Lately in history class, we have been discussing the terms "freedom from above" and "freedom from below", and how these terms were used in the Civil War. Freedom from above is the act of providing equality to people that are of a lower social class than those who are giving it to them. Freedom from below is defined as the act of people in a lower social class using their mass in numbers to overthrow the fewer people in higher social classes to gain equality. In class, we analyzed two documents, each displaying freedom from either above or below. Using these documents, we then tried to figure out who "gave" freedom to enslaved Americans, whether this freedom came from above or below, and how much Abraham Lincoln's actions were influenced by the actions of enslaved Americans.
The first document we analyzed was a work of art depicting Abraham Lincoln seemingly giving freedom to a slave who is kissing his hand and kneeling on the ground. This image depicts freedom from above, as Lincoln was of a higher social class and was seemingly freeing the slave. Freedom came from above in the Civil War for the slaves in that because they were essentially the lowest class in society, freedom from above came from any whites who were willing to help them to freedom.
Freedom from below was very present throughout the Civil War. The second document we analyzed was a picture depicting a mass of slaves walking off of a farm and past a Union camp. This is an example of freedom from below in that the slaves, who are essentially the bottom of the social pyramid, are using their power in numbers to overpower their fewer masters and get out of their current position.Today, it is harder to tell whether change comes from above or below. It seems to be pretty evenly distributed. For example, after the recent police brutality in New York, the NYPD retrained their officers, however there has been little change nationally concerning the issue, and it does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. The fact that things like this sometimes go unnoticed and sometimes even without acknowledgement from the government is a great hinderance to America and it must change soon, because if the government isn't willing to acknowledge it's faults and institute change from above, we must resort to change from below, which is not always the safest route to take.