African Americans in United States History: 1600s-1877

free essaySlavery in America can be traced back to the period when first Africans were captured and brought to North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia. In 1619, tobacco farming was widely practiced across North America and labor was required to facilitate the production. Apparently, this made slavery to be the only option in American colonies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries so as they could facilitate in building of economic foundations of the new America. At the same time, there was the invention of cotton in 1793 which intensified the significance of slavery across the southern economy. By mid of nineteenth century, there was the abolishment movement that started in the North and further led to the American Civil War of 1861-1865. The victory in the war led to the freedom of more than four million slaves.

During the early seventeenth century, there were numerous European settlers in North America occupying fertile lands which made them return back to slavery being the only option for cheap labor as compared to poorer Europeans who were servants. In 1619, a Dutch ship came with more than twenty slaves on its board to Jamestown, Virginia which was a British colony in the North of America. Consequently, slavery spread over all the American colonies. The the exact numbers of slaves that were brought to the American colonies remains unknown; however, some historians agreed that it approaches to 6 to 7 million slaves came from Africa during 18th century. In fact, these slaves were among the most energetic and healthiest Africans who could have shaped the continent of Africa to greater heights (Franklin and Higginbotham 68).

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During eighteenth century, the majority of tobacco plantations were exhausted and the southern coast was facing the economic crisis. In this regard, this situation made the growth of slavery be in doubt as there were inadequate farms for slaves to work on. Therefore, the textile industry in England was expanding, and there was a strong need for American cotton. It can be argued that cotton was a southern crop, though it was difficult to remove the seeds of raw cotton which could be done by using bare hands to remove the cotton fibers. However, in 1793, Eli Whitney, a Yankee school teacher, invented a cotton gin (Hamilton, Dillon, and Dillon 87). Undoubtedly, this tool simplified the removal of cotton seeds, and the device started to be widely used across the southern coast. In fact, almost within a year, the whole southern part had transitioned from growing tobacco to cotton and this enabled slave labor to be sought. Consequently, the growth of cotton industry required more slaves to be engaged in cotton production. Apparently, this was countered by numerous rebellions; for instance, in 1791 in Haiti, there were triumphs in slave revolts which made slaveholders make demands for protection of their property. Moreover, in 1793, the Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which rendered any act of helping slaves escape to be a federal crime. In fact, this act faced numerous challenges as it was hard to enforce the law from state to state especially in the North where there were multiple movements of antislavery campaigns (Franklin 35).

A part of southern population was made up of slaves as it was an estimate of one-third of the whole population. In fact, these slaves lived on farms as well as in small plantations and majority of their masters owned less than fifty slaves. It can be argued that slave owners had made them entirely dependable, and there were restrictive codes that were designed to control slaves. For instance, slaves were obstructed from learning both writing and reading. Moreover, slave’s movements and behaviors were highly monitored by the masters. Besides, slaves have exploited particularly slave women who experienced sexual harassment from their masters (Franklin and Higginbotham 70). Obedient slaves were also rewarded with limited favors whereas stubborn slaves encountered brutality and violence. Historians have maintained that there was a strict hierarchy among the slaves which helped in keeping them isolated, less organized and divided to that they could not rebel against their masters. Furthermore, there was no legal basis that governed slaves’ marriages, however; slaves were allowed to marry as well as maintaining their families (Franklin 40). It can be argued that slaves’ masters supported these marriages as their sources of additional labor. On the same note, slave masters could also divide the slave families by sale and removal.

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Slaves’ revolts occurred within the strict system, and a notable retaliation was led by Gabriel Prosser in Richmond in 1800. Furthermore, there was another counterattack by Denmark Vesey in Charleston in 1822. It can be argued that these responses of slaves were against their mistreatment and majority of them had been unsuccessful. The most notable slave revolt that brought fear to slave owners was conducted by Nat Turner, who led other slaves in Southampton County, Virginia in August 1831. Turner together with his group of other slaves, who were more than seventy men, butchered at least sixty white men in two days. However, an armed resistance of local whites with the help of state militia forces joined hands and defeated them (Franklin and Higginbotham 82). Numerous supporters of slavery came out and condemned the act of Turner and his group as barbaric, and the institution of slavery was the right tool for disciplining black people. Many Southern dwellers were inflicted with fear that led to further restrictions and inhumane codes for blacks that could hinder them education, assembly as well as their movement. However, in the North, there was an increase in repression advocates who viewed the practices of the South as inhumane which led to numerous campaigns of slave abolishment.

The period of the 1830s and 1860s saw the rise of numerous movements in America that were calling for the abolition of slavery. Therefore, these movements had gained momentum in the North led by Fredrick Douglas who was a freed slave. On the same note, there were white supporters in the North who also viewed slavery as inhumane practices like William Lloyd Garrison who was the founder of a radical newspaper named The Liberator (Franklin 68). Moreover, Harriet Beecher Stowe was also among the white supporters who published a book titled Uncle Tom’s Cabin where she addressed antislavery campaigns. Specifically, these abolishment movements claimed that slavery was nonreligious, free labor arguments that confirmed slavery as regressive and being insufficient in the economy building.

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In the North, slavery was not a norm even though the majority of influential business persons of that region grew rich from slave trade as well as the numerous investments in the southern plantations. In fact, the period of 1774 and 1804 made slavery to be abolished in the North and slavery was only left to southern institutions. In 1808, there was a big step as the United States Congress abolished as well as outlawing African slave trade (Hamilton, Dillon, and Dillon 89). In fact, this made the domestic trade flourish, and the slave population in the United States increased more than three times in the next fifty years. In 1860, the population of blacks was estimated to be four million. Surprisingly, more than half of that population dwelled in the southern states as they were the cotton growing coast of the south.

There were numerous antislavery campaigns in the North, and a number of them helped in freeing fugitive slaves who dwelled in Southern plantations. Further, in 1780s, there were safe houses in the North where slaves could be hidden and this movement helped in freeing more than 100,000 slaves to freedom. Moreover, abolishment feelings were spread across North which helped in increasing determination that could eliminate slavery in Southern states. In 1865, there was the establishment of the 13th amendment which abolished slavery officially (Hamilton, Dillon, and Dillon 90).

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The period of the 17th and 18th century saw African slaves work mainly in tobacco, rice and indigo farms that were situated on the southern coast. It can be argued that after the end of American Revolution, a number of British colonists from the North considered slavery as insignificant to their economy. In fact, these colonists associated slavery with the oppression of the black people, and they advocated for slavery abolition. After the end of American Civil War, the American Constitution recognized that slavery was indeed a form of black oppression. The New American Constitution started counting slaves as three-fifths of an individual, and this was only for taxation as well as representation in the Congress. Moreover, black people were guaranteed the rights of freedom as slavery was considered unconstitutional.