Emancipation in the Caribbean and the United States: Similarities, Differences, and Connections By Megan & Tim
OVERVIEW SUMMARYThe end of slavery and emancipation of slaves occurred both in the United Statesand in the Caribbean, with several differences but also some connections andsimilarities. Following the emancipation in both countries, there was some uncertaintyabout what role the emancipated slaves would play in society. There was a need for acontrolled labor force in both countries, which resulted in the importation of cheap labor,the passing of laws and codes restricting the rights of freedmen, and the reorganizationof the tax system.Despite these similarities, there were stark differences between emancipation inthe republic of the United States and the Caribbean. In the United States, there wascontroversy over whether or not the freed blacks would have equal rights, and for asmall period of time they were granted some political power and rights. This is verydifferent from the Caribbean where the idea of granting blacks rights was not even inquestion, and laws restricting their rights were more severe than in the United States.Unlike the United States, the Caribbean government completely prevented freedmenfrom amassing political power. Some American Democrats wanted to model post-emancipation society after the Caribbean, whereas Radical Republicans wanted to steeraway from the “grave mistakes” of the British following emancipation.Whether you compare or contrast emancipation in these separate areas, it isclear that a connection can be drawn between them. The United States ratified theThirteenth Amendment that outlawed slavery in the territories in 1865, it followed thetrend of emancipation that began in Haiti, continued in the West Indies, and ended inBrazil. There was an international trend of setting slaves free during the 1800s, and theUnited States followed suit, using the Caribbean as a model.
This is a picture of slaves in the West Indiescelebrating their emancipation from the Britishin The United States was influenced greatly bythe emancipation of slaves in the Caribbean,starting with the Haitian Revolution on 1801and the British emancipation in the WestIndies in 1833. Both anti-abolitionists andabolitionists in the United States looked to theCaribbean as an example for how they shouldhandle slavery, freedmen, and rights in theirown country. For example, the United Stateslearned that Southern plantations could not besupported on free labor after they saw thecollapse of West Indian economies.Abolitionists referenced the “grave mistakes”made by the British when they attempted tolegislate blacks back into slavery with the useof restrictive laws, or by creating a “halfwayhouse between slavery and complete civil andpolitical equality.” The Caribbeanemancipation acted as a model for the UnitedStates before and during emancipation andReconstruction.CONNECTION
This picture shows a black man at a house that he owned. After emancipation, it becamethe goal of many black men to obtain property. This owning of property would give them acertain degree of power. If they owned their own property, they would no longer have to relyon their former masters for wages and for land to farm. This opened up the opportunity forblack men to become independent from the whites in their communities. This eagerness toown land was found in both American and Caribbean freedmen because they wanted totake control of their lives by controlling their own property, working hours, and types of labor.SIMILARITY
SIMILARITYWith the freeing of the blacks there arose a question of where the source for cheap labor would comefrom. Plantations were failing from a lack of labor, forcing white plantation owners to look for new sourcesof labor. Shown in this picture are cheap laborers imported from China, known as “coolies.” However, onlya handful of “coolies” were imported, and some of them took this as an opportunity to run away and have afresh start in a new country. The use of “coolie” labor is common to both the United States and theCaribbean. The Caribbean started using “coolie” labor to meet the need for an organized labor force, andtheir success was published in American Southern newspapers. Influenced by the West Indies, “coolies,”under five to seven year contracts were used in mines, railroad construction, and large-scale agriculture inAmerica by 1865.
DIFFERENCEOne big difference between the U.S. and Caribbean was that governments in the countries dictated theobjectives of the freedmen. The Caribbean was not a republic, so not all whites were considered equal.Because of this, the freed blacks did not find it wrong that they were treated as lessers, and did notadvocate for equal rights as white citizens. But in the United States, a republic where all white men wereequal, the blacks thought that they deserved the same rights. They desired equal rights as their whitecountrymen because they considered themselves equal human beings. However, the Democrats of theSouth had very different opinions, which led to discord and conflict within the South. This picture showsthe opinions of the South and how they clearly did not consider the whites and blacks equals, andexemplifying the clear disconnect between the Democrats and the Republicans.
DIFFERENCEUnlike in the Caribbean, in the South of the United States, freed blacks were eventually given similar rights tothe whites for a short time called Radical Reconstruction. The black men were granted the right to vote andfull equal political power and rights. This pictures shows a black man voting during Reconstruction. For a“unique moment,” the Freedmen’s Bureau and many Radical Republicans “actually sought to advance theinterests of the black laborer.” However, during the last period of Reconstruction called Redemption, thesouthern whites once again rose to power and enforced laws that restricted the freedoms of the blackcitizens. Redemption actually reversed many of the gains made by freedmen during Radical Reconstruction.But the unique attempt made by the United States to give equal rights to whites and blacks laid the
SIMILARITYMany plantations that were once prosperous with slaves now found it difficult to stay open as the Southstruggled to find a source of cheap labor. While the North still wanted inexpensive supplies for theirfactories, they weren’t willing to sacrifice black rights. Plantations that had invested thousands of dollarson slaves now had to start over, paying the slaves for their labor for the first time. Some plantationscouldn’t withstand the financial blow, and fell apart. Occurring in both the U.S. South and the Caribbean,the collapse of plantations had a great effect on the economy. The collapse of the West Indianeconomies demonstrated to the United States the need for an organized labor force that would save theU.S. from a fate similar to the Caribbean.
DIFFERENCESharecropping was a common farming technique used in the South following emancipation. Sincethe Black Codes restricted the ability of freedmen to own land, they were forced to farm the landalready owned by white plantation owners. The plantation owners allowed tenants to use the land inreturn for a share of the crops produced on the land. However, this forced freed blacks to bedependent on their former masters for land, hindering their ability to become independent.Sharecropping became the South’s replacement system of labor after the end of slavery in America,but it was not a common practice in the Caribbean, where many time the plantation system wasreinstated or freedmen created their own subsistence farms. This picture depicts sharecroppers inthe United States’ South.
SIMILARITY/ CONNECTIONThe plantations of the South and Caribbean were built around having extremely cheap slavelabor. So when they no longer had this slave labor, they worked on trying to get foreigners fromcountries with failing economies to come in and work for cheap wages. While this labor was notas cheap as slaves, this new overseas source of labor still proved helpful to keeping theplantations running. The introduction of overseas labor was first used in the Caribbean, whichinfluenced the United States to use foreign labor as well.
SIMILARITYDuring the latest period ofReconstruction known asRedemption, lawsrestricting the rights andactivities of freed blackmen were passed. Theselaws were known as BlackCodes, which weredesigned to restrict blackactivity and ensure theiravailability as a labor force.Some laws gave blacksrights, such as legalizedmarriage and access tocourts, but denied them theright to testify againstwhites, to serve in statemilitias, or to vote.Other codes barred Americans from certain occupations, and some banned blacks from fishing orhunting on private or public property. Many times these laws were set up in the favor of the plantationowners in order to secure them a cheap labor force. For instance, many states required blacks to signyearly labor contracts; if they refused, they risked being arrested as vagrants and fined or forced intounpaid “convict labor.” This picture depicts a freedman that violated a Black Code being auctioned offfor free labor again.This forced freedmen to work for plantations again, and seriously hindered theability for a freed slave to create an independent lifestyle. Similar laws were passed in theCaribbean, including the Haitian “Code Rural,” which were even stricter than the American BlackCodes.
SIMILARITYFollowing emancipation in both the Caribbean and the U.S. South, a recently reorganized taxsystem was enforced that gave the poor the heaviest burden of taxation. Since the South could nolonger tax the slave trade, the local governments scrambled for a source of revenue. They turned toa decrease in land taxes for white owners only. They also increased material item taxes, but yetagain exempted white plantation owners from paying taxes on much of their machinery. In anattempt to prevent blacks from owning property, the South taxed the poor the most, and gave themthe least social services. This picture shows a typical house of a freed black man. Notice how it ispoorly constructed and small, showing the grave effects of the unfair tax systems. Homes such asthis one would be found in both the South in the United States and in the Caribbean.
SIMILARITYWhile the blacks were no longer slaves, they still lived with limited freedom. The government tried theirhardest to make it almost impossible for blacks to have jobs separate from plantations. A big hit to the blackswas that the government greatly restricted their hunting ability. This made it quite difficult for them to becomeself sufficient. To make sure the blacks weren’t idle, they were required to have proof of their employment forthe next year, and if they deserted the job at any point them would also be forfeiting their wages up to thattime. And just to make sure they had to stay on plantations, the government made it so that freedmen couldnot rent land in rural areas. This pictures shows freedmen working on a plantation, demonstrating the return offreed slaves to their former owners in order to live. Restrictive laws were common in both the U.S. South andin the Caribbean, where labor laws were based on the need for a cheap labor force.
BIBLIOGRAPHY & PICTOGRAPHYFoner, Eric. “The Politics of Freedom.” In America Compared: American History in InternationalPerspective, 1991.“Auction of Freedman.” Painting. Visions of America. Accessed on June 12, 2013.http://www.picmonkey.com/p/czVXKMBpd0N“Black Family At House.” Painting. Visions of America. Accessed on June 11, 2013.http://www.picmonkey.com/p/9zEHbwvv7tD.“Black Man at House.” Photograph. Weebly.com. Accessed on June 10 2013,http://25126822.nhd.weebly.com/uploads/9/5/6/6/9566461/1487910.jpg?402.“Black Men Voting.” Painting. Visions of America. Accessed on June 13, 2013.http://www.picmonkey.com/p/jZEcCaU0jYB.“Coolie Laborers.” Photograph. Wikimedia.org. Accessed on June 10,2013http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/8/84/Newly_arrived_coolies_in_Trinidad.jpg/300px-Newly_arrived_coolies_in_Trinidad.jpg.“Emancipated Slaves.” Painting. Wikipedia.org. Accessed on June 11, 2013.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FriendsOfNegroEmancipation.jpg.“Failing Plantation.” Photograph. Prosper.edu. Accessed on June 10, 2013.http://prosper.cofc.edu/~atlantic/afterslavery/images/c1u1.jpg.“Foreign Laborers.” Photograph. Explore History. Accessed on June 11, 2013.http://explorepahistory.com/kora/files/1/2/1-2-1089-25-ExplorePAHistory-a0k6l2-a_349.jpg.“Freedmen Working in Fields.” Photograph. Sjsapush.com. Accessed on June 12, 2013.http://www.sjsapush.com/resources/slaves-in-field.jpg.“Poor Plantation”. Picture. Visions of America. Accessed June 10, 2013.http://www.picmonkey.com/p/aM76Di2JWAv“The Two Platforms.” Cartoon on Poster. Mymustardseeds.com. Accessed on June 13,2013.http://www.mymustardseeds.com/uploads/4/3/6/6/4366955/9376206_orig.jpg?316.