What is freedom? It is one of those questions that is always asked and has as many answers as the people to whom it is asked. I know that it is something that we, as Americans, take for granted having never lived without it. Like other answers that I have heard, my answer would be a list of those things that I know others are deprived of.
In the book that I am currently reading (Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon), one of the characters has an interesting perspective on Freedom. A true story taken from journals and public records, Henry Cottinham was a slave; that is until the Union troops decimated the Confederate forces in the part of Alabama where he lived. In the period of a few years’ time, Henry had gone from a slave permanently indentured to a cotton plantationeer, to a leased slave at an iron foundry, to a ‘free man’; able to work for wages and move about without the permission of any master. I’m not so naïve as to assume that emancipated slaves were free of opposition and persecution from their former ‘owners’, but the change was nevertheless great.
Henry was secretly courting Mary, of a neighboring plantation, under the cloak of darkness. His freedom was tangible. He was no longer forced to meet behind closed doors at all hours of the night with the one he loved. They were among the first freed slaves to be legally married in Alabama during the antebellum era. Beyond that, his choice was his; the sweat of his brow, his; his family…his.