The 1860s: To Be A Slave
A slave was the personal property of his or her master. A slave could be inherited, bought, sold, or given away at the will of the owner. Slaves could not own property and had no civil or legal rights. Marriages between slaves were not recognized as legally binding.
When President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1865, an entire race of people was freed. These people had borne the brand of slave, sometimes for generations. They often had been sold away from their blood relatives. They carried their master's name, not knowing what name they might have had before. Their only identity was that which their master chose to give them. They were listed as property. They toiled and labored for their master and never for themselves. Most had been denied the privilege of learning to read and write, many spoke broken English, and most were denied education.