Yet ultimately he did end slavery, and African-Americans everywhere rejoiced at the prospect and embraced the Republican Party. For those who had been enslaved, freedom brought the ability to make choices about how they would look, act, work, live, and be. Some former slaves found themselves homeless, jobless, and without clothes or shelter. Many froze to death in the bitterly cold winter that followed the end of the Civil War. Still, freedom meant autonomy, the ability to travel, and the right to refuse to take orders from or pay obeisance to whites.
Four million people moved through the process of choosing jobs, building institutions, and raising families. They negotiated terms with the Union Army, the Freedman's bureau, southern whites and landowners, southern governments, Congress, religious bodies, and the Ku Klux Klan. All of these groups had a stake in defining what freedom would mean for blacks - where it would be expanded and what its limits would be.
They came out of slavery with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the faith in their hearts that tomorrow would be a brighter day. They had already survived the darkest nights of bondage.