U.S. History


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U.S. History

  1. 1. Anchalee June Bloxham U.S. History Period: 3 November 12, 2009 Slavery in the United States from 1800 – 1850 It was in the 1600’s that Black Africans started to be shipped to the United States asslaves. In Africa, in their own countries, these people did most of the work in mines, factories orplantations. Some people were lucky enough to work in the urban areas compare to rural areas,but most lived and worked in the countryside. In the USA, White Americans were earning more,becoming wealthier and looking for others to do the manual labor. With this wealth, WhiteAmericans saw that slaves were a cheap source for manual and skilled labor. There was amarked difference in the need for slaves in the South as compared to the North due to greaterneed for workers in agriculture and the trades in the South. The North had much larger citiesfilled with workers with professions. Slavery was considered to be wrong by a minority group ofpeople while the majority accepted owning slaves as a right using arguments related to the “lawof nature” and their understanding of passages of the Bible. The whole system of slavery placedmany limitations on the person held in this condition so that only a few could marry, start afamily, have rights in court or get a chance to own their own property. Some slaves were able toearn enough money to free them or after their owner passed away. However, for the 200 yearsthat slavery existed in the United States, most did not get a glimpse of these opportunities. Within the USA there existed both groups in favor of and against slavery. These groupsand their efforts would greatly influence whether the institution of slavery should remain legal ornot. In favor of slavery, the proslavery group believed that enacting laws to end slavery wouldcreate conflicts between the slaves’ owners and the government and also will lead to thedownfall of the economy. By 1850, the slaves’ states in the Southern part of the United Stateshad roughly four million slaves and that figure formed one-third of the population in those states.Slave owners made high profits from the labor of the slaves they owned or had working forthem. Because these slaves worked on plantations or hard manual labor, loosing this source ofcheap labor would create conflict between the slave owners and the government. Since theowners contributed to the economy of the Southern states, Southerners and the Stategovernments of the South believed that the economy would declined rapidly without these
  2. 2. slaves. In addition to the economic arguments, many Southerners also believed that owningslaves was a law of nature where the strong rule the weak. This argument found support in thereligion and churches of the South. White church leaders found the support in the Bible thatfavored slavery and reasoned that these slaves had a better life and living conditions than Africa.By middle of 1800, most Southerners were firmly in support of slavery. Slavery was growing in the South rapidly due to the number of large plantations thatgrew tobacco, cotton and other crops. These plantations required large numbers of workers, andBlack Africans were brought to the USA as slaves to meet the need for cheap labor. The vastmajority of the slaves were sent to the South, though slavery did exist in the North, but in muchfewer numbers because of the differences in the economies of the North and South. The slavesworking on plantations and in the mines were the most unfortunate and performed the hardestjobs in the worst conditions. In reality, during the time of slavery in the USA were pervasive inevery sector or society and performed many different types of jobs out of all different kinds ofjobs. As slaves, many African Americans managed to develop their skills and became craftsmenlike blacksmiths, carpenters, etc. For slaves who did not work in the field, they worked infactories, became construction workers, servants in the master’s house and many otherprofessions. However not all jobs were open to the slaves because of racial discriminationespecially in the North and the whites, especially the slaveholders did not educate the blacks toread and write fearing that they would use this education to run away. There were many different kinds of slaveholders and methods to keeping and using slavelabor. Large number of slaves worked on farms or mines and were over-worked and many beingtreated inhumanly. In rare cases slave owners would reward their best slaves with gifts andmoney for their good work. The most fortunate slaves were considered to be part of the slave-owners’ family where they worked as servants in the master’s home. In a few cases some weregiven freedom due to their loyalty and hard work, usually in the case where the owner died.While slaves this group developed their own music, language and religion, which is acombination of African and Christian beliefs. These songs, faith and language allowed them toendure their slavery and hold out for the dream of freedom. As opposition to slavery grew in theUSA a growing number were assisted to escape from the South to the North and freedomthrough the Underground Railroad.
  3. 3. The Underground Railroad was a system to allow slaves to escape their harsh life in theSouth and gain independence by going to the North. The term “Underground Railroad” was onlymetaphorically speaking since it wasn’t a real railroad and it was not necessary underground.This term refers to a system that secretly helped slaves escape to the Northern states andsometimes Canada in the 1800’s and to ultimately gain their freedom. The Underground Railroadexisted in 14 Northern states and the method in escaping was to hide during the day and travel atnight. This required the aid of US citizens opposed to slavery who used the word “railroad” as acode name. Fleeing to the North by one’s self was too risky and if captured they would beseverely punished. There would be little or no opportunity to try and escape again. Canada wasalso destination to escape for some slaves. The dividing line between the North and the Southand freedom or slavery was the Mason Dixon line. The line symbolically represents the dividingline between the antislavery and proslavery groups. The abolitionists, those promoting the abolition of slavery in the United States started asa movement to end slavery. The majority opinion in the Northern states, religious leaders,Europeans, philosophers, for example opposed the thoughts of slavery because they felt thatslavery was immoral since the United States establishes itself on the principles of protectinghuman rights and obviously, slaves did not have any rights. Important historic figures such asGeorge Washington and Thomas Jefferson were against slavery and even spoke out against it.By 1820, black slaves were given a chance to return and resettle themselves in Africa but manyof them did not because they considered America as their home. It was during that time thatabolitionists spoke out against slavery, coming up with many ways to end it or at least improvethe lives of these slaves. There was the message of emancipation, the freeing of slavery with nopayment to the slaves’ owners, for example. Many antislavery groups and societies were formedto organize more white abolitionists. Important antislavery leaders such as David Walkerpublished articles and Frederick Douglas urged slaves to stand up, fight, and educate themselvesas their pathway to freedom. Nat Turner’s Rebellion was the event that led a preacher, NatTurner to lead his fellow slaves to freedom. Turner led approximately 80 slaves to rebel and freeother slaves by killing the white owners on the plantations. Eventually Turner and his followerswere captured and killed. The question was that whites killed many more innocent black peoplebut however, were not punished. The aftermath of Turner rebellion caused slave’s owners to
  4. 4. force the legislators to tighten control on African American known as slave codes because theantislavery movements became more intensified and increased in its influence. From then on, slavery began to increase in the new states established in the West.Because the North supported to the antislavery group, they feared that the states that proslaverywould take over the Congress if these territories joined the slave states. Southerners know that ifthe new West states joined the Union as free of slavery states then they would be outnumberedtherefore demanded the West to continued Slavery. These arguments and conflict in the newstates led to the 1861 to 1865 Civil War. Finally in the United States during 1865, slavery wasabolished.Reference: - The U.S. History Textbook on Slavery and Abolition - http://library.thinkquest.org/J0112391/slavery.htm