I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what it must have been like for slaves when freedom landed upon their doorsteps. I think it’s best to let someone who lived it speak about it. The following excerpts are taken from a book written by my 2x great grand uncle, Henry Clay Bruce. The title of the book is “The New Man. Twenty-Nine Years a Slave. Twenty-Nine Years a Free Man.” It was published in 1895.
“For the first few weeks I was well pleased with the pay I received, and thought I would soon have plenty of money, but now I had a new problem to solve, which was to support and clothe myself and a wife and pay doctors’ bills, which was something new to me. I had never been trained in the school of economy, where I could learn the art of self-support, as my master had always attended to that little matter from my earliest recollections. Now I had expenses to meet of every kind. The necessaries of life were all very high, including house rent, and by the time I paid up my bills on Saturday night, I found my week’s earnings well nigh gone; this was the case right along. I also found that I had to make my own bargains for whatever necessaries we needed, and to provide for a rainy day, all of which experiences were new to me, yes, very new, and were a source of annoyance for a long time, because it taxed my mind each day to provide the necessaries for the next week and from week to week. I had lived to be twenty-eight years old, and had never been placed in a position where I had occasion to give this matter a single thought, for the reason that my master had it to attend to, as before stated.
I found myself almost as helpless as a child, so far as managing and providing for personal welfare and the future was concerned, and although I had been trained to work from a child and had acquired almost a perfect knowledge of it, together with a will and ability to perform hard manual labor, yet I had not learned the art of spending my earnings to the best advantage. I had a very limited knowledge of the value of any article, and often paid the price demanded without question, and ofttimes bought articles which were useless to me. My wife and I had good health and worked steadily every day, and by so doing managed to save up money enough in a short time to rent and fit up a small two-room house.”