Have you ever thought about the explicit details that went into the creation of America? Slavery and the Making of America, written by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton uses facts and stories to portray the life of slaves, and the evolution of slavery over several decades, and its effect on America today. The title of this book, Slavery and the Making of America is a great leeway into the authors’ main thesis of the book; “Slavery was, and continues to be, a critical factor in shaping the United States and all of its people. As Americans, we must understand slavery’s history if we are ever to be emancipated from its consequences,” (Horton). Throughout the six chapters in this book, the authors’ go into explicit details on what actions from both white Americans and African slaves led to the Civil War, the abolition of slavery and America as it is today. Slavery and the Making of America is a book split into 6 chapters. The book starts off by explaining history about African slaves, and their bringing to America. Africans’ were kept as slaves in the United States for at least twelve generations.
Slavery was one of the main components that led to the building of America. Well-endowed white men would buy slaves to work on their plantations. Slaves eventually created a basis for America’s wealth as a nation, especially with their labor put towards farming cotton. This book not only goes into details about the labor that the slaves partook in on a daily basis that kept America up and running, but also about the cultural aspect of bring slaves into the country. Bringing African’s over to America brought a whole new culture to America. Although white men enslaved African’s they continued to embrace their culture. They brought a new religion, language, music, and several skills that have uniquely blended the American culture that it is today. This book shares stories of African people slowly becoming African Americans, despite the conditions that they lived and worked in. It goes into detail about the contradiction of the American people.
How could a country founded on the basis of freedom and equality for all believe in slavery and unequal treatment of persons due to race? This book shares details of white Americans, generation after generation, trying to reconcile this contradiction, yet being unsuccessful. Although black people were enslaved, they never lost hope or determination to live up to the principles stated in the founding documents of America. The African Roots of Colonial America, the first chapter in this book, reflects the authors’ main thesis by examining the beginning of the African slave trade in America. During this time millions of Americans were shipped across the Atlantic in the largest forced migration in human history. During this time hundred of thousands of slaves were sent, and arrived to the new land annually. These slaves were used to create a newer and stronger global economy, by farming cotton, tobacco, and sugar in the Americas. Chapter two, Slavery: From the Revolution to the Cotton Kingdom shows a different perspective of the authors’ thesis.
This chapter goes into more depth about the American Revolution and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The authors’ explain that the white Americans’ had no intentions to include blacks in the Declaration of Independence despite the hostility from blacks, both those who were slaves and those who were free. The American Revolution was a turning point in slavery. Thousands of slaves escaped to the British, many settling in different countries. In the midst of the Revolutionary War, President Jackson sought out to black troops, granting them freedom from slavery if they survived the war. After the American Revolution, westward expansion was beginning to happen. With new technology of the cotton gin, more and more slaves were needed in the pursuit of expansion. Throughout this book the authors’ tie in specific persons and events that support their thesis. Several people who have shaped American history are mentioned in this book including Ellen Craft, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Henry Box’ Brown.
The middle of this book goes into explanation of fugitive slaves and Underground Railroad; “The terms associated with the new railroad became the code words used by these secret organizations. They called escape routes rails, safe houses stations, and the fugitives themselves passengers or packages. Those who assisted fugitives called themselves conductors,” (Horton). Almost every important event in American history between 1650 and 1896 had some implication with racial inequality or slavery. The last two chapters of the book go into details about the ending of the Civil War and the final years of slavery in America. Chapter 5 looks into the actions of black Americans during the war that eventually led to freedom. Chapter 6 goes hand in hand with the main thesis of the book, describing the fight for equality of all races, specifically blacks in America. The authors’ talk about the Emancipation Proclamation, and the “passing of the thirteenth amendment, providing for total abolition of American Slavery,” (Horton). Although slavery had been abolished, there was still not equality in the United States, and there would not be for quite some time.
Over time, racial inequality slowly diminished, through the passing of the fourteenth amendment (equal citizenship for blacks), the fifteenth amendment (right to vote), and the Civil Rights Act, which was eventually repealed in 1883. One of my favorite aspects of this book is that there is a companion video and website that compliment it very well. The website is very interactive and goes along right with the book. It shares personal stories of the slaves. It also has a very descriptive timeline of events that occurred over several centuries, which is also provided in the back of the book. I enjoyed that this book and the website not only focused on the labor that the slaves did but their culture. It showed what types of clothes they wore, what type of music they played and listened to. When Africans were first brought to America, they never stopped believing in their culture and where they came from.
One of the founding principles of the United States is the ability for different races and ethnicities to come together and create one America, a melting pot. Although the predominant race was white Europeans and still is to this day, people of all races are free to their own culture. I believe that this book and all the content that goes along with it is very well written and accurate. I enjoyed that this book went to a more personal level and told stories of specific slaves, and their hardships. The authors’ thesis throughout this book is very vague but I think they still provide a substantial amount of information to back up their thesis, throughout the whole book. I agree fully that slavery was one of the most important influential aspects of American History. Although I think that there was information that the authors’ left out.
This book focuses predominantly on the slavery of Africans, even though many other races were also sold as slaves throughout many decades. Hundreds of thousands of Irish were sold to English settlers for hundreds of years, and often saw harsher punishment than their African counterparts. I feel like the credibility of the book would go up significantly if it focused on the broad spectrum of slavery, rather than only focusing on the history of slavery throughout African American history. I would put this book on a list of must reads, as it really shows you the smaller, more important details that built a foundation for this country.
Overall I felt that this book was a great at going into more detail on slavery and how important it actually was in the creation of America. Although I knew that slavery was a main component in the United States history, this book was an eye opener, and reminded me that almost all of the most significant events that shape the history of this country were primarily based around slavery and the freedom and equality of all persons.
Horton, James Oliver, and Lois E. Horton. Slavery and the Making of America. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print. “Slavery and the Making of America.” PBS. PBS, 1 Jan. 2004. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. .