Slavery and the Underground Railroad

Introduction

American history is one of the richest histories in the world encompassing a wide range of events, seasons, movements and revolutions. From George Washington to Barrack Obama, America has continuously witnessed fascinating and historical moments.

Its global superiority and influence is attributed to efforts made by people like President Lincoln who are known throughout history. One of the famous historic events in the history of America was slavery, which led to the rise of movements that continuously fought for equality. This paper analyses slavery from 1492-1877, giving remarkable timeline events in history.

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Slavery timeline

It is believed that by 1501, slaves from parts of Africa were being ferried to Santo Domingo by Spanish settlers for the purpose of championing their interests[1]. The move was however met with resistance from slaves who engaged in revolts in order to fight for their human rights.

A good example is the Caribbean slave revolt of 1522 when enslaved people termed slavery as exploitation of rights. Under British colonialism, colonies in North America began receiving slaves from Africa with the first destination being Jamestown. They were treated like indentured servants and freed after a fixed period of time.

Seventeenth century welcomed the first anti-slavery publication which was released by Samuel Seawell, a jurist and printer in Massachusetts. This publication propagated efforts by activists and anti-slavery activities in North America through public awareness. Mr. Seawell believed that the only way of achieving the goal was through publications.

Nevertheless, the journey to realize equal treatment was not easy; it was resisted by colonizers. In 1705 slaves were described as property to be sold and bought, giving their masters authority to mistreat and kill those who demonstrated any form of resistance[2]. Virginia was the first state to recognize this creed as its law makers viewed slavery as real estate industry at that time.

Abolitionist Society

The movement was started in 1775 in Philadelphia for the purpose of fighting for the release of Negroes who were being held unlawfully as slaves. The movement was later named as Pennsylvania Abolition Society and is recognized as the oldest anti-slavery society in America. The society reorganized itself in 1780s to widen its mandate and activities[3].

One of these missions was to improve the living standards of Africans who were being undermined by white people. Besides fighting for the rights of enslaved and the need to end slavery, the movement promoted education and employment for the African-American community.

Slavery after 1775

The Declaration of Independence was to allow all United Colonies in America to be free and independent states. The Fugitive Slave Act was adopted in 1793 to outlaw any measures that would prevent the recapture of slaves who tried to escape. This undermined efforts to end slavery and promote the lives of African-Americans who were less considered. With continued pressure and efforts to have equal right in America, United States banned the importation of African Slaves in 1808.

This was seen as a forward step in ending slavery that was being compared to the real estate business. However, the ban did not end importation of slaves from Africa as white settlers smuggled slaves into the country. Even though United States had banned slave trade, the Missouri Comprise allowed it to be admitted as a slave state in 1820 while Maine was considered as a free state[4].

Compromise of 1850

This was a series of five legislative bills that were to enhance a balance between Northern and Southern regions by controlling the spread of slavery. The first bill allowed entry of California to the Union as a free state whereas the second one gave the people of Utah and New Mexico a chance to vote and decided for their states.

According to the third bill, the Republic of Texas relinquished parcels of land which it had acquired in New Mexico. This enabled Texas to pay a debt it owed Mexico after receiving $ 10 million from the land[5]. In addition, the fourth bill prohibited slavery in the District of Columbia. Controversially, the fifth bill imposed a heavy fine on federal officials who failed to arrest defiant salves.

Slavery after the Compromise of 1850

Kansas and Nebraska were allowed by Congress to choose between slavery and free states through the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This resulted into clashes between the pro and anti- Kansas-Nebraska Act, forcing the Supreme Court to intervene. Through the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, the court dismissed the idea of slaves being granted citizenship arguing that they were not recognized by law[6]. The court further stated that Congress lacked constitutional mandate to outlaw slavery in Kansas and Nebraska.

It is believed that the Dred Scott Decision fully contributed to the Civil War immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln as the first republican President from Illinois in 1860. Existing differences between Northern and Southern States continued before hitting the peak in 1961 when southern states pulled out of the Union.

The secession was nullified by President Lincoln who ordered soldiers to quell the rebellion through an attack on the South. This led to a fatal clash that lasted four years, claiming the lives of more than six hundred thousand people. It was during this time that the president drafted the Emancipation Proclamation which was issued in January 1863[7]. The decree freed slaves in rebel states leaving those in loyal states in bondage.

Consequently, pressure mounted for the amendment of the proclamation to completely abolish slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment of 1865 outlawed slavery in the United States[8]. This allowed black people to hold legislative offices, promoted social justice and access to public facilities.

Nevertheless, the fight went on as some states continued to undermine African-Americans. Several massacres were witnessed including the “Opelousas Massacre” in1868 and the “Clinton Massacre” in 1875. The appointment of President Rutherford in 1877 marked the end of reconstruction although segregation continued to haunt African-Americans.

Conclusion

It is evident that slavery is a major component of the American history which had significant impact on the most powerful nation on the planet. The war against it was brutal and fatal, claiming the lives of many black and white people. Efforts to end slavery led to the formation of influential and important movements that have remained active in fighting against social injustices and promoting equality in the American society.

Bibliography

Davis, Ronald. “Slavery in America: Historical Overview.” Slavery in America. http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/history/hs_es_overview.htm (accessed October 9, 2011)

Henretta, James and David Brody. America: A Concise History. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

Schneider, Dorothy and Carl Schneider. Slavery in America. New York City: Infobase Publishing, 2006.

Ronald Davis, “Slavery in America: Historical Overview”. Slavery in America. Accessed October 9, 2011, http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/history/hs_es_overview.htm.
Dorothy Schneider and Schneider Carl, Slavery in America (New York City: Infobase Publishing, 2006), 16.
Ronald Davis, “Slavery in America: Historical Overview,” Slavery in America, Accessed October 9, 2011, http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/history/hs_es_overview.htm.
Ibid
Dorothy Schneider and Schneider Carl, Slavery in America (New York City: Infobase Publishing, 2006), 17.
James Henretta and Brody David, America: A Concise History (Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009), 349.
Ronald Davis, “Slavery in America: Historical Overview,” Slavery in America, Accessed October 9, 2011, http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/history/hs_es_overview.htm.
Dorothy Schneider and Schneider Carl, Slavery in America (New York City: Infobase Publishing, 2006), 17.

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