No other problem has ever had a deeper effect and a more lasting impact than slavery. When people celebrate American freedom, they should be cognizant of the lasting and agonizing struggle shared in slavery mainly experienced by African Americans. A thorough understanding of present occurrences necessitates a look into the past. Before the Civil War, almost four million slaves who had been kidnapped from Africa toiled in South America.
All through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, people were abducted from the African continent and forced into slavery in the US colonies where they operated as indented servants and labored in the cultivation of crops that included cotton and tobacco. Abraham Lincoln affirmed that “there can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another”.1 At around the mid-19th century, the westward extension and abolition movement sparked an immense dispute about slavery that tore the country apart in the gory Civil War. Even if the Union victory led to the freeing of the slaves in America, the concerns of slavery continue to influence the history of the US.
Issues of Slavery
In the US, slavery commenced in 1619 when a privateer vessel, referred to as the White Lion, arrived at Point Comfort in Virginia, a place that is currently called Hampton, carrying about twenty slaves from Africa. All through the seventeenth century, European settlers in America continued to kidnap people from Africa and use them for a cheap, highly productive labor force, in addition to the replacement of the earlier exploited poor Europeans. Although it is not possible to have an accurate number, studies affirm that about “6 to 7 million black people were imported to America” in the eighteenth century alone to work as slaves.2 This divested the continent of Africa of its healthiest, strongest, and ablest people, both male and female.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, slaves from Africa toiled on the indigo, rice, cotton, and tobacco plantations at the southern coast, especially in Georgia, Virginia, and Maryland. Following the American Revolution, most colonists, especially in North America, where slavery was comparatively insignificant to the agricultural practices, started connecting the oppression of African slaves with their earlier repression by the British and resorted to calling for the abolition of slavery.
Among the first victims to the basis of American patriotism was Crispus Attucks, a former slave who was executed by British soldiers in the course of the Boston mass murder in 1770. In the Revolutionary Warfare, approximately 5,000 black soldiers fought in favor of America. After the end of the war, however, the United States constitution silently recognized the existence of slavery, where “slaves would count as three-fifths of a person” to facilitate payment of taxes and representation in Congress.3
Slave Rebellion and Civil War
In 1859, an anticipated event happened and provoked passions across the country attributable to the existing problem of slavery. John Brown alongside 22 other men raided Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. This culminated in the death of ten people over and above the hanging of John Brown. The rebellion revealed the mounting countrywide rift concerning slavery. While abolitionists in North America hailed John Brown as a martyred champion, the slave traders in the South reviled him as a mass killer. The South reached the boiling point in 1860, the moment a Republican contestant, Abraham Lincoln, won in presidential elections.
In only three months following the win, seven states in the South had already seceded and established the Confederate States of America. After the start of the bloody Civil War, another four states joined in the secession.4 Although anti-slavery perspectives of Lincoln were strongly aired, the central Union warfare did not seek to first push for the abolition of the slave trade but the preservation of the US as a single block by counteracting the secession. It is only later that the abolition of slavery became the main objective attributable to martial obligation, rising anti-slavery opinions in the North, and self-liberation of the majority of African American slaves who fled as the military intensified operations at the South.
End of Slavery
Towards the end of 1862, Abraham Lincoln underscored a prelude liberation declaration, and at the beginning of 1863, it became official that all the slaves within every state in rebellion shall thereafter be set free. The freeing of more than three million African American slaves from the rebel states, following the Emancipation Proclamation, divested the nation of a huge proportion of the workforce and created a strong global public viewpoint in support of abolition.
The liberation declaration failed to officially stop all slavery practices in the United States.5 However, the failure was short-lived since following the enforcement of the thirteenth Amendment after the end of the Civil War, more than 180,000 black people joined the Union Army, and despite 38,000 people dying in the warfare, it ended slavery in America.
A comprehensive understanding of present happenings demands a careful look into the past. All through the 17th and 18th centuries, strong men and women were abducted from the African continent and compelled into slavery in the American colonies where they labored in cotton and tobacco plantations. Although the Union victory resulted in the abolition of slavery in America, the concerns of the slave trade have great relevance to the history of the United States.
Basler, Roy. “Peoria Speech, October 16, 1854.” National Park Service. 2019. Web.
Murdock, Donté. “Slavery in America.” Network Journal 26, no. 1 (2019): 42-45.
Nicholls, Michael. “The Son of a Certain Woman: Crossing Boundaries of Slavery and Race in Early National Virginia.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 124, no. 1 (2016): 1-10.
Schuessler, Jennifer. “A Refusal to Compromise? Civil War Historians Beg to Differ.” The New York Times, 2017. Web.
- Roy Basler, “Peoria Speech, October 16, 1854,” National Park Service, 2019. Web.
- Donté Murdock, “Slavery in America,” Network Journal 26, no. 1 (2019): 42.
- Jennifer Schuessler, “A Refusal to Compromise? Civil War Historians Beg to Differ,” The New York Times, 2017. Web.
- Murdock, 42.
- Michael Nicholls, “The Son of a Certain Woman: Crossing Boundaries of Slavery and Race in Early National Virginia,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 124, no. 1 (2016): 2.