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Reflections on Slavery in African American History and the Struggle of Slaves for Freedom

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Slavery is a topic in history that has been taught throughout the years. Slavery has been around since the 1600s. The year was to 1619 to be exact when the first shipment of African slave was brought and shipped to North America. The port was in Jamestown, Virginia was the African slaves were brought. African slaves were brought to North America by European slave owners for free labor and to make sure the production of tobacco and cotton was done. Eli Whitney is a name we hear about in history for his creation of the cotton gin. The cotton gin helped with the separation of the cotton fibers from the seeds. The cotton gin not only helped with the separation of the fiber and seed but also help with the Souths economy. Slaves were the way to go for most production since they were cheap and were not given a certain amount of time to serve their master like the indentured servants. Slavery is something for generations to come if it was not on a plantation, it was through their laws in place for them.

Slavery is what does it really mean to the human being. Slavery is when a person is owned by another person and has to work for them for free. A slave had no rights of their own, they were the property of the master. Slaves were owned by their masters forever and if they had children, their children would because of slaves under the master. Slaves that whole generation was called chattel slaves. Slaves and chattel slaves were mostly owned by white men and their families. There was one man in history named Anthony Johnson who was a freed black man. Johnson was concerned an indentured servant that earned his freedom. Johnson owned several acres of land and had slaves to work the acres of land. Johnson went about getting his slaves and the acres of land the legal way. I would have never thought of a black man wanting to own someone of his own color and have them work the land he owned. This felt as if it was an insult to the enslaved blacks. I would have felt as if Antony Johnson was trying to make himself better than me. I know that was not the case since he served his time as an indentured servant. It seems that indentured servant had more right and opportunities than someone with the title slave attached to their name.

Slaves would normally work on plantations doing work and little odd jobs their owners needed to be done. Slaves had titles such as butlers, nurse, gardener, shoemaker, the list can go on and on. Slaves main job was to work the tobacco and cotton fields. Some owners would let slaves pick their speed of working on their tasks, others had people watching the slave hitting them to work faster.

Blacks were risk-takers during the eighteenth century, they would go to great lengths to avoid becoming a slave. People all over knew about blacks trying to avoid coming to a slave because of the newspaper. The newspaper would be filled with advertisements, telling about runaway slaves. Slaves had to take with them proof of whether they had their freedom or were they still owned by a master. The largest slave population during this time was located in New York City. Being the largest, we could expect for upraising to take place. A total of 23 slaves set fire to a house and even killed white men that came to assist with the house fire in 1712. Another event in New York City was when 150 blacks and 20 whites were asserted for planning an uprising against the white owners. It is said that 34 conspirators and 4 whites were executed for the planning of the uprising.

Nat Turner was a slave that could have been part of the uprising, he was a very violent slave. In 1831 he mentions that he was the chosen one to help slaves get out of bondage. God had chosen him. People seemed to have believed him because he was a preacher and he said God had also chosen him. He had a big following, they would upraise against the slave owners, even killing a whole family. In all Turner and his followers killed about 55 people who were men, women, and children. The age did not matter the color of the people skin is all the matter to Turner and his followers. In the end, Turner would die by hanging for his actions during Turner’s rebellion in 1831.

On the other hand, some slaves went about the situation differently than Turner. Several slaves knew of the Underground Railroad that would help them get to freedom. The Underground Railroad had to use their own codes and symbols since most of the slaves were uneducated. People would help the slaves navigate between the different places where called the conductors. A safe house would have a quilt with different symbols that the slaves were able to understand. Some safe houses had a color system, red meant to keep going it is not safe and blue meant it was safe. A safe house could be in a personal home, church or barn whatever the person owned and keep the slaves safe.

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There were also slaves that choose not to go the route of the Underground Railroad. They were called fugitive slaves. These types of slaves would go to places that had free blacks and they would try and blend in. Places like New Orleans or Charleston. But the Underground Railroad still had codes that helped the fugitive slaves find their way out of the South and to the North. Canada was the destination that many runaway enslaved individuals strived to reach; it was not the only destination for those escaping. Many enslaved people escaped to cities in the North or went to Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, South America or even to remote areas of the South and West”.

The person that is known for the Underground Railroad is Harriet Tubman, she was a slave that escape in 1849 and helped several others escape slavery as well. Tubman fled to Philadelphia and went back to Maryland to free her own relatives and slaves. Making a somewhere around twenty trips to help slaves to freedom, she was able to help hundreds of enslaved people. She would be the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. Her dedication to leading people on the Underground Railroad got her the name, Moses. She would also go down in history as an abolitionist. Tubman helped guide eleven fugitives and they made a stop at Frederick Douglass home who was a former slave and also an abolitionist in the year 1851. I never knew that so many people live in history crossed. I thought every story and people were different. I knew slaves would never probably meet up, but the story of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass tells me a different story. Slaves depended on each other to find their way to the North and to freedom.

Frederick Douglass was not only an abolitionist, but he had no choice but to be a slave. He was born to a mother that was a slave and a father that was white that was never identified. After reading the textbook, I feel Douglass’ father could have been his mother’s owner at the time. Douglass learned to read and write, which both were breaking the law of Maryland back then. Frederick Douglass would go down in history as an abolitionist, an activist for racial equal rights and even an author.

The well-known President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. He would issue a proclamation that would declare all slave in the South free. He wrote that the nearly 3 million slaves that included men, women, and children shall ‘henceforward shall be free’ (Foner, 532). The slaves had to wait for their freedom until after the war until the Union got the victory. I never knew the slave had to wait for their freedom, why jump the gun and say that they would be free if the way was not over yet. People seem more accepting of the Emancipation Proclamation by the end of the war in both the South and North. Abraham Lincoln was not the first to try and abolish slavery, Benjamin Franklin was actually the first in 1790. Both tried and made an effect by the true abolishing of slavery did not come until 1865 when the 13th Amendment was added.

Slaves came from a long line of descendants that were slaves. It is amazing that most of the freed slaves back then were descendants of already freed slaves. Why keep some as a slave if the generation before them were already freed by their owners? Why wait to the end of the Revolution war, was it a way to raise the number of freed slaves for the Emancipation Proclamation? Freed slaves and blacks were able to start getting an education and having schools for the younger generation and hold a skilled job. They were even allowed to establish their own churches. This was only available in certain areas for them through.

In all slavery was a way of keeping power over someone. The stronger preying on the weak and whose numbers were not as large. Slaves were people that had to live in fear of owners for talking back. Only a couple of slaves were brave to talk back, with their life they paid the cost. Tried to run away, they would be beaten. Beaten for wanting to live their life, never chosen to be a slave for someone. Taking from their comfort zone, left to depend on someone that could kill them at any time. Female slaves were like rag dolls raped, children slaves were human toys for the owner’s kids. Slaves were even discriminated for the darkness and lightness of their skin tone. Being an African American, I see it all the time where the blame is still placed on the white man. The blame for how our ancestors were treated. The blame for how society views African Americans. I can only wonder if everyone takes responsibility for their own actions would still be in the state America is today. Are we just repeating history and falling slaves to different forms?

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Reflections on Slavery in African American History and the Struggle of Slaves for Freedom. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from
“Reflections on Slavery in African American History and the Struggle of Slaves for Freedom.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023,
Reflections on Slavery in African American History and the Struggle of Slaves for Freedom. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Mar. 2023].
Reflections on Slavery in African American History and the Struggle of Slaves for Freedom [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2023 Mar 30]. Available from:
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