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What Does Freedom Mean? The Agency of Black People Before and After Emancipation

Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas
Austin History Center, Austin Public Library
Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas
Dr. Heather Andrea Williams
Credit Steve Exum
Dr. Heather Andrea Williams

On June 19th, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free. The news of Emancipation had finally come to the state. Today, this day is celebrated as Juneteenth.

What did it mean to these newly freed people to "be free"? What power, or "agency" did freedom bring? What agency had the enslaved managed to create before Emancipation?

Dr. Heather Andrea Williams of Pennsylvania State University has spent her career putting black people at the center of the histories she has written. She joins Dr. Walter Edgar for a public conversation about agency in the lives of people of color before and after Emancipation at the end of the Civil War. 

Williams award-winning first book, Self-Taught: African-American Education in Slavery and Freedom (University of North Carolina Press, 2005), argued that education was inseparable from the fight against slavery.

All Stations: Fri, Jun 19, 12 pm | News & Talk Stations: Sun, Jun 21, 4 pm

- Originally broadcast 04/03/15 -

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.