“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (Thomas Jefferson). The only problem with this passage from the Declaration of Independence is that it does not say, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and Negroes are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” Thomas Jefferson’s words were not correct.
Not all men were created equal and these men were slaves. Slavery has existed throughout the United States for centuries before the present day. This was the most inhumane treatment any man could go through. The following report will express the impact of slavery on the history of the united states of America. The Earliest Slaves in America In the summer of 1619 a 160-ton ship from the Port of Flushing in Holland sailed into the Chesapeake Bay. The Dutch ship was under the command of Captain Jope and piloted by an English man named Marmaduke Raynor.
In exchange for supplies Jope sold more than 20 Negroes to the local authorities in the English colony of Virginia. These blacks came ashore 12 years after the founding of Jamestown. At first the Virginians liked white indentured persons who knew their language and their ways, compared to the newly arrived black slaves. Over time though, the black servants grew accustomed to the environment and were better than the white indentured servants. The colonists didn’t approve, but because of the need for laborers for Tobacco the acceptance grew. Slavery grows from demand of cotton.
The Revolutionary War won for the Americans a large stretch of wilderness between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. After 1800 settlers began to clear and plant on the land. Many of these settlers brought slaves with them. One of the crops which they planted was cotton. When the slaves had to pick the cotton it would prick them and slow the picking down tremendously. Then a man named Eli Whitney invented a machine called the Cotton Gin. The Cotton Gin cleaned the short sticky fibers of the upland cotton. Metal teeth simply pulled the fibers from the seeds.
The invention of this machine made the cotton economy soar. This increased the need for slaves. They needed more slaves to pick the cotton faster so they could keep up with the production. The masters were constantly working their slaves from dusk until dawn. They would load the cotton into wagons and take the crop to the gin. As planters in the South turned more and more land to growing cotton, the economy could support more people. In 1790 the South had one million white people, six hundred fifty-seven thousand black slaves, and thirty-two thousand free black people. Slaves grew in population rapidly.
Resistance To Slavery. Slaves found many ways to resist white control. Most resistance forms were passive. Slaves used songs to express their longings to be free, but also spread news for secret meetings. Some slaves pretended to be sick, broke tools and worked as slow as possible. Others, ran away. When these slaves were caught, they were punished severely. Other ways slaves resisted the whites were through means of violence. Some slaves would try to poison the masters food which scared many plantation owners. The most violent though were organized riots. Slavery causes problems Slavery also caused problems where states were concerned.
When Missouri sought admission to the Union in 1819, it proposed a state constitution which would protect slavery. At that time there were exactly as many slave states as well as free states in the Union. The house of representatives was dominated by the North and the Southerners stood to gain control of the senate if Missouri was admitted as a slave state. Before the Missouri Debate began, Congress used the Northwest Ordinance to prohibit slavery north and west of the Ohio River. The balance was in danger of being upset. Slavery also affected this greatly and it later led to the Missouri Compromise.
The Antislavery movement In the early 1800’s an antislavery movement was developing. Many voices of free slaves from the North and abolitionists were beginning to speak out against slavery. Abolitionism was a movement for an immediate end to slavery. Many abolitionists freed slaves from their life of enslavement. Sojourner Truth was one of the main women abolitionists in the fight against slavery. She not only aided blacks in their escape, but she spoke to president Lincoln personally about her views. Free blacks were not the only ones who worked to free slaves. There were also white abolitionists who worked for the same cause.
A newspaper called the Liberator was started by William Lloyd Garrison supporting abolitionism. This rekindled the flame of the white antislavery movement In 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe published a book called Uncle Tom’s cabin. This book told about the evils of slavery, and what slaves had to live through. Stowe was also against the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. This law enabled the northerners were permitted to catch runaway slaves who could not defend themselves in court. This book caused immediate controversy between the North and the South as soon as it hit the shelves.
Three hundred thousand copies were sold of the book in 1 year. Kansas-Nebraska Act Lawmakers knew that a bill was needed to set up a territorial government for Kansas. And in order to build the railroad, land had to be set aside for the railroad companies. Yet the issue of slavery blocked these promising plans. Kansas and Nebraska were both closed to slavery under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Southerners would not go along with the railroad unless they saw hope for slavery in these territories. They felt they had to overturn the Missouri Compromise. Democrat Stephen A. Douglas started the new debate rolling.
Douglas introduced the Nebraska bill in 1854 to organize a territorial government, which could then open the way to lay down railroad tracks. Southern senators, however, balked at any bill that would allow the ban on slavery in the territories to continue. Douglas reworked his bill. His new proposal divided the area into two territories: that of Kansas and that of Nebraska. It was implied, but not started, that Kansas would become a slave state, and Nebraska would be free of slavery. He also proposed an idea called Popular Sovereignty, or the right of the voters in each territory to decide whether to become a free or slave state.
The bill rendered the Missouri Compromise meaningless. Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska act in 1854. Antislavery people, Democrats, and Wigs included, held rallies, demonstrations, and meetings throughout the North to condemn the Kansas-Nebraska Act. These gatherings helped form a new political party. The Underground Railroad Antislavery forces did more than protect and rescue runaway slaves. In fact, they helped many slaves escape. A secret network called the Underground Railroad helped 100,000 fugitive slaves to freedom between 1780 and 1865. The Underground Railroad was not a railroad and it didn’t run underground.
The Underground Railroad was a secret complex system of about 3,000 people both blacks and whites, who helped transport escaped slaves. At night “conductors” led runaways to freedom, providing food and safe hiding places. The conductors risked great danger in aiding slaves. The slaves transportation in the Underground Railroad varied. Slaves traveled on foot, in covered wagons, or in boxes. At the stations the slaves would hide in attics, barns, cellars, and even secret rooms behind walls or in the floor. Finally at the end the slaves would settle in one of the fourteen free states or Canada.
The most famous railroad conductor had to be Harriet Tubman who escaped herself from slavery. Harriet guided more than three hundred slaves to freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation Following the bloodshed at Antietam, Lincoln needed to broaden the reasons for remaining at war. He was still very serious about saving the Union, but he took a firm stand on slavery as well. Linking the Union with the abolition of slavery in the South would strengthen his support in the North by pointing out the need to protect the country and to make it a country where freedom held great value.
On September 22, 1862, he issued his first Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation would free all slaves in areas still in rebellion. It was a statement of intent instead of a law, and slaveholders refused to accept it. The Proclamation also allowed former slaves to enlist in the army. During the war one hundred and eighty-six thousand blacks served in the Union Army and twenty-nine thousand served in the Union Navy. Reconstruction Before the Civil war was over and General Lee and his troops surrendered, Lincoln already had a plan of amnesty and reconstruction to be approved by congress.
In this plan, 10% of those who voted in the election of 1860 had to take an oath proclaiming their loyalty to the United States. Confederate states could then form a new government and use a new constitution. In this proclamation, slavery was also banned, but it did not say that blacks had the right to vote or to any other rights. Another plan the Radicals passed in July 1864, was the Wade-Davis Bill. This bill was a stricter version of Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty. In this bill a majority (51%) had to take an oath to the United States and take part in drafting a new Constitution. Only then could that state be remitted to the Union.
The bill demanded that Confederates swear past and present loyalty. The Wade-Davis bill also required the new state constitutions to outlaw slavery and declare the Confederate debt unpayable. Confederate bonds and money became worthless. With the support of the moderates, Congress passed the Wade-Davis bill. Congress then adjourned, however, and Lincoln refused to sign the bill. This defeated the Wade-Davis bill. In January 1865, Lincoln compromised by proposing the Thirteenth Amendment to outlaw slavery. Former Confederate states were required to ratify, or formally approve, the amendment before rejoining the Union.
Black Codes In Johnson’s plan for reconstruction he gave black voting rights to most whites, but he only encouraged new states to allow freedmen to vote. The southern states followed Johnson’s policies, but not happily. None gave blacks the right to vote. Instead, the new state governments tried to bring back slavery in all but name. They used laws known as Black Codes. The Black Codes varied from state to state, but everywhere the laws were meant to keep blacks from being free. Freedman were made to sign labor contracts that bound them to work and orphans whose parents could not raise them were to work as apprentices.
Freedman’s Bureau and Education For Blacks Just before the war’s end, Congress established the Freedman’s Bureau. For emergency relief the bureau distributed food to the needy of both races. Finding jobs was one of its first tasks. It also performed marriages for blacks. Education was also very important for blacks. They thought of education as their key to equal rights. The Freedman’s Bureau also helped them in seeking a better education. More than four thousand schools were established. In the South, the government set up schools after 1868. They were unfortunately segregated (separated by race).
During this time in 1868, the fifteenth amendment was passed. This amendment gave everyone the right to vote no matter their race or if they were previously slaves. Blacks were slowly gaining their rights. Conclusion Blacks as you can see suffered through many hardships and losses over time. Eventually many victories come to them. What we must realize is that all humans should be treated the same no matter what their race or color is. But this was all in the past and we need to put it behind us. Instead we should look to the future and remember “all men are created equal. “