Tag Archives: Slavery

Slavery Turns Black In The New World

0474Eurocentric modern African history begins alongside the discovery of the New World. Europeans and the Church needed labor in abundance. Indians were susceptible to European diseases, and not suited to the hard labor that was demanded of the New World cash crops. Relying on the long stable Arab Slave Trade, Spain imported the first Africans to Hispaniola 1501.

At this point in history, Africans were a tiny minority of the world’s slave population. Most slaves were non-moslem Arabs; this included many captured Europeans of Barbary raids, traded across Northern Africa.

As labor demand ratcheted upward, more slaves were needed. Europeans pressed and plied African rulers or undermined local power structures to acquire their labor pool, and many slaves were created out of political enemies. Between ten and twenty million survived the Atlantic passage. In the New World, they faced disease and death.

The total number is inexact, and just as many slaves perished in the process of passage or capture. Tens of millions of people were removed from northern Africa, a depopulation of human capital unprecedented in scale. The Portuguese middle-men of the Atlantic Slave Trade would turn Africans into the overwhelming majority of the world’s slaves by 1800.

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Political Tension Precipitates Civil War

N v. S

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Civil wars are the culmination of long standing social, economic, and political differences.  While some might believe that it was the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 that set the American Civil War into motion, conflict and change were both long overdue.  Irreconcilable contrasts between the north and the south, many of which predate the country itself, finally came to a head.  These differences finally faced a grand (albeit, bloody) opportunity to face resolution, and transform this country into something new, and in many ways, unlike before the conflict, undivided.

Before there was even an American Constitution, industrial and commercial power in the continent was centered in the north.  The focus in the south was upon agriculture, which required a large, cheap workforce.  Later on, in during the industrial revolution, the northern states also needed cheap workers by the dozen,   but by that time, slave importation had ceased, and most of the slaves were in the south.  The type of labor required in the south was more unskilled than in the northern colonies.  If the barbarism of slavery was to make sense in America, it only made sense on the plantation.  By the start of the Civil War, social norms in the north generally frowned upon slavery, while it was the only profitable means for the south.

During the formation of this country, there was great factionalization between those in power as to the direction and level of control this new government would take.  Some states were more “Federalist,” while most in the south, “Anti-Federalists,” wanted strong state governments.  They figured that they were basically self-independent, and felt that an overarching federal government would micromanage them more towards the good of the Union at the expense of their state.  As the northern atmosphere became more receptive towards abolition, the southern states, for the protection of their own economic standing, would make a last ditch claim and assertion to their state rights by seceding.

The decision to keep slavery itself had never reached unanimity between the northern and southern states.  The Missouri Compromise, in 1820, set boundaries for slavery’s expansion, and the Compromise of 1850 was made to balance the slave and free states.  But as an issue, the moral position on its place in our country was never tackled by a firm written law.  With legislation largely “dancing” around any mutually satisfying commitment, the loopholes in these compromises caused strife around the country, with “border ruffians” from pro-slavery Missouri pouring into “Bleeding Kansas” to help make it a slave state, with both sides carrying on a small war of their own for three years.  Meanwhile, a gag rule in Washington DC, from 1835-1844 prevented anti-slavery petitions from congressional discussion.

Resentment in the slavery issue created three types of abolitionists in the north.  Some wanted to end slavery outright, some others gradually, or those like Lincoln, hoped to stop its spread.  Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped to turn the public against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  John Brown, who advocated violence and insurrection to end slavery, raided the government armory at Harpers Ferry with the hope of acquiring enough weapons to spark a slave revolt.  At death, after his conviction for treason, he proclaimed that “the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away; but with blood,” predicting in October of 1859, just over a year in advance, the start of the Civil War.

Finally, all of this builds up to a time where politics were changing.  The current political parties, the Whigs and the Democrats began to separate by region.  The Republicans, spun off of former Whigs as an anti-slavery party in 1854, pushed a progressive agenda that was feared by those in the south. Four major candidates gained electoral votes, but the north, and its booming population took the majority.  People voted along regional lines, with Lincoln winning by clear electoral majority.  The popular votes of all his opponents, if united, would have been overwhelming enough for defeat.

Upon Lincoln’s election, South Carolina would open a convention to discuss secession and decide to leave the Union on December 24th.  Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Virginia would follow suit during the “Secession Winter,” while the incumbent President, Buchanan, posed no challenge. Large portions of the United States Army were parceled out with violent incident.  This country had fallen apart by the time Lincoln sworn in.  Entering office, he faced a split nation, an unsure army, and a moral issue to overcome.

 

Daniel Malo
US History
Dr. Hatzberger
M 630-930
2008

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REVIEW: “The Life of a Slave Girl”

Slavery: A Corrupting, Futile Exercise

Amazon Thrift Edition or Free Text from Project Gutenberg

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In her account of a servants in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs works in great detail to share with the reader the cold realities of institutional slavery, examining the morally corrupting influence it has upon the master and the degradation in the spirit of the slave; both human, but separated by color in a relationship that bears tragic consequences to both parties.

In her life as a possession, Linda, the character of which this story is centered around, grows up, at first, unaware of her role as a slave under white masters.  She is raised early on by her parents who protect her from the harshness of their situation, providing a loving and nurturing relationship.  It is from those early recollections she finds herself as capable as any other, longing for the normalcy of having her own home and family, and it is her persistence in this dream that carries her through the rougher moments of her servitude at the hands of an ill-willed and villainous master, Dr. Flint.  She takes pride in the levels of independence she is able to attain for herself, maintaining her own strong will and protection/control of her body by her knowledge and cunning.  Her hopes for herself become put on hold after motherhood, for the chance that her children will be able to have a piece of freedom, family, and shelter for themselves.  She sacrifices years of her life in hiding so that they will have an easier existence away from the control of Dr. Flint.

“I should never know peace till my children were emancipated.”  Linda

The antagonist of this narrative, Dr. Flint, is a morally bankrupt individual, lacking s any redeeming qualities. He is thoroughly one-dimensional, totally corrupted by the power that the slave system grants him. He sees no reason not to use and abuse his slaves in any way he chooses, and he never shows any signs of sympathy for them or remorse for his crimes. If he expresses kindness, it is invariably a ruse to try to get Linda to sleep with him. It often seems that forcing Linda to submit to him is more important to him than simply sleeping with her. He is infuriated by her defiance, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of breaking her will. Rather than simply raping her, he persists in his efforts make her acknowledge his mastery.  Dr. Flint seeks to lock Linda up in an isolated cottage in the woods so he can sleep with her freely.  When Linda escapes, he pursues her relentlessly, putting himself hundreds of dollars in debt to chase her to New York. After his death, his spirit lives on in the form of his son-in-law, Mr. Dodge.

“If I have been harsh with you at times, your willfulness drove me to it,.  You know I exact obedience from my own children, and I consider you as yet a child.”  Dr. Flint

This book shows the futility of such a practice.  It makes both the slave and the master less of a human.  Dr. Flint is cruel, hypocritical, and conniving, and he never experiences a moment of guilt, self-doubt, or sympathy for his victims. He never questions his right to do whatever he pleases to his slaves. Dr. Flint represents the cruelty, callousness, and treachery of the entire slave system.  He symbolizes the defining qualities that the system of slavery prerequisites: a lust for power, moral corruption, and a brutal nature. When Linda defies him, she threatens the legitimacy of slavery itself, and it is this defiance that propels his insistence on “mastering” her.

2008 – American History

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