Date Awarded

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Cindy Hahamovitch

Committee Member

Scott R. Nelson

Committee Member

Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Kathleen Bragdon


During Virginia’s Reconstruction, the freedpeople of the Northern Shenandoah Valley experienced an uneven oppression. They took full advantage of a stable Reconstruction regime and the advocates they found among local Republican reformers, northern missionary society representatives and Freedmen’s Bureau agents to make their freedom meaningful. The control the freedpeople gained over their labor, as well as the success they enjoyed in reclaiming their children from white households and establishing independent institutions assured their status as a free people rather than as emancipated dependents. Nor were the freedpeople plagued with persistent, organized white terrorist tactics. But they did not achieve equal treatment before the law. Moreover, despite the diversity of political sentiments among area whites, there was never a broad consensus among whites that the freedpeople should enjoy full citizenship equality. This study also explores how its regional distinctiveness and its borderland location influenced the course Reconstructing took in the Northern Valley. Based on the hundreds of complaints the freedpeople filed with the Valley’s Freedmen’s Bureau agents, the study also examines the ways in which their efforts to achieve racial progress on one front advanced their progress on other fronts.



© The Author