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Introduction To Slavery In America History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Slavery in America developed its roots way back to when American explorers discovered the new world. As a result, the whites started to use the African folks as workers in their plantations and homes as slaves. The African natives that were taken back to America as slaves were of various ages and sex. The women would work in the homes as cooks and cleaners while the men spent their days in the plantation tending to the crops. The young girls helped with minor house works and the boys were tasked with the duties of bailing the hay and loading goods and crops on wagons. During the civil war, most of the Black men were recruited into the army to aid in the fight. After the fight, the thirteenth amendment was enacted on December 18th 1865 under the proclamation of the then secretary of state. It aimed at abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude of the Blacks. It was the first of the reconstruction acts enacted post the civil war. This amendment was soon after improved by the 14th amendment which gave the African Americans citizenship but little constitution rights. This was abridged by the 15th amendment which gave the African American males right to vote in the general elections during the reconstruction era

The term “reconstruction era” refers to the period between 1865 and 1877 after the great American civil war. It is the time in the US history whereby the governments of the various states put in motion efforts in a bid to solve the social, economic and political problems that came about due to the establishment of the 11 confederate states union that had disintegrated before or during the war. It was during this period that the Pres. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated (April 1865) due to his lenient policies and proposed passing of the 14th amendment (1866) which aimed at granting the black Americans full citizenship. This move was called for by the fact that there were newly established states that required governance and the in economic, social and political recovery aspects required that all people work together irrespective of their differences in a bid to achieve growth and development. However, these propositions were met with high disregards from the public; majority of whom believed that the blacks were meant to be slaves and had no rights. Consequently there developed riots and black codes which were meant to restrict blacks from their rights especially in the south.

The 14th amendment was passed during the reign of President Andrew Johnson. However, the southern states established the Black Codes which refers to the laws passed by these governments in order to limit the rights given to the freed African Americans. The 14th amendment gave the slaves a right to citizenship but the Black Codes prohibited them from voting, jury duty, possessing weapons, testifying against the whites and even working in certain positions secured for the white folks [1] . As a result of this, the radical republicans supported the passing of the civil rights bill which was intended to protect the African Americans from these Black Codes. However in April 1866, Pres. Andrew Johnson banned this bill claiming that America was a land for the Whites and should be governed by the white folks. Additionally, he claimed that the whites are a superior race to the blacks in terms of abilities and intellect. These statements clearly showed the extent of racism and inequality that existed between the two races. The radical republicans were able to yet again pass the civil rights bill in 1867. This move led to the rise of organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) whose main aim was to frighten and terrorize the African Americans from exercising their rights (voting).

The civil right bill did not suffice in protecting the African Americans from the Black Codes and other forms of racial injustices and inequalities. In a bid to justify these racial tendencies, governments in the US enacted the Jim Crow laws between 1876 and 1965. These were state and local laws in the US that supported racial segregation in public places such as public schools, transportation, restaurants and entertainment venues as well as restrooms for Whites and Blacks [2] . These laws by default resulted in inferior treatment of the Blacks in terms of accommodations, resource allocation, quality of products and services and even prices. Consequently the Black community in the States experienced a number of economic and social disadvantages due to the enactment of these laws in comparison to the Whites. Despite all these hardships, the African Americans still increased in numbers and managed to survive under these conditions. To counter this, the segregation worsened to a point where the Blacks were not allowed in some premises owned by whites, localities (residential estates occupied by whites), or even churches. This means that the Blacks lived in different areas away from the White communities and had their own religious and economic systems different from that of the White folks. In addition to this, interracial relationships were prohibited and if realized; punishable by death (blacks).

In 1896, the Supreme Court decided that the Louisiana law supporting racial segregation under the doctrine of separate but equal was constitutional. This ruling was brought about in the Plessy v. Ferguson case. According to the Jim Crow laws, transportation of the Blacks was also segregated and as such, they had their own railway cars different from the ones used by the whites. In this case, Plessy a 1/8th black American citizen, was arrested in 1892 for boarding a car designated for the whites. Under the Louisiana laws, he was considered as a black person and as such was arrested for civil disobedience. The case managed to get to the Supreme Court and after a while a vote of 7 to1 majority won the case. In 1879, Plessy pleaded guilty to the crime. This case sealed the foundation of the segregation laws and was used to further justify the segregation of color practiced thereafter [3] . In fact, it clarified the fact that segregation was legal as long as the facilities provided to both races were of the same quality. The southern States however did not provide the Blacks with quality facilities or even equal resources. This case actually justified the separation of race and inequalities in the States up to 1954 when it was overturned by the ruling made by the Supreme Court as pertaining to the “Brown v. Board of Education” case.

In addition to this, the congress passed the freedman act post civil war in March 1865. This act was established in order to punish the confederates who refused to surrender 60 days after the civil war [4] . The act stipulated that the slaves of such people would be freed. The congress therefore established this bureau to help the refugees and slaves left destitute due to the civil war. The main aim of this bureau was to assist these people settle, acquire land and to protect them from their former masters. Additionally, this bureau helped in developing schools, hospitals and other social amenities for the slaves and the citizens who had participated in the war but were displaced or otherwise left penniless by the whole ordeal. However, the Jim Crow laws to a large extent prohibited the effectiveness of this act through the limitations pertaining to land ownership and segregations.

These laws had adverse effects on the social lives of the blacks in the United States. They all seemed to fuel racism among the people. Collectively, these laws were designed to oppress the blacks and restrict their rights. As such, there were wide spread inequalities based on color (race). For example, the Jim Crow laws advocated for racial segregation under the cloak of separate but equal doctrine. However, there was no equality especially since the facilities offered to the whites were far more superior as compared to those afforded to the Blacks. Also the fact that the Blacks went to different schools, restaurants, restrooms and even used different transport systems clearly showed increased racism in the United States.

In addition to this, they also facilitated the presence of second class status among the races. This situation was mostly brought about by the Black Codes. Despite the fact that the 14th amendment gave the Blacks freedom and a right to citizenship, the Black Codes restricted them to exercise certain rights awarded to citizens such as voting, working in some positions, carrying firearms or even testifying against the whites. Consequently, the Blacks were inferior to the whites and their opinions carried no weight towards the political and social development and growth of the US.

The fact that the 14th and 15th amendments seemed to favor the Blacks and abolish slavery did not auger well with most states in the south. As a result, some faction groups and organizations were formed in order to terrorize and oppress the Blacks. One such group was the Ku Klux Klan which was established in 1866 in Tennessee with a set goal to ensure that the Blacks who had won the right to vote in the 1867 elections did not exercise this right. It was a racist group that claimed to undo what the civil war and the voting commissions had done to the US. In 1915, the organization diverted its wrath to the immigrants and Catholic Church who they claimed were anti US activists by supporting the Blacks.

The rise of such factions brought about various human injustices like lynching of the Blacks, brutalities some leading to death and various forms of intimidation. For example, if a Black person went into the wrong restaurant owned by whites or was seen talking to a white person, this constituted to a thorough beating or even imprisonment. These acts of lawlessness were further fueled by the fact that even the law enforcement agencies were not fond of the Black communities. Many cases were reported where crosses were burnt in the Black communities by members of the KKK as an intimidation technique used to scare the Blacks from voting or interacting with the whites. In addition to this, the whites used signs and symbols to separate the places that these races were allowed to visit. Consequently, this led to regional segregation whereby markets and entertainment venues as well as residential areas for the blacks were isolated far from those of the whites. In some states, the use of signs was supported by the laws to further dictate and enforce the segregation laws.

After the civil war, most of the blacks demanded for repatriations for the slavery. However these pleas fell into deaf ears and as such, poverty loomed among the Black community. This situation was worsened by the establishment of the Black code laws which prohibited the Blacks from property ownership including land and housing [5] . In addition to this, Blacks under these laws were not allowed to work in certain positions and were left with very few options such as working in the white farms and other odd jobs which attracted very low salaries and wages. On the same note, their businesses could not thrive due to the fact that the whites could not buy from the blacks or even supply them with the products to sell. All these factors led to an increase in poverty amongst the Black community.

In addition to this, the Jim Crow laws prohibited the blacks from owning land. As a result, they had no choice but to rent out pieces of land from the whites a fact that led to the rise of sharecropping. This system seemed to thrive since most white farmers had large chunks of land and little money to pay laborers especially after the war. Consequently, they struck a bargain with the black laborers entailing that they attend to the land for a small fee, shelter and basic provisions a factor that seemed to cater for the immediate needs of both races under the prevailing circumstances.

To further ensure that the Blacks were occupied at all times, the governments and local states put in place vagrancy laws. These were among the black code laws and dictated that all unemployed or wandering Blacks be arrested. These laws were specifically designed to arrest the Blacks since the penalty fees were too high and most of them could not foot the bill. As a result, they could be sent to county labor or be hired as workers for private people. As such, the laws ensured that there was enough labor to go around for the white farmers.

As mentioned earlier, these laws seemed to advocate for racism and segregation against the blacks. As a result, they affected the cultural bearing of the African Americans in all aspects. For example, the racism and segregation led to the establishment of “black churches”. Since the Blacks were not allowed to attend white churches, they had to establish their own religious foundations. These protestant churches focused on developing hope for the blacks who experienced hardships and oppression for the whites [6] . Eventually, as the churches grew larger, they offered education to their members in a bid to improve their status and chances of bettering their lives.

The music developed by the Blacks during this era was mainly of blues and jazz nature. These were somber songs sang to provide hope to the Blacks through the hardships that they faced. In addition to this, the rhythms were thought to have originated from the African continent and were perfected in the states. The Blacks were known to sing as they worked in the fields. These songs were later modified and improved over the years to form the now known Blues and jazz.

As per the sports, the African Americans were still segregated and discriminated upon. However, there were some exceptions such as Moses Fleetwood who was known as the first Black player to play the baseball major leagues with the whites despite his race, or other athletes who showed exceptional talent in the sporting arenas. In addition to this, the Blacks also developed their own Negro league which they used to facilitate communication and interactions amongst themselves since visiting each other was risky under the vagrancy laws.

The food common to the African Americans was called soul food. The term originated from the fact that the term “soul” referred to the Black culture for example soul music or soul train. The origin of the food traces its roots back to the African continent and was introduced to America through the transatlantic slave trade in the late 1870s. The cuisine included meals made of sorghum, rice, cassavas and turnips. As such, these meals became the dietary staples common to the enslaved Africans.

During the Jim Crow era, education to the African Americans was viewed as a source of inspiration to fight for change against the oppression that prevailed for a very long time. In as much as the Blacks faced various challenges in accessing educational facilities, the church played a pivotal role in providing access to such amenities. The Blacks were realized to be high academic achievers due to their motivation and persistence in a bid to get a better life and to fight for a better future for the generations to come.

Due to the oppressive state that the blacks were experiencing in the states, most of them opted to find ways to migrate back to their mother land. The whites on the other hand oppressed and harassed the Black folks with an aim of pushing them back to Africa. As such, the Blacks believed that the whites were superior to them and figured that there would be more chances and opportunities for them back in Africa. Consequently, this led to an increase in migration of the Blacks to other countries such as Liberia where they felt less intimidated by the whites and at the same time got a feeling of belonging after the hard and struggle full life [7] .

Conclusion

Slavery and segregation tormented the lives of the Africans at the wake of the 19th century. In as much as the 14th and the 15th amendments made attempts to protect and reward the blacks for their efforts, many a white folks still felt superior to them. This led to the establishment of archaic laws and policies formulated to justify the racism and other forms of injustice targeting the Black folks. However, the African Americans surprised the whole world by persisting through it all until such a time that they would realize true freedom and equality among the various races.


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