"Starting Uphill, den Going Back"
Initially, southern blacks moved with shrewdness and caution into the world of freedom. Carefully, almost instinctively, they picked their way toward full lives in freedom. While aware of the limits on their opportunity, they sought to maximize whatever advantages were possible. Without abandoning these tactics, the freedmen soon adopted greater boldness, however, and pinned their hopes for full freedom on the northern attempt to remake southern society. Their actions represented a decision to take substantial risks amid known dangers and demonstrated the depth of their desire for meaningful change. Their courage during Reconstruction also showed that slavery had not rendered them psychologically impotent or dependent upon their masters.
In the end, of course, Reconstruction brought tragedy to southern blacks. Time proved that they had taken great risks only to suffer great loss. Their northern allies failed them, and the hostility of southern whites remained strong. Thus, their underlying, initial assumptions sadly proved correct. But in the process the former slaves had secured many small but meaningful gains for their families and for their social and cultural life. They retained the will to struggle for full freedom in the future.
From the first days of freedom, blacks began to insist on the dividends of their emancipation and to demand that the old order of bondage change. As in their resistance to slavery, they concentrated first on the mundane but vital issues of life and endeavored to win a greater area of personal autonomy, protection for their families, and better treatment for themselves. Some, like Tempie Cummins's mother, sabotaged the master's hopes