The end of slavery left millions of former slaves destitute in a South as unsettled as they were. In Making Freedom Pay, Sharon Ann Holt reconstructs how freed men and women in tobacco-growing central North Carolina worked to secure a place for themselves in this ravaged region and hostile time. Without ignoring the crushing burdens of a system that denied blacks justice and civil rights, Holt shows how many black men and women were able to realize their hopes through determined collective efforts. Holt's microeconomic history of Granville County, North Carolina, drawn extensively from public records, assembles stories of individual lives from the initial days of emancipation to the turn of the century. Making Freedom Pay uses these highly personalized accounts of the day-to-day travails and victories of ordinary people to tell a nationally significant story of extraordinary grassroots uplift. That racist terrorism and Jim Crow legislation substantially crushed and silenced them in no way trivializes the significance of their achievements.
Sharon Ann Holt has taught history, women's studies, and urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rutgers University, Camden, and Bryn Mawr College. She is a recipient of the Southern Historical Association's Greene-Ramsdell Prize.