There she blogs!

All about my passion for discovering who I am and from where I've come!

What was it like to suddenly be free?

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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.

Henry Clay Bruce    March 3, 1836 ~ September 1, 1902
(Image:  Library of Congress)

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.”

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One thought on “What was it like to suddenly be free?

  1. Please write an article about Polly or Henry Clay Bruce and send to the Leavenworth paper! Wonderful stories of resilience and determination.

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