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This 1866 news engraving showed a chaplain marrying an African-American couple in the offices of the Vicksburg Freedmen’s Bureau. Because marriages between slaves before emancipation had no legal standing, many couples rushed to have their marriages officially registered and made solemn during Reconstruction. Marriage was only one way of exercising the new freedom. For many former slaves, freedom meant choosing a new name for themselves, dressing as they pleased, learning to read, or refusing to be deferential towards their former owner.

Source: Alfred R. Waud, Harper’s Weekly, June 30, 1866—American Social History Project.