The American history of slavery reflects years long before the 17th century. The slavery gained such popularity in that it was almost seen as a normal or usual activity. During those times, slave trade was the most paying form of business and therefore slaves could be shipped from all over the world to America. Most slaves worked as home attendants, agricultural and industrial workers and other odd American laborers. However, as revolution dawned on the people, several reformists started the fight against slavery leading to the birth of abolitionism which led to complete end of slavery in America in the year 1865. South America was the most popular concerning slave trade and the most affected people were Africans who largely originated from West Africa.
The birth of abolitionism
Close to the end of the 18th century, slavery had so gained momentum but on the other hand so had the activists who were against it emerged. The very intuition that led to the emergence of abolitionism was when the US constitution was made and accepted slavery at around 1790s. The constitution approved slavery but did not recognize slaves as free people but rather as a “fraction” of a person. They were to be regarded as “other persons” during the US head count.
This law started the heated debate about slavery and a church leader in Pennsylvania officially called the big movement called the “abolition of slavery”. From then onward the word abolition was constantly used to mean the struggle in trying to eliminate slavery in the US. The fight was started by free African-American nationals, church radicals, economists, and other European forces. Those calling for end of slave trade had many perspectives, e.g. church radicals called it barbaric and inhuman and against the will of God for humankind. Economist had the perspective of effects of wages and general prices of commodities in North America due to unpaid laborers in the South. Between 1830 and late 1870s many abolitionist movements had been formed to fight slavery and slave trade. Abolitionism largely started in the northern parts especially in Massachusetts and Vermont which abolished slavery in 1780 and 1777 respectively. The emancipation laws then spread gradually to other North American states e.g. New York and Pennsylvania where in 1805 almost all states in the north had embraced the abolition.
In the north very strong religious movements came into the limelight that imparted evangelical guidelines to bring to a close the sinful acts of slavery. Many spiritual leaders eg Nathaniel, Beecher and Finney called upon spiritual revivals in early 1820. This was another major contribution to the start of abolitionism and the so called “the Second Great Awakening”. This led to revival nourishment of some leaders e.g. Lloyd William who called upon the immediate emancipation of all slaves without compensation to the slave owners.
The process of abolition however was very slow in the south and most influential people were against it. To the advantage of the abolitionist movements, the US prohibited slave trade both locally and internationally but the smuggling still continued at lower volumes.
Emergence of The Second Great Awakening.
The era between 1790s and 1840s was called the second great awakening. Radical American Quakers were participating in the anti-slavery liberation which greatly opposed slavery. Anti- slavery activism was introduced following a religious wave that hit the US in 1830s. It involved a widespread religious revolutionalism among the people of America that came along with other reforming crusades that were for women rights, pacifism and temperance. It was greatly preached by the Baptists and Methodists in Ohio, Kentucky and North Carolina. The period was characterized with powerful religious reconversion. People were called upon to repent and leave their sinful actions. Crusades and camp meeting were held in the wilderness to pray and pour out their sins out. Leaders like Beecher and Finney stressed upon what people should do to get back to the glory of God.
It was this conversion messages that led to emotional softness of the people such that those who felt “touched” by the word even started fleeing the slaves they held. Being the same period when abolitionist movements were raising steadily, the concomitant fleeing of slaves was noted. The awakening the stressed that there was no way one could claim to be in the ways of the Lord while at the same be holding a slave at the homes. This emotional wave made many converts to abandon slavery at the expense of religion. The spiritual rebirth and reconnection to God through Christ urged many converts to abandon inhuman acts among them slavery which was considered as a persona l sin. Finney and his fellow preachers insisted that atonement for sin could only happen if a person fully believed and surrendered all unconditionally to their creator and let His will be done. Renunciation of sins hence included all barbaric acts that one was involved in e.g. keeping a slave in your homestead. It was believed that it was only then that God could bestow His grace back to human kind. The conviction that was put in the hearts of people was to put the concerns of others in one heart including slaves. This conviction is what created the spiritual anxiety to have the urge to be together with God even after death. It stated that what one did to others while in the world largely contributed to whether one would live eternally after death. Leaving sinful acts behind prepared one to the second coming of Christ.
Emotionalism was the main stressed aspect of conversion. It encouraged people to abandon ignorance but rather, embrace the spirit of concern to the society. One had to be emotionally connected to the people around them and take care of them and avoid harassment. It was this camp meetings that pricked the convert souls and they started “practicing God wills” in their daily lives.
Thus the evangelical revival highly contributed to the reinforcement of abolitionist movements which was a good coincidence of events between their calling and their ungodly deeds. Slaves were thus at an advantage of this promise of eternal life and heavenly salvation.
American Anti slavery society II
As heated campaigns fuelled against anti-slavery, many abolitionist movements continued to emerge. There were numerous anti slave movements that came into light in the late 1820s. These abolitionist movements moved from state to state and within farms liberating slaves and at the same time killing whites in the south of America. Instead of the states considering upholding abolition, laws were enacted to control slave conduct and behavior. During the reign of President Jackson, anxiety in the southern states mounted with the founding of the American Anti slavery society II by radical abolitionists Theodore and Tappan in 1933. They later left the leadership of the society to William Lloyd.This movement which was founded in Philadelphia pledged at all costs to bring the immediate freeing of all slaves. It aggressively inflicted the congress to end slavery via sending petitions to abolish slavery. The society was keen at sensitizing both the northerners and southern people how slavery was an inhumane act.
The adoption of the organizations sentiments clearly outlined that slavery was illegal and more so it was like having a covenant with the devil. They called for equal rights between whites and African Americans.
By the end of 1935, the organization’s membership was tremendous at about 0.3 million. The high growth rate of the organization was attributed to the presence of other reforming groups including the second great awakening wave that was prevailing.
The American Anti slavery society was advocating for the freeing of the human spirit and the freedom of every gender and race of the world which had become barriers in society. The sentimental declaration was detailed with issues brought about by difference in color. It stated that any enslavement to an African was just as equal as enslaving an American. It urged the congress to exercise it power to bring the immediate emancipation of slaves. Sentiments called for equal privileges for all according to qualification regardless of color and origin. The act of slavery was clearly portrayed as piracy of human kind or rather man stealing. Striving towards the end of the agony of servitude, brutality, infliction of punishment and hunger were the main sentiments. Rights to legal, religious, social and civil information were also sentiments in the declaration. Due to differences to whether women should hold positions in the society, the American Anti slavery society split and at around 1840. Though divided, both societies threatened the government of plans of some states in the south seceding if they did not come to terms with the call upon abolition. Lloyd and his followers called upon the creation of a new government which totally disregarded slavery and nullification of the then constitution. Infact he went to the extent of publicly putting ablaze a copy of the American constitution regarding it as for of slavery.
As the call for abolition spread across the US, so did many abolitionists who ran different abolition movements emerged. There was such zeal to end slavery that so many people were already in the fore front in the fight against slavery. Most of the prominent abolitionists came from the north which was strongly anti slavery as opposed to the southerners. The south’s economy solely depended on the labor force that the slaves provided and hence they did not embrace abolition.
Among them was William Lloyd who was originally from Massachusetts. Garrison started his activism at a tender age to later become one of the most radical reformists. He later with other reformist like Theodore and Tappan founded the American anti slavery society in 1933. From a co editor in an emancipation newsletter, he climbed up and published his own newsletter “The Liberator” in 1931.
He was also a major founder of the New England Anti Slavery Society and Friends of New Reforms organizations. He gave equal rights to both men and women to lead the organizations e.g. the Seneca Falls Convention. He led many anti slavery lectures prior to the civil war. These lectures fueled the start of the civil war in 1961.
Among the most prominent of the abolitionist was a lady Harriet Tubman. She had fled as a slave from the south and was hence actively involved in fleeing more slaves from the south. She was an organizing member of the Underground Railroad an enigmatic organization that was at the mercy of the slaves. She and her fellow free African American e.g. John Brown financed the organization in providing food and shelter to many slaves escaping from the south. She formed the Underground Railroad after the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. This act was enacted to call for return of all slaves who had fled and were hiding in the North. Instead, she tried hiding and feeding the slaves and helping them have directions of escape.
John Brown being an abolitionist was different from the majority of them. While others were lectures to convince the people, Brown was violent and he mostly engaged in war. He was a leader of Free soil militia and engaged in manslaughter of whites who were for slavery and was engaged in numerous slave rebellions. Brown had met Frederick in 1847 and had boldly mentioned his intention for the war against slavery. His family amazingly adopted a black child as a sign that he did not support slavery. He broadly led the Pottawatomie massacre that killed five settlers who were for the slavery. He and his followers kidnapped US arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859 and this led to his arrest by Federal forces and he was later hanged in Virginia. His plan was to arm as many slaves as possible so that the rebellion would be successful. The Harpers Raid is believed to one of the most intriguing fuel leading to the start of the civil about one and a half years later. He is therefore remembered for being one of the martyrs of abolition cause being a strong supporter of the Republican Party.
Another of the radical abolitionist was Fredrick Douglas. He was born in Maryland as a slave. As he grew up, he learned how to read and write with the help of his wife and he became a great public speaker. Though he was not educated he had a compelling passion for writing and reading. The ‘Columbian orator’ became a good companion. He was later appointed as a public lecturer in an anti slavery society in Massachusetts and also started publishing his own antislavery paper called the North Star. His interaction with William Lloyd and John Brown geared the abolitionist spirit within him. Fredrick also participated in Seneca Falls Convention of women and was actively involved in the fight against slavery. He was afflicted by his daughter being sent away from school for being African American. Till then, he never stopped the zeal for abolition in US. Fredrick was also involved in the Second Great Awakening wave as a preacher in a Methodist church. The Underground Railroad organization was having his full support. Due to his prominence in the abolition motion, he gained popularity and became a chief advisor of the then president Lincoln.
The civil war
Many consequences had build up leading to the start of the American civil war in 1861. But most notably, the civil war was driven compulsively by the abolition movements that had in operation since 1830s. These movements were preaching the end of slavery in the South. Many people from the North hated the fact that the fellow humans due to their color, race and origin would cause intimidation to them. Also due to free slave labor in the South, it led to unequal economic balance to the North. The Northerners hence called for abolition of slavery and this was with the support of the Free Soil party which was a strong republican campaign stronghold.
Following the presidential victory of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the Republican Party had promised to bring to a close slave trade. According to his manifesto, slave trade would not be established in any more states but would be confined to its present states and later abolished.
As the South had lesser positions in the House of Representatives, they predicted the government would easily abolish slave trade and hence they would lose their flourishing economic status. Their large cotton plantations would lack laborers. Therefore, months before the swearing in of Abraham Lincoln, seven south states led by South Carolina seceded from the union in 1861. This states formed the confederacy.
In late April 1861, the confederacy forces succumbed one military system at Fort Sumter. This was the starting point of the war. The president mobilized army men from the North or the union. More states in the proslavery confederacy seceded. President Lincoln announced an emancipation proclaim late 1962.
This was taken as a proclaim of total war by the confederacy. Led by Robert Lee, the souths attacked the union states but in 1963, were defeated at the battle of Gettysburg. Having failed at many more fronts, Lee the commander of the south admitted defeat and surrendered at Appomattox court in early 1965 prior to a plan of arming the southern slaves.
Despite his surrender battles were still on effect e.g. the battle of Columbus and the battle of west point. This was among the last battles in the civil war. After surrender of Lee, many other confederate officials and their states followed suit. Three days after the surrender Lee, on April 14th, President Abraham Lincoln was shot and he died shortly where he was succeeded by Andrew Johnson. During the entire war time all the fled slaves joined the union in the war against the South. About 0.2 million African Americans fled slaves participated in the war in support of President Lincoln.Throughout the war, President Lincoln denied any intervention by the British and French governments.
Despite a plan by the confederates to sabotage cotton trade and cause an economic fall in Europe due to lack of raw material, hence their intervention, the Britain did not join. Instead they had a surplus from Egypt and hence no need to join.
Due to the huge population of the north, the war ended in April 1965. All confederate states of America surrendered. Later an amendment to the US constitution called the 13th amendment led to the fleeing of all held slaves in the Southern states. This was on the 6th of December 1965. A second amendment called the 14th amendment followed shortly afterward driven by abolitionists and it served to protect the rights of the fled slaves. This included their rights to own land, citizenship, legal matters, life, property and liberty.
It is very keen to note that despite the emergence of abolition movements in Northern states of America, maybe the liberation towards the end of slave trade could not have taken a faster course. It was for this men and women who realized the value of human kind and made rational decisions in the complete abolition. The process could have happened but maybe a slower rate, or even rather to consider would not end at all.
The abolitionists are key symbols in the history of American slave history and the Civil war which liberated them. The church also played a major role in the abolition as seen in the rise of evangelism in the second great awakening. The civil war which was as a differential agreement between states can only be called a fortune to the slaves who may have been living in bondage all their lives. Abolitionism and the associated movements ought to be forever remembered by all African American. The mention of the civil war should also be good news for them to tell.