The Making of the African American Population: The Economic Status of the Ex-Slave and Freedmen Population in Post-Civil War America, 1860 – 1920


  • Richard R. Verdugo



The end of the Civil War, the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution ended slavery as an institution in the US. For years slavery divided the country, North and South. With the end of slavery, it was expected that slaves, as freed men and women, would be able to improve their economic status, moving freely and pursuing jobs in which they could earn a decent living. But there were forces at work in the South that made it impossible to find decent employment, and the first Great Migration of the Black population began between 1910 and 1930. Nevertheless, Blacks began leaving the South (especially the Deep South) earlier. In this paper I
follow the occupational careers of several age-cohorts of former Black slaves and free Blacks using the 1870 - 1920 census data.

Results from my analysis point out that the Black population, comprising a combination of former slaves and free Black persons, experienced some upward mobility, but only if they moved north. Living in the South shortly after the Civil War