The problem of racial discrimination against blacks has always been widely covered by the media in the United States. The Black Lives Matter movement has reached a new level in recent years. There are still cases of racial discrimination that are widely covered by the media. That is why it is important to understand what historical events led to such a precarious situation in the country.
The History of the Slavery
The history of slavery in the New World began in the early 17th century. In 1619, African slaves were first brought to America in the British colony of Virginia. Then large-scale agricultural work was unfolding in the new territories, and a large amount of labor was required. The local population – Indians, refused to work for the colonialists, and there were not enough workers. But the Europeans found a way out of the current situation, and the only source of slave power at that time were criminals from European countries, who were sent to work on a new continent as punishment. But their number was still insignificant. In addition, they had a place to escape from slavery; they were also prone to rebellion and insubordination.
Slavery in Africa
At that time, the peoples of tropical Africa were still at the stage of the tribal system and had a huge number of local kings and princes who easily sold their tribesmen into slavery. All those captured in local fighting faced the same fate – to be sold into captivity. And the inhabitants of the African continent, sold to white traders in human goods, were forcibly put on ships and sent to America. It is believed that during the period from the 16th to the 19th century, more than 12 million African slaves were imported to North and South America.
The Fugitive Slaves Act
On September 18, 1850, the US Congress passed the Fugitive Slaves Act. According to it, residents of all states were obliged to take part in the capture of fugitives. Severe punishment was imposed for disobeying the law. In fact, this law made it possible to extend slavery to the entire territory of the country. In almost all southern states, special people appeared searching for runaway slaves, including in the northern states, and receiving support from the population. All captured Negroes were returned to the slave owner. In addition, anyone who declared this under oath could call a black man a runaway slave. On the other hand, a movement spread in the North that assisted runaway slaves and even bought black slaves for freedom from a slave owner. At the auctions where slaves were sold, a specially selected person under the guise of a slave owner bought black slaves from another slave owner with the funds of the movement and already gave them full freedom as their new owner. This was often done in principle demonstratively, which caused wild rage among slaveholders in the South.
Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency
At this time in 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States. Relations between the Northern and Southern States were approaching the peak of tension, which resulted in the four-year Civil War of 1861-1865 or the war between the North and the South, also known as the war for the preservation of the Union. The reasons were various ways of developing the country’s regions. Almost every state had an independent policy. The North followed the path of capitalism, while the South remained on the way of slavery and an agricultural economy. Most immigrants and entrepreneurs sought to come to the North of the United States since most factories were concentrated there. After the Mexican-American War, the South received huge free territories with a climate favorable for agriculture, which required free labor (Corbett et al. 380). But already, at the beginning of the war between the North and the South, President Lincoln understood that it would be very difficult to defeat the South without the abolition of slavery.
Proclamation on the Emancipation of Slaves
Preparations for the abolition of slavery were carried out almost the whole of 1862, and on December 30, 1862. President Lincoln signed the “Proclamation on the Emancipation of Slaves,” according to which Africans living in territories in a state of rebellion were declared free. After that, more than 180 thousand freed slaves joined the troops of the North. Curiously, this provision did not apply to the northern states and those slave-owning southern states that did not join the Confederacy of Southern States and remained part of the Union. This proclamation served as a kind of impetus for the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the American Constitution, which completely abolished slavery in the United States.
The 13th Amendment
The 13th Amendment of the Constitution was adopted on January 31, 1865, almost 60 years after adopting the previous 12th. But it finally came into force on December 18, 1865, after it had been ratified in most states. The Amendment completely prohibited slavery, and also, forced labor could now only be used as a punishment for a crime. In addition, slavery was formally legalized in the United States until 2013 (Corbett et al. 412). Although in fact, it no longer existed since April 1865. Mississippi became the last US state to officially ratify the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, abolishing slavery.
With the entry into force in December 1865 of the Thirteenth Amendment to the American Constitution, the beginning was laid for the destruction of the system that had existed in the American colonies of Britain since 1619. In 1865, 27 states adopted the Amendment for execution – this was enough for its entry into force. However, some states ratified the document much later: Kentucky – only in 1976 and Mississippi in 2013. So, in fact, slavery in all the states of America officially ceased to exist only in the 21century. Some southern states refused to accept the Amendment right away (Corbett et al. 423). In Mississippi, a vote on the Amendment’s ratification was held only in 1995, but the case was not brought to an end. The reasons why the authorities did not submit official documents to the US Archivist are still unknown.
In conclusion, the abolition of slavery in the United States gave a significant impetus to solving racial discrimination problems. It was not easy to achieve this goal because many people believe that black people need to be infringed and deprived of rights since the white race surpasses them in all data. Now the situation is completely different: black people are full members of society. However, due to the events of the past centuries, they still cannot forgive the mass infringement and murder of their ancestors on racial grounds. Consequently, racial discrimination and the history of the abolition of slavery in the United States is a very important and controversial topic that affects the country and the emergence of such movements as Black Lives Matter.
Corbett, Scott, P. et al. U.S. History. OpenStax, 2014.