Emancipated But Not Free: African Americans Under The Post-Emancipation Apprenticeship System In Frederick County, Maryland 1864-1870
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After declaring emancipation on 1 November 1864, many of Maryland's former slaveholders petitioned their county Orphans' Courts to keep freed children bound as apprentices. The focus of this work is to uncover and analyze the social conditions of those freed persons directly affected by apprenticeships in Frederick County, Maryland, from 1864-1870. This study uses an Afrocentric and subaltern theoretical approach to analyze the 111 cases of African American apprenticeship, focusing on the lives of both children and parents from the Frederick County's Orphans' Court records. Important demographics on these children are reaped from these records, including the names, ages and the assignment of menial labor like farming and domestic duties. Some nineteen sets of siblings were apprenticed. Forty-five signified the role freed parents played in apprenticing their children and another fifty-seven children had no parent on record. All of this meant that freed children were indeed the most vulnerable people in the wake of Emancipation. They were left in the hands of a white master before freedom was fully realized. The immediate legacy of Frederick County's post-Emancipation apprenticeship system is also assessed through locating apprenticed children in 1870 US Federal Census and analyzing their social condition. Seven children were found in the household of family or kin. Their return represented the successful efforts of freed parents to protest apprenticeship through appeals in the Orphans' Court. But even with successful revocations of apprenticeships reconnecting families, forty-seven children remained in households headed by whites. The children in white households were left without family or education and continued working in the unskilled occupations designated in their apprenticeship. The overall impact of apprenticeship was the implementation of a system that allowed white owners to maintain social and economic hegemony after the demise of slavery while limiting opportunities for familial development, economic sovereignty, and social independence among this group of the first emancipated generation in Frederick County.