|Slavery - Abolition|
Slavery is the the practice of keeping people as property against their will and forcing them to serve. Slaves in the United States remained enslaved until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1865. |
Twenty blacks were brought by a Dutch ship and sold to the colony of Jamestown in 1619. Three are believed to have been named Isabella, Antoney and Pedro. William Tucker, the son of two of these slaves is considered the first African-American born in North America.
Almost all slaves were blacks. In the beginning, slaves were used mostly in the Southern colonies, although there were a few in the Northern colonies also. Slaves were most useful in an agricultural setting. Many landowners began to grow increasingly dependent on slave labor for their livelihood.
Rhode Island was the first state to ban slavery in 1794, but after the invention of the cotton gin, the demand for cotton grew, and so did the need for slave labor on cotton plantations.
The U. S. Constitution, adopted in 1787, prevented Congress from banning the importation of slaves before 1808, so that any new slaves would have to be descendants of ones that were currently in the US.
History shows that many slave owners were cruel, denying their slaves the rights enjoyed by free people. Some owners practiced chopping off the limbs of slaves who tried to run away, while others whipped them frequently.
An area free of slavery was formed north of the Ohio River, however the law stated that escaped slaves in Northern territories be returned to their owners as they were still considered property.
During the first half of the 1800's a movement to end slavery called abolitionism, grew in strength in the North. This took place in contrast to strong support of slavery in the South. Even many of those that were against slavery did not consider the black man to be a real person.
Some well-known leaders of the abolition movement included Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, who helped 350 slaves escape from the South and became known as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
Refugees from slavery fled the South across the Ohio River to the North via this Underground Railroad. Abolitionists clashed with slave-owners many times throughout the century. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was an attempt to make sure that the two interests were balanced in the U. S. Senate.
The radical abolitionist John Brown was hanged for his attempt to lead a total slave revolt. Abraham Lincoln, who was opposed to the expansion of slavery, although not to slavery itself, was elected in 1860. He did not appear on the ballots of most southern states as many in the South feared that his real intent was the complete abolition of slavery in every state. Many people feared that the sudden freeing of 4 million slaves would mean trouble. The combination of these factors led the South to secede from the Union beginning the American Civil War.
The Civil War led to the end of slavery in the United States. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was a purely symbolic gesture, meant actually to punish the South, that proclaimed freedom for slaves within the Confederacy, although not for those in the important border states of Tennessee, Maryland and Delaware fearing that they would secede as well.
Legally, slaves within the United States remained slaves until the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, eight months after the end of the war.
One of the most famous slavery incidents concerned Dred Scott, who sued in an attempt to gain his freedom. His case was based on the fact, that he and his wife Harriet had lived in states where slavery was illegal.
Scott was born in 1799 in Virginia as property of the Blow family. Due to financial issues, he was sold to Dr. John Emerson, a doctor in the U.S. Army. Dred met his wife on a trip and she returned to Missouri with him and the Emersons. Dr. Emerson died in 1843 and Mrs. Emerson's brother became executor of the estate, making the Scotts slaves again.
Scott sued in 1847, losing the first time, but winning in 1850. In 1852, the Missouri Suprememe Court reversed the decision, making them slaves again. In 1857, the Supreme Court declared that slaves were property and had no claim to freedom. Scott was returned to the Blow family, who granted him his freedom. He died of tuberculosis in 1858.