The most essential freedom discussed by Foner is the freedom from slavery. Without it, the others are nearly meaningless because those freedoms would go to already free men. Freedom is a very broad term and people had a very different understanding of it the 19th century. When slaves envisioned freedom, they would be on equal terms with their long time oppressors and would have the power to start making a difference. What it turned out to be was simply freedom from slavery and nothing else. The rights to vote, obtain an education, and other essential parts of life were withheld from them because they were believed to be inferior. Nevertheless, African-Americans continued to work hard to redefine their freedom and make themselves equal members of society.
I would like to say that “Freedom” was not truly realized but at the same time, my idea of freedom and it’s ideals cannot express the ecstasy felt by former slaves when their chains were broken and they were reunited with their families. It is certainly true that people who were slaves just a couple of months prior could now acquire land and make their own living, free of white dominance. They now had the choice of what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go. Is that freedom? They still couldn’t be very productive members of a democracy because they could not vote or influence politics. They still couldn’t enroll their children into schools to learn simple arithmetic. Many slaves from plantations remained on them as serfs because they simply didn’t have the resources to make a new life for themselves. I would not call this freedom but I think it is a beautiful beginning for a long road of victories for the black community.
I believe freedom has been realized in the long term not only because of Barack Obama but because of the wide acceptance of black accomplishments. I say black instead of African-American because when you look at one of the most prestigious awards in history, the Nobel Prize, dominated by intellectuals, you will see that black men have been awarded many prizes and will continue to receive them at an accelerated rate. I bring this up because I see how in school (at least in New York) the racism is gone and I saw at work how my black co-workers excelled so I see very little discrimination amongst the “common folk”. When intellectuals are put to the test in their acknowledgment of black achievements, they did not ignore their accomplishments and instead show the world that black men produce great results. There is still thinking in the world that black men are inferior to white men but every step we make, from having a black president to the accomplishments of black scientists and economists, bring us closer to true equality in it’s purest form. There will always be discrimination but every step taken brings us closer to a world where we would all like to be.