial Order in Post–Civil War Atlanta

Citizenship and Racial Order in Post–Civil War Atlanta

(p.134) 6 Citizenship and Racial Order in Post–Civil War Atlanta
Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South

William A. Link

University Press of Florida

This essay explores the impact of emancipation and its implications for citizenship for African Americans in Reconstruction-era Atlanta. The Freedmen’s Bureau, the main agency of northern intervention in the postwar South, imparted a mixed legacy in Atlanta-and for the meaning of African American citizenship at the ground level after the Civil War. The northern presence remained an invading, occupying force in the late 1860s and that remained especially true in Reconstruction Georgia. For ex-slaves, the meaning of freedom remained ambiguous, as white violence reinstalled white supremacy throughout Georgia. But, as elsewhere, freedom and the end of the Civil War provided enclaves of difference and exceptionalism. Atlanta provided a distinctive locale for encounters occurring between northern whites, ex-slaves, and native-born whites. White supremacy reigned supreme in the city, yet African Americans migrated there in large numbers, seeking jobs and refuge. In the antebellum period, Atlanta had been a fortress of white solidarity. In the postwar period, the city became something else, and freedpeople gained a toehold for what would subsequently become a center of black cultural, economic, and political power. That toehold found its roots in postwar Atlanta, and the Bureau played a role in the evolution.

Keywords:   Emancipation, Reconstruction in Georgia, Freedmen’s Bureau, citizenship

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