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PART ONE: SLAVERY IN ANTEBELLUM AMERICA. A:SLAVERY IN ANTEBELLUM AMERICA 1818: The year of the birth of Frederick Douglass, slavery was already an old.

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Presentation on theme: "PART ONE: SLAVERY IN ANTEBELLUM AMERICA. A:SLAVERY IN ANTEBELLUM AMERICA 1818: The year of the birth of Frederick Douglass, slavery was already an old."— Presentation transcript:


2 A:SLAVERY IN ANTEBELLUM AMERICA 1818: The year of the birth of Frederick Douglass, slavery was already an old institution in America. Two centuries had passed since the first 20 Africans landed in Virginia from a Dutch ship. After the abolition of slavery in the North, slavery had become the “peculiar institution” of the South – that is, an institution unique to Southern society.

3 SLAVERY IN ANTEBELLUM AMERICA Despite the hopes of some of the Founding Fathers that slavery might die out, in fact the institution survived the crisis of the American Revolution and rapidly expanded westward. On the eve of the Civil War, the slave population had risen to 4 million, its rate of natural increase more than making up for the prohibition in 1808 of further slave imports from Africa.

4 SLAVERY IN ANTEBELLUM AMERICA In the South as a whole, slaves made up 1/3 of the total population and in the cotton producing states of the Deep South about ½. 1850: Slavery had crossed the Mississippi River and was expanding rapidly in AK, LA, and eastern TX. 1860: 1/3 of the nation’s cotton crop was grown west of the Mississippi River.

5 “COTTON IS KING” The Old South was the largest and most powerful slave society the modern world has known. Its strength rested on a virtual monopoly of cotton, the South’s “white gold.” By the 19 th century, cotton had assumed an unprecedented role in the world economy.

6 “COTTON IS KING” About ¾ of the world’s cotton supply came from the Southern USA. 1830: Cotton had become the most important American export. On the eve of the Civil War, it represented well over ½ the total of American exports. 1860: The economic investment represented by the slave population exceeded the value of the nation’s factories, railroads, and banks combined.

7 B: SLAVERY AND THE NATION 1816: Henry Clay stated “Slavery forms an exception … to the general liberty prevailing in the United States” But Clay, like many of his contemporaries, underestimated slavery’s impact in the entire nation.

8 SLAVERY AND THE NATION The “free states” had ended slavery, but they were hardly unaffected by it. The Constitution enhanced the power of the South in the House of Representatives and Electoral College and required all states to return fugitive slaves from bondage (3/5 Compromise/Fugitive Slave Clause)

9 SLAVERY AND THE NATION Slavery shaped the lives of all Americans, white as well as black. It helped determine where they lived, how they worked, and under what conditions they could exercise their freedom of speech, assembly, and press.

10 SLAVERY AND THE NATION Northern merchants and manufacturers participated in the slave economy and shared in the profits. Money earned in the cotton/slave trade helped finance industrial development in the North.. Northern ships carried cotton to NY and Europe, northern bankers financed cotton plantations, north companies insured slave property, and northern factories turned cotton into cloth. Northern manufacturers supplied cheap fabrics (“Negro cloth”) to clothe the South’s slaves.

11 SLAVERY AND THE NATION Slavery led the South down a very different path of economic development than the North, limiting the growth of industry, discouraging immigrants from entering the region, and inhibiting technological progress. Southern banks existed primarily to help finance the plantations.

12 THE OLD SOUTH: SOME GENERALIZATIONS The further North, the cooler the climate, the fewer the slaves and the lower commitment to maintaining slavery. The further south, the warmer the climate, the more slaves, and the higher commitment to maintaining slavery.


14 THE MIDDLE SOUTH There were many plantations in eastern VA and western TN. 1850: Slaves accounted for 30% of the population of the Middle South. There was an average of 8 slaves per slaveholder. 36% of white families owned slaves.

15 THE LOWER SOUTH Secessionists would prevail after Lincoln’s election in 1860. 1850: Slaves accounted for 47% of the Lower South’s population. There was an average of 12 slaves per slaveholder. 43% of white families owned slaves.

16 THE LOWER SOUTH Less than 2% of Lower South’s blacks were free. Lower South was the area where the brutality of slavery was most harsh.

17 THE PLANTER ARISTOCRACY The South was ruled politically and economically by wealthy plantation owners. 1850: Only 1,733 families owned more than 100 slaves; yet they dominated Southern politics. The South was the least democratic region of the country.

18 THE PLANTER ARISTOCRACY There was a huge gap between rich and poor. South had a very poor public education system thus planters sent their children to private schools. Planters carried on the “cavalier” tradition of early VA. Planters: a landed genteel class

19 THE SOUTHERN WHITE MAJORITY 75% of white Southerners owned no slaves. Mostly subsistence farmers and did not participate in the market economy. Poorest were called “white trash”, “hillbillies”, or “crackers.” Fiercely defended the slave system as it proved white superiority.

20 THE SOUTHERN WHITE MAJORITY Poor whites took comfort that they were “equal” to the planter class. They hoped someday to own slaves. Slavery proved effective in controlling blacks and ending slavery might result in race mixing and blacks competing with whites for jobs.

21 F: FREE BLACKS OF THE SOUTH By 1860: Numbered about 250,000. In the Border South, emancipation increased starting in the late 18 th century. In the Lower South, many free blacks were mulattos – white father and black mother. This was evidence of the sexual intimidation and abuse by male slaveholders.

22 FREE BLACKS OF THE SOUTH Some were able to buy their freedom from their labor after hours. (Task System) Some owned property. A few even owned slaves though this was very rare.

23 FREE BLACKS IN THE SOUTH Faced discrimination in the South. They were prohibited from certain occupations and from testifying against whites in court. They had no political rights. They were always in danger of being forced back into slavery by slave traders.

24 G: FREE BLACKS OF THE NORTH Free blacks numbered about 250,000. Some states forbade their entrance or denied them public education. Most states denied them suffrage.

25 THE PRO-SLAVERY IDEOLOGY Even those who had no direct stake in slavery shared with planters a deep commitment to white supremacy. Indeed, racism – the belief that blacks were innately inferior to whites and unsuited for life in any conditions other than slavery – formed one pillar of the pro-slavery ideology.

26 THE PRO-SLAVERY IDEOLOGY Most slaveholders also found legitimation for slavery in Biblical passages such as the injunction that servants should obey their masters. Others argued that slavery was essential to human progress. Without slavery, planters would be unable to cultivate the arts, sciences, and other civilized pursuits.

27 THE PRO-SLAVERY IDEOLOGY Still other defenders of slavery insisted that the institution guaranteed equality for whites by preventing the growth of a class doomed to the life of unskilled labor. They claimed to be committed to the ideal of freedom.

28 THE PRO-SLAVERY IDEOLOGY Slavery for blacks, they claimed, was the surest guarantee of “perfect equality” among whites, liberating them from the “low, menial” jobs like factory labor and domestics service by wage laborers of the North. Slavery made possible the considerable degree of economic autonomy enjoyed not only by planters but by non-slaveholding whites.


30 SLAVES AND THE LAW For slaves, the “peculiar institution” meant a life of incessant toil, brutal punishment, and the constant fear that families would be destroyed by sale (slavery’s greatest psychological horror). Before the law, slaves were property.

31 SLAVES AND THE LAW Although they had a few legal rights (all states made it illegal to kill a slave except in self- defense, and slaves accused of serious crimes were entitled to their day in court before all white juries), these were haphazardly enforced. Slaves could be sold or leased by their owners at will and lacked any voice in the governments that ruled them.

32 SLAVES AND THE LAW By 1830, it was a crime to teach a slave to read or write. Not all these laws were rigorously enforced. Some members of slaveholding families taught children to read and write – although rather few since well over 90% of the slave population was illiterate in 1860.

33 SLAVE LABOR Slavery was a system of labor, “from sunup to first dark,” with only brief interruptions for meals, work occupied most of the slaves’ time. The large majority of slaves – 75% of women and nearly 90% of men – worked in the fields. Large plantations were diversified communities where slaves performed all kinds of work.

34 SLAVE LABOR The precise organization of their labor varied according to the crop and size of the holding. On small farms, the owner often toiled side-by-side with his slaves.

35 SLAVE LABOR The largest concentration of slaves, however, lived and worked on the plantations in the Cotton Belt, where men, women and children labored in gangs, often under the direction of an overseer and perhaps a slave “driver’ who assisted him.

36 SLAVE LABOR Among slaves, overseers had a reputation for meting out harsh treatments. Solomon Northup, a free black who was kidnapped from the North and spent twelve years in slavery recalled “The requisite qualifications for an overseer are utter heartlessness, brutality, and cruelty. It is his business to produce large crops, no matter [what the] cost.”


38 MAINTAINING ORDER Slave owners employed a variety of means in their attempt to maintain order and discipline among their human property and persuade them to labor productivity. Their system rested on force. Masters had almost complete discretion in inflicting punishment, and rare was the slave who went through his or her life without experiencing a whipping. Any infraction of plantation rules, no matter how minor, could be punished by the lash.

39 MAINTAINING ORDER Subtle means of control supplemented violence. Owners encouraged and exploited divisions among slaves, especially between field hands and house servants. They created a system of incentives that rewarded good work with time off or even payments – in Virginia a slaveholder paid 10 cents a day for good work.

40 MAINTAINING ORDER The slave owed the master complete respect and absolute obedience. No aspect of their lives, from the choice of marriage partners to how they spent their free time, was immune from the master’s interference. The entire system of southern justice was designed to enforce the master’s control over the person and labor of his slaves.

41 THE “CRIME” OF CELIA Celia was a slave who killed her master while resisting a sexual assault. Missouri state law deemed “any woman” in such circumstances to be acting in self- defense. But, the Court ruled that Celia was not a woman.

42 THE “CRIME” OF CELIA She was a slave, whose master had complete power over her person. The Court sentenced her to death. However, since Celia was pregnant, her execution was postponed until her child had been born, so as to not deprive her owner’s heir of their property rights.

43 MAINTAINING ORDER As the 19 th century progressed, some southern states enacted laws to prevent the mistreatment of slaves, and their material living conditions improved. With the price of slavery rising, it made economic sense for owners to become concerned with the health and living conditions of their human property.

44 MAINTAINING ORDER Improvements in the slaves’ living conditions were meant to strengthened slavery, not undermine it. Even as the material conditions and health of slaves improved, the South drew tighter and tighter the chains of bondage. More and more states set limits on voluntary manumission, requiring such acts be approved by the legislature.

45 MAINTAINING ORDER Few slave societies in history have so systematically closed all avenues to freedom as the Old South.

46 SLAVE CULTURE Slaves never abandoned their desire for freedom or their determination to resist total white control of their lives. In the face of grim realities, they succeeded in forging a semi-independent culture, centered on family and church. This enabled them to survive the experience of bondage without surrendering their self- esteem and to pass from generation to generation a set of ideals and values fundamentally at odds with those of their masters.

47 SLAVE CULTURE Slave culture drew on the African heritage. African influences were evident in the slaves’ music and dances, styles of religious worship, and the use of herbs by slave healers to combat disease. Since most slaves in the USA were American born and lived amidst a white majority, slave culture was a new creation, shaped by African traditions and American valves and experiences.

48 THE SLAVE FAMILY At the center of the slave community stood the family. In the USA, where the slave population grew from natural increase rather than continued importation from Africa, slaves had an even male-female ratio, making the creation of families more possible.

49 THE SLAVE FAMILY The law did not recognize the legality of slave marriages. The Master had to consent before a man and woman could “jump over the broomstick” (the slaves’ wedding ceremony), and families stood in constant danger of being broken up by sale. Nonetheless, most adult slave married, and their unions, when not disrupted by sale, typically lasted a lifetime.

50 THE SLAVE FAMILY Most slaves lived in two-parent families. But because of constant sales, the slave community had a significantly higher number of female- headed families than among whites, as well as families in which grandparents, other relatives, or even- non- kin assumed responsibility for raising children.

51 THE SLAVE FAMILY As the domestic slave trade expanded with the rise of the Cotton Kingdom, about one marriage in three in slave-selling states like VA was broken by sale. Fear of sale permeated slave life, especially in the Upper South.

52 THE SLAVE FAMILY As a reflection of their paternalistic responsibilities, some owners encouraged slaves to marry. Others, however, remained unaware of their slaves’ family connections and their interest in slave children was generally limited to work in the fields.


54 A distinctive version of Christianity also offered solace to slaves in the face of hardship and hope for liberation from bondage. Some blacks, free and slave, had taken part in the First and Second Great Awakenings.

55 SLAVE RELIGION Even though the law prohibited slaves from gathering without a white person present, every plantation, it seemed had its own black preacher. Usually the preacher was a “self-called” slave who possessed little or no formal education but whose rhetorical abilities and familiarity with the Bible made him one of the most respected members of the slave community.

56 SLAVE RELIGION In Southern cities, slaves worshipped in biracial congregations with white ministers where they were generally required to sit in the back pews or in the balcony. Urban free blacks established their own churches, sometimes attended by slaves.

57 SLAVE RELIGION To masters, Christianity offered another means of social control. Many required slaves to attend services conducted by white ministers, who preached that theft was immoral and that the Bible required servants to obey their masters.

58 SLAVE RELIGION One slave later recalled being told in a white minister’s sermon “how good God was in bringing us over to this country from dark and benighted Africa, and permitting us to listen to the sound of the gospel.”

59 SLAVE RELIGION But the slaves transformed the Christianity they had embraced, turning it to their own purposes. A blend of African traditions and Christian belief, slave religion was practiced in secret nighttime gatherings on plantations and in “praise meetings” replete with shouts, dances, and frequent emotional interchanges between the preacher and congregation.

60 SLAVE RELIGION The Biblical story of the Exodus played a central role in black Christianity. Slaves identified themselves as a chosen people, who God in the fullness of time would deliver them from bondage.

61 SLAVE RELIGION At the same time, the figure of Jesus Christ represented to slaves a personal redeemer, one who truly cared for the oppressed. The Christian message of brotherhood and the equality of all souls, in the slaves’ eyes, offered an irrefutable indictment of the institution of slavery.


63 RESISTANCE TO SLAVERY With the entire power structure of government, federal, state and local, committed to preserving the institution of slavery, slaves could only rarely express their desire for freedom by outright rebellion. Compared to Brazil and the West Indies, which experienced numerous uprisings, involving hundreds or even thousands of slaves, revolts in the USA were smaller and less frequent.

64 RESISTANCE TO SLAVERY This does not mean that slaves in the USA placidly accepted the system under which they were compelled to live. Resistance to slavery took many forms in the Old South, from individual acts of defiance to occasional uprisings. These actions posed a constant challenge to the slaveholders’ self-image as benign paternalists and their belief that slaves were obedient subjects grateful for their owners’ care.

65 FORMS OF RESISTANCE The most widespread expression of hostility to slavery was “day-to-day resistance” or “silent sabotage” -doing poor work, breaking tools, abusing animals, and in other ways disrupting the plantation routine. Many slaves made believe that they were to ill to work – although almost no slaves reported themselves sick on Sunday, their only day of rest.

66 FORMS OF RESISTANCE Then there was the theft of food, a form of resistance so common that one southern physician diagnosed it as a hereditary disease unique to blacks. Less frequent, but more dangerous, were serious crimes committed by slaves, including arson, poisoning, and armed assaults against individual whites.

67 FUGITIVE SLAVES Even more threatening to the ability of the slave system was running away. Formidable obstacles confronted the prospective fugitive.

68 FUGITIVE SLAVES Solomon Northup recalled “Every white man’s hand is raised against him, the patrollers are watching for him, the hounds are ready to follow in his track.” Slaves had little or no knowledge of geography, apart from understanding that the North Star led to freedom.

69 FUGITIVE SLAVES No one knows how many slaves succeeded in reaching the North or Canada – the most common rough estimate is around 1,000 per year.

70 FUGITIVE SLAVES Not surprisingly, most of those who succeeded lived, like Frederick Douglass, in the Upper South especially MD, VA, and KY, which bordered on the free states.

71 FUGITIVE SLAVES The large majority of runaways were young men. Most women were not willing to leave children behind, and to take them along on the arduous escape journey was nearly impossible.

72 FUGITIVE SLAVES In the Deep South, fugitives tended to head for cities like New Orleans or Charleston, where they hoped to lose themselves in the free black community. Other escapees fled to remote areas like the Great Dismal Swamp or VA or the Florida Everglades, where the Seminole Indians offered refuge before they were forced to move west.

73 FUGITIVE SLAVES In TN, a study of newspaper ads for runaways finds that 40% remained in the local neighborhood, 30% to have headed to other locations in the South, while only 25% tried to reach the North.





78 The Underground Railroad was a loose organization of sympathetic abolitionists who hid fugitives in their homes and sent them to the next “station” assisted some runaway slaves.

79 THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD A few courageous individuals made forays into the South to liberate slaves. The best known was Harriet Tubman. Born in Maryland in 1820, she escaped to PA in 1849.

80 THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD During the next decade of her life, she risked her life by making some 20 trips back to her state of birth to lead relatives and other slaves to freedom.

81 THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD But most who managed to reach the North did so on their own initiative, some showing remarkable ingenuity. William and Ellen Craft impersonated a sickly owner traveling with her slave.

82 THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD Henry “Box” Brown packed himself inside a crate and literally had himself shipped from Georgia to freedom in the North.



85 THE AMISTAD In a few instances, large groups of slaves collectively seized their freedom. The most celebrated instance involved 53 slaves who took control of the Amistad – a ship transporting them from one port in Cuba to another, and tried to force the navigator to steer it to Africa.

86 THE AMISTAD The Amistad wended its way up the Atlantic coast, until an American vessel seized it off the coast of Long Island. The slaves were placed in jail. The fate of the slaves rested with the US court system.

87 THE AMISTAD The slaves were led by Cinque from the Mende tribe. The central issue was: were the captives freemen or slaves. If it was determined they were slaves, they would be returned to Cuba/Spain. If not they would be free. President Martin Van Buren favored returning them to Cuba.

88 THE AMISTAD But abolitionists, such as Lewis Tappan, brought the case to the Supreme Court, where former President, now Congressman John Quincy Adams argued on behave of the slaves. Adams argued that since the slaves had been recently brought from Africa in violation of international treaties banning the slave trade, the captives should be freed. The Court accepted Adams’ reasoning and most of the captives made their way back to Africa.

89 N: THE YEAR 1831 AND SLAVERY 1831: A turning point for the Old South. The English Parliament, led by William Wilberforce, launched a program for abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire. (1838) This underscored the South’s growing isolation in the Western world.

90 THE YEAR 1831 AND SLAVERY In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison, a Boston abolitionist, published his first issue of The Liberator. From 1831 to the outbreak of war, the nation would be confronted with a vigorous movement to abolish slavery.


92 A: THE ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT The Abolitionist Movement began in the North. The goal was to end slavery. Some Abolitionists called for an immediate end to slavery. Others called for a gradual end and colonization of freed slaves outside of America.

93 THE ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT The Movement was influenced by the reform fervor of the Second Great Awakening. Yet at first the greatest evil in American society attracted the least attention from reformers. For many years, it seemed that the only Americans willing to challenge the existence of slavery were the Quakers, slaves, and free blacks.

94 THE ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT While the issue of slavery influenced the politics of the early Republic, efforts to abolish it waned. The institution of slavery remained central to American life but any vigorous movement to abolish it after the American Revolution died out. The slavery question faded from national life, with occasional eruptions like the Missouri controversy of 1819-1821.

95 COLONIZATION Before the 1830s, those white Americans willing to contemplate an end to bondage almost always coupled calls for abolition with the “colonization” of freed slaves – their deportation to Africa, the Caribbean or Central America. 1816: Proponents of the idea founded the American Colonization Society.

96 COLONIZATION The ACS promoted the gradual abolition of slavery and the settlement of black Americans in Africa. It soon established Liberia, on the coast of West Africa, an outpost of American influence whose capital Monrovia, was named for President James Monroe.

97 COLONIZATION Numerous prominent political leaders of the Jackson Era, such as Henry Clay and President Jackson, supported the colonization society. Many northerners saw colonization as the only way to rid the nation of slavery. Southern supporters devoted most of their energy to persuading those African- Americans who were already free to leave the United States.

98 COLONIZATION Slavery and racism were so deeply embedded in American life, colonizationists believed, that blacks could never achieve equality if freed and allowed to remain in the country. Like Indian removal, colonization rested on the premise that America is fundamentally a white society.

99 COLONIZATION In the decades before the Civil War, several thousand black Americans did emigrate to Liberia with the aid of the ACS. Some were slaves emancipated by their owners on condition that they depart. Others left voluntary, motivated by a desire to spread Christianity in Africa or to enjoy rights denied them in the United States.

100 COLONIZATION But most African- Americans adamantly opposed the idea of colonization. 1817: Some 3,000 free blacks assembled in Philadelphia for the first national black convention.

101 COLONIZATION Their resolutions insisted that blacks were Americans, entitled to the same freedom and rights enjoyed by whites. “We have no wish to separate from our present homes.” In the years that followed, several black organizations removed the word “African” from their names to eliminate a possible reason for being deported from the land of their birth.

102 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE The abolitionist movement expanded rapidly throughout the North. Antislavery leaders took advantage of the rapid development of print technology and the expansion of literacy thanks to common school education to spread their message. They recognized the democratic potential in the production of printed material. They seized upon the recently invented steam press to produce millions of copies of pamphlets, newspapers, petitions, novels, and broadsides.

103 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE 1833: The American Anti-Slavery Society was founded. Between the founding of the Anti- Slavery Society and the end of the decade, some 100,000 northerners joined local groups devoted to abolition.

104 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE Most were ordinary citizens – farmers, shopkeepers and laborers. Others were prominent businessmen like Arthur Tappan of NY.

105 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE If Garrison was the movement’s most notable propagandist, Theodore Dwight Weld helped to create its mass constituency. Weld was a young minister who had been converted by the evangelical preacher Charles Finney.

106 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE Weld trained a band of speakers who brought the abolitionist message into the heart of the rural and small-town North. Their methods were those of the revivals – fervent preaching, lengthy meetings, calls for individuals to renounce their immoral ways – and their message was a simple one: SLAVERY WAS A SIN.

107 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE Identifying slavery as a sin was essential to replacing the traditional strategies of gradual emancipation and colonization with immediate abolition. The only proper response to the sin of slavery, abolitionist speakers proclaimed, was the institution’s immediate elimination.

108 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE Weld supervised the publication of abolitionist pamphlets. 1839: Weld published his own American Slavery As It Is. It was a compilation of accounts of the maltreatment of slaves. Since he took all his examples from the southern press, they could not be dismissed as figments of the northern imagination.

109 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE Many southerners feared that the abolitionist intended to spark a slave insurrection. This belief was strengthened by the outbreak of Nat Turner’s Rebellion a few months after The Liberator made its appearance in 1831. But Turner was completely unknown to Garrison.

110 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE Nearly all abolitionists, despite their militant rhetoric, rejected violence as a means of ending slavery. Many were pacifists or “non-resistants,” who believed that coercion should be eliminated from all human relationships and institutions.

111 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE Their strategy was “moral suasion” and the arena was the public sphere. Slaveholders most be convinced of the sinfulness of their ways, and the North of its complicity in the peculiar institution. Some critics charged that this approach left nothing for the slaves to do in seeking their own liberation but await the nation’s moral regeneration.

112 SPREADING THE ABOLITIONIST MESSAGE Abolitionists adopted the role of radical social critics. They focused their efforts not within the existing political system, but on awakening the nation to the moral evil of slavery. Their language was deliberately provocative, calculated to seize public attention


114 ABOLITIONISTS AND THE IDEA OF FREEDOM The abolitionist crusade both reinforced and challenged common understandings of freedom during the antebellum years. Abolitionists helped to popularize the concept that personal freedom derived not from the ownership of productive property such as land but from ownership of one’s self and the ability to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.

115 ABOLITIONISTS AND THE IDEA OF FREEDOM Abolitionists repudiated the idea of “wage slavery’” which had been popularized by the era’s labor movement. Compared to slavery, the person working for wages, they insisted, was an embodiment of freedom: the free laborer could change jobs, if he wished, accumulate property, and enjoy a stable family life.

116 ABOLITIONISTS AND THE IDEA OF FREEDOM Only slavery, wrote William Goodell, deprived human beings of their “grand central right – the inherent right of self-ownership.”

117 ABOLITIONISTS AND THE IDEA OF FREEDM Abolitionists argued that slavery was so deeply embedded in American life that its destruction would require fundamental changes in the North as well as the South. They insisted that the inherent, natural, and absolute right to personal liberty, regardless of race, took precedence over other forms of freedom, such as the right of citizens to accumulate and hold property or self-government by local political communities.


119 A NEW VISION OF AMERICA In a society in which the rights of citizenship had become more and more closely associated with whiteness, the antislavery movement sought to reinvigorate the idea of freedom as a truly universal entitlement. The antislavery movement viewed slaves and free blacks as members of the national community.

120 A NEW VISION OF AMERICA The Movement’s position was summarized by Lydia Maria Child in her treatise of 1833, An Appeal in Favor of That Class of American Called Africans. Child’s text insisted that blacks were fellow countrymen not foreigners or a permanently inferior caste. Abolitionists maintained that the slaves, once freed, should be empowered to participate fully in the public life of the United States.

121 A NEW VISION OF AMERICA The abolitionists debated the Constitution’s relationship to slavery. Garrison burned the document, calling it a covenant with the devil.

122 A NEW VISION OF AMERICA Frederick Douglass came to believe the Constitution offered no national protection to slavery. But despite these differences of opinion, abolitionists developed an alternative, rights-oriented view of constitutional law, grounded in their universalistic understanding of liberty. Abolitionists invented the concept of equality before the law regardless of race, one all but unknown in Antebellum America.



125 Blacks played a leading role in the antislavery movement. James Forten, a successful sailmaker, helped to finance The Liberator. As late as 1834, northern blacks made up a majority of the journal’s subscribers.

126 BLACK ABOLITIONISTS Several blacks served on the board of directors of the American Anti- Slavery Society. Northern born blacks and fugitive slaves emerged as major organizers and speakers.


128 Greatest of the black abolitionists. Born into slavery in 1818, he became a major figure in the crusade for abolition, the drama of emancipation, and the effort during Reconstruction to give meaning to black freedom. He was the son of a slave mother and an unidentified white man, possibly his master. Douglass experienced slavery in all its variety, from work as a house servant and as a skilled craftsman in a Baltimore shipyard to labor as a plantation field hand. He taught himself to read and write.

129 FREDERICK DOUGLASS When he was 15, his owner sent him to a “slave breaker” to curb his independent spirit. After numerous whippings, Douglass defiantly refused to allow himself to be disciplined again. This confrontation, he recalled, was “the turning point in my career as a slave.” It rekindled his desire for freedom. In 1838, having borrowed the free papers of a black sailor, he escaped North.

130 FREDERICK DOUGLASS Douglass lectured against slavery throughout the North and the British Isles, and he edited a succession of antislavery publications. He published a widely read autobiography that offered an eloquent condemnation of slavery and racism.

131 FREDERICK DOUGLASS Douglass, at first, was a follower of the Garrisonian philosophy. But by 1848, he and Garrison split. Also in 1848, Douglass began to publish his own abolitionist newspaper The North Star.

132 FREDERICK DOUGLASS Throughout his career, he insisted that slavery could only be overthrown by continuous resistance. He argued that in their desire for freedom, the slaves were truer to the nation’s underlying principles than the white Americans who annually celebrated the Fourth of July while allowing the continued existence of slavery.

133 BLACK AND WHITE ABOLITIONISM The first racially integrated social movement in American history and the first to give equal rights for blacks a central place in its political agenda, abolitionism was nonetheless a product of its time and place. Racism was pervasive in 19 th century America. White abolitionists could not free themselves entirely from this prejudice.

134 BLACK AND WHITE ABOLITIONISM Black spokesman, Martin R. Delany, charged that white abolitionists monopolized the key decision-making relegating blacks to a secondary role. By the 1840s, blacks sought an independent role within the movement, regularly holding their own conventions.

135 BLACK AND WHITE ABOLITIONISTS Henry Highland Garnett, proclaimed at one convention, in 1843, that slaves should rise in rebellion to throw off their shackles. His position was so at odds with the prevailing belief in moral suasion that the published proceedings omitted his speech. It was not until 1848 that Garnett’s speech along with Walker’s Appeal appeared in print in a pamphlet partially financed by John Brown – at that time an obscure white abolitionist.

136 BLACK AND WHITE ABOLITIONISM Black abolitionists developed an understanding of freedom that went well beyond the usage of most of their white contemporaries. They worked to attack the intellectual foundations of racism, seeking to disprove pseudoscientific arguments for black inferiority.

137 BLACK AND WHITE ABOLITIONISM They challenged the prevailing image of Africa as a continent without civilization. Many black abolitionists called on free blacks to seek out skilled and dignified employment, to demonstrate the race’s capacity for advancement.


139 SLAVERY AND LIBERTY Black abolitionists rejected the nation’s pretensions as a land of liberty. Many blacks dramatically reversed the common association of the USA with the progress of freedom. They offered a stinging rebuke to white Americans’ claims to live in a land of freedom.

140 SLAVERY AND LIBERTY Northern blacks devised an alternative calendar of “freedom celebrations” centered on January 1, 1808 the date the international slave trade was abolished rather than the 4 th of July. With the abolition of slavery in 1838 in Great Britain, it became a model of liberty and justice, while the USA remained a land of tyranny.

141 SLAVERY AND LIBERTY The greatest oration on American slavery and American freedom was delivered in Rochester, NY, on July 5 th 1852, by Frederick Douglass. Douglass posed the question: “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?”

142 SLAVERY AND LIBERTY He answered that 4 th of July festivities revealed the hypocrisy of a nation that proclaimed its belief in liberty yet daily committed “practices more shocking and bloody” than any other country on earth. He also laid claim to the founder’s legacy.

143 SLAVERY AND LIBERTY The Revolution had left a “rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence,’ from which subsequent generations had tragically strayed. Only by abolishing slavery and freeing the “great doctrines” of the Declaration of Independence from the “narrow bounds” of race could the USA recapture its original mission.


145 NORTH AND SOUTH REACTION TO ABOLITIONISM At first, abolitionism aroused violent hostility from northerners who feared the movement threatened to disrupt the Union, interfere with profits wrested from slave labor, and overturn white supremacy. Led by businessmen and local merchants, mobs disrupted abolitionist meetings in northern cities.

146 NORTH AND SOUTH REACTION TO ABOLITIONISM In 1835, a Boston crowd led Garrison through the streets with a rope around his neck Garrison barely escaped with his life.

147 NORTH AND SOUTH REACTION TO ABOLITIONISM In 1836, a Cincinnati mob destroyed the printing press of James G. Birney, a former slaveholder who had been converted to abolitionism by Theodore Dwight Weld.

148 NORTH AND SOUTH REACTION TO ABOLITIONISM 1837: Antislavery editor Elijah P. Lovejoy became the movement’s first martyr when he was killed by a mob in Alton, Ill., while defending his press. In his editorials Lovejoy repeatedly called slavery an evil and a sin. Mobs destroyed his press four times only to see Lovejoy resume publication. The fifth attack ended in Lovejoy’s death.

149 NORTH AND SOUTH REACTIONS TO ABOLITIONISM Crowds of southerners burned abolitionist literature that they had removed from the US mail. 1836: Abolitionists began to flood Congress with petitions calling for emancipation. Congress responded with the notorious “gag rule” which prohibited any talk of slavery and emancipation. The rule was reauthorized in 1840 but repealed in 1844.

150 NORTH AND SOUTH REACTIONS TO ABOLITIONISM Mob attacks and attempts to limit abolitionists’ freedom of speech convinced many northerners that slavery was incompatible with the democratic liberties of white Americans. It was the murder of Elijah Lovejoy that led Wendall Phillips, who became one of the movement’s greatest orators, to associate with the abolitionist cause.

151 NORTH AND SOUTH REACTIONS TO ABOLITIONISM The abolitionists movement now broadened its appeal so as to win the support of northerners who cared little about the rights of blacks, but could be convinced that slavery endangered their own cherished freedoms. The “gag rule” aroused considerable resentment in the North.

152 NORTH AND SOUTH REACTIONS TO ABOLITIONISM The flight to for the right to debate slavery openly and without reprisal led abolitionists to elevate “free opinion” – freedom of speech, press and the right to petition – a central place in what William Lloyd Garrison called the “gospel of freedom.” In defending free speech, abolitionists claimed to have become the custodians of the “rights of every freeman.”

153 J: THE END OF ABOLITIONISM The Abolitionist Movement failed in its ultimate goal to end slavery. The Movement kept the issue in the public view throughout the antebellum years and into the Civil War. However, as many black abolitionists had long recognized, slavery would be abolished through a violent struggle.

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