David Sowell


In July 1865, the New Era, a Gainesville newspaper, echoed the sentiments of many white Floridians with its comment: “We do not believe that any inducement can make black free labor a success. If it proves so here it will really prove what has not been proven anywhere else.“ Emancipation had broken the antebellum pattern of labor relations in the South, and many people were apprehensive of the ability of the region to assimilate freedmen successfully into a new economic system. Slavery, of course, had been far more than an economic relationship. It was the visible manifestation of a socioeconomic system based upon both prescribed economic function and social status. This system had dominated the antebellum South, giving it a particular set of social characteristics; many feared that the social system of the South would crumble under the pressures released by emancipation.