For colored citizens prior to the Civil War, freedom was a distant dream as the age-old human history of slavery heightened within the American heartlands even after the Declaration of Independence. When the American nation proudly held a new constitution, it was supposedly a determined effort to uphold a balance of power symbolizing the freedom from political, cultural and moral oppression yet colored individuals were treated as less civilized citizens and slavery was reinforced by and among the rich landowners capable of maintaining numerous slaves.
As slavery provided free labor and flourishing the slave trade, African black slaves exported from Africa increased the slave population in the United States by 4 million (US 1860 Census). The Quakers of Pennsylvania as an antislavery force that gained strength throughout the country paved the way for the gradual abolition of slavery in the US northern states. New York and New Jersey became the last Northern states to abolish slavery (Grant 2001).
A political conflict however ensued as slavery supporters insisted lifting any barriers to slave trade while sanctioning the acceptance of slavery based on the biblical scriptures as “God’s plan to Christianize” the Africans (Hartz 1955). Slavery for the supporters was seen as an economic, social and cultural life which actually lengthened the arguments for the continued adherence to slave labor.
Divisive means were also used to promote scientific experiments to demonstrate the superiority of the whites and the inferiority of the blacks (Colley 1859), where anatomical proportions of the brain justify blacks doing hard labor which upon careful contrast does not measure up to the actual inequalities committed within the period. As the debate on slavery grew, disrespect for the law also rose. Sooner than expected, the American slaves who were ill-treated began to resort to acts of violence like burnings barns, arson and even murder.
The famous acts of rebellion in Saint Dominique (1790’s) and Virginia (1800’s) paved the way for the 1831 rebellion that killed sixty whites in Virginia tougher slave codes and prohibitions for the slaves that was heavily emphasized in William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator as provided by Tocqueville. No amount of compromise could weed out the institution of slavery except upon the culmination of Lincoln’s election in the 1850’s and the legal implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment (Zinn 2001).
II. Blacks living in free states Blacks actually lived a precarious existence within the Free states prior to the Civil War as many were still considered slaves. Many of the free blacks, who were skilled craftsmen, were tolerated because of their abilities as their earnings contributed to the general economy yet none of the free blacks ever rose higher than the status of small tradesmen, builders or nautical employees as they soon became a source of revenue as property taxpayers (Toqueville 1969).
Forten, a free black girl from the Northern states gained education in Salem and observed that runaway slaves in Boston were treated as mere slaves and returned to their masters instead of being set free (Forten 2000). Although conditions were far better for the Blacks in the Northern states, very few blacks had their voices heard. Segregated facilities still existed in the North and they were usually denied entrance to the best hotels and restaurants (Jordan 1995, 218).
Although schools in New England were usually integrated, those in the Midwest were generally not and economic discrimination continued as the Blacks fought to compete with large numbers of recent European immigrants for job opportunities and almost always lost (Cartmell 2004). During this same period, Norfolk’s free blacks frequently helped enslaved African-Americans to buy their freedom, and in a few instances became slave owners themselves (Toqueville 1969). Harsh laws soon prevailed as freedoms enjoyed by free blacks were soon curtailed because they were still unable to vote.
The blacks were often stereotyped as unruly citizens that soon led other free blacks to move further north and help their relatives escape from increasing mistreatment. III. Blacks in the Army In the battle for the emancipation of slavery, slaves contributed to their freedom by laboring and rallying behind the scenes. At the onset of war, the free Black Virginians supported the Confederacy even though they were treated as inferiors and lived in a state of fear.
Many were motivated to work with the Confederate States with the hope that someday restrictions against them would be lifted while anticipating a post war gratitude from the white counterparts they fought with (Jordan 1995, 216). The efficiency of the army during the Civil War also saw slaves working as cooks, nurses, hospital attendants, blacksmiths, etc and not getting any pay while free blacks however who served the army were paid the same rate as privates (Cartmell 2004, 176).
Less than a dozen African Americans actually served in combat, one of those who did was Holt Collier who served as a sharp shooter and cavalryman of the Texas Brigade (Cartmell, 2004). Thus suffice for us to say that the Blacks fought behind enemy lines as soldiers and were inspired by their involvement yet many were denied enlistment. IV. Blacks who remained in the confederate states Prior to the Civil War, black slaves in Louisiana enjoyed certain privileges that addressed their needs as slaves like being able to sue their masters for abuse (Edge and Downs 2003).
Free Blacks were free to own property and conduct business while enjoying liberties absent from other Southern states while slaves were permitted to celebrate their African culture at the markets (edge and Downs 2003). In Virginia, Blacks were criticized for being indifferent to the success of the Southern rebellion as a few free blacks pretended to be slaves in order to gain urban employment like Jim Butler who worked at Richmond’s Exchange Hotel (Jordan 1995, 215). For most Blacks during the period, social injustice prevailed distressingly as slaveholdings in the vast majority of the Southern states continued.
Treatment bordered from harsh to inhumane as slavery allowed the master to punish the blacks who failed to perform his duties as related in Stampp, “Now, I speak what I know, when I say it is like ‘casting pearls before swine’ to try to persuade a negro to work. He must be made to work, and should always be given to understand that if he fails to perform his duty he will be punished for it (Stampp 1956). Slave overseers were authorized to whip the non compliant slaves while free blacks were monitored well by patrols.
Escapees were either maimed of killed as slaves were at risk of loosing their family members to punishing masters according to Stampp. Slave-breeding was encouraged to encourage the economic interest of Southern planters for easy access to black workers to retain whole black families to work for them (Loveland 1986). As a backlash to the Southerners who mistreated their black slaves, many Southern blacks fought for the Confederate cause as a patriotic duty in part and as slaves in full. Yet for many who knew and acknowledged the Northerners cause, most Black soldiers in the Confederate states fled to the Northern lines and fought with them.
The slave’s knowledge proved important in winning the war as their familiarity became an advantage for the Northern regiment. V. Life after the war When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, it heavily marked the end of slavery and thereby freeing nearly four million slaves in America (grant 2001). But the history of unfair treatment of the US on its own people easily portrayed hypocrisy on its citizens as Blacks remained objects of racial discrimination. It goes into reason that politicians used their might to support the rich sectors’ relevant refusal to grant equal rights to blacks.
Another point of discussion was the political agenda behind the support for the anti-slavery campaigns when civil rights and voting rights became an important issue. Granting the Black community access to their own rights would naturally mean higher pay for the earners and lower profits for the capitalists. While supportive of the anti-slavery, political leaderships, not wanting to loose the support of their corporate and rich allies despite knowledge of unfair treatment would seek to ignore such acts. Such was the extent and tentacles of power used for gains that demean the spirit of the Declaration of Independence (Hartz 1955).
V. The fight for equality for the next 100 years As a wave of democracy rose to deafening heights, Black struggle for acceptance rose to free them from the binding ties of slavery (Markoff 1996, 163). Although slavery was emancipated, marginalized sectors continue to insist on freedom from mockery and racial segregation based on skin color (Loveland 1996). Struggles continued as schools in the South refused to adapt to integration that led to riots commandeered by the blacks held in opposition against the whites who refused desegregation and tolerate intimidation and murders led by its famous Ku Klux Klan movement (Zinn 2001).
Few of the KKK’s activities received massive media attention until the murder of a 14 year old Emmet Till in 1955 that led to a confrontation against issues of racism. As women gained equal rights in 1960’s, racial discrimination slowly ebbed that gave way to several centuries of struggle fr the blacks to gain a state of freedom. VI. Conclusion Why slavery had to be ended by extreme force? If it were probably left to the government the rights of the ordinary slaves would have been left as it was. Heavy opposition and criticism did not bring an end to slavery.
Even the national government who endorsed anti-slavery Republicans into office to resolve the issue was most of the time indecisive. The slave- owning southerners and the anti-slavery northerners could not see eye to eye on the ultimate extinction of slavery. In the 1850’s open hostilities were already brimming on several states which finally triggered hostile actions. Although many favored and sought some sort of a compromise, the stronger point of rejection for one was triggered by fear that a conspiracy is threatening to bring down the American republic.
Disagreements arise to a crescendo as political parties split and Lincoln’s war goals came into light to solve the problem by means of force when no alternative action could be seen to solve the conflict. Greed for power was the root of such warfare nurtured among many that sought to restrict freedom and pursued rampant acts of discrimination. Such tentacles of power used for corporate gains demean the spirit of independence in this nation’s history. Bibliography Cartmell, Donald. 2004. The Civil War Up Close: Thousand of Curious, Obscure and Fascinating Facts. Career Press.
Colley, Thomas. 1859. Civilized America. Bradbury and Evans. Edge, John T. and Downs, Tom. 2003. New Orleans. Lonely Planet. Forten, Charlotte L. 2000. A Free Black Girl Before the Civil War: The Diary of Charlotte Forten, 1854. Capstone Press. Grant, Donald L. 2001. The Way It was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia. Atlanta: University of Georgia Hartz, Louis. 1955. The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Thought Since the Revolution. New York: Harcourt. Jordan, Ervin L. 1995. Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia.
Virginia: University of Virginia. Loveland, Anne C. 1986. Lilian Smith, A Southerners Confronting the South: A Biography. Baton Rouge: Lousisiana State University. Markoff, John. 1996. Waves of Democracy: Social Movements and Political Change. Pine Forge Press. Stampp, Kenneth M. 1956. The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South. Survey Tocqueville, Alexis. 1969. Democracy in America, eds. J. P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence. New York: Harper Collins. Zinn, Howard. 2001. People’s History of the United States. New York: Harper Collins.
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