During 1619 slavery started and even though it ended, African-Americans still endured abuse. Laws were put in place to help African-Americans be freer like the 13th and 14th amendment. However, the Jim Crow Laws kept everyone segregated. The Civil Rights movement took place and the Brown vs. Board of Education was a cornerstone to desegregation. Slavery ended in 1865 and segregation ended in 1968. It took 300 years for equal rights and due to the laws, we have in place they continue to be equal. Keywords: Slavery, Civil War, Jim Crow.
From Slavery to Freedom
Slavery started in America during the year 1619. In the 17th and 18th centuries, people were abducted from Africa, forced into slavery in the American colonies, and utilized as servants to mass produce tobacco and cotton. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln won the election and put a hold on slavery. Due to this hold, seven states broke away from the confederacy because they relied on slaves because they were dependent on agriculture. On April 12, 1861 the Civil war began. The war ended in 1865 with the confederates surrendering and the confederacy disappearing. Slavery was than made illegal in December 1865 under the Thirteenth Amendment. Besides the violent acts and slaves becoming free, was there a difference in how the slaves were treated in other countries other than the U.S.? What laws were put in place after the Civil war and how were they created? All of these factors contributed to the end of segregation and it’s important to understand where it all began.
Slavery in the U.S. vs other Countries
“The treatment of slaves in the United States varied widely depending on conditions, time, and place. Treatment was generally characterized by brutality, degradation, and inhumanity. Whippings, executions, and rapes were commonplace, and slaves were usually denied educational opportunities, such as learning how to read or write. Medical care was often provided to slaves by the slaveholder’s family or fellow slaves who had gleaned medical knowledge via ancestral folk remedies and/or experiences during their time in captivity. After well-known rebellions, such as that by Nat Turner in 1831, some states even prohibited slaves from holding religious gatherings due to the fear that such meetings would facilitate communication and possibly lead to insurrection or escape (Boundless).”
“French turned four times as many Africans into slaves as the Americans did, they used them far more brutally, and French slavers not only got a head-start on Americans, they continued the slave trade — legally — until 1830, long after the rest of Europe had given it up. And they kept at it clandestinely until after the U.S. Civil War. France officially abolished slavery in its colonies only 14 years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and then only under pressure from slave uprisings (Slavenorth).”
“In the British colonies the slaves were treated as non-human: they were ‘chattels’, to be worked to death as it was cheaper to purchase another slave than to keep one alive. Though seen as non-human, as many of the enslaved women were raped, clearly at one level they were recognized as at least rapeable human beings. There was no opprobrium attached to rape, torture, or to beating your slaves to death. The enslaved in the British colonies had no legal rights as they were not human – they were not permitted to marry and couples and their children were often sold off separately. Europeans who were Roman Catholics often treated their slaves more humanely than those of the Protestant faith, perhaps especially the members of the Church of England, which owned slaves in the West Indies. (Roman Catholics did not deny Africans their humanity and made attempts at conversion, while British slaveowners forbade church attendance.) The enslavement of Africans was justified in Britain by claiming that they were barbaric savages, without laws or religions, and, according to some ‘observers’ and academics, without even a language; they would acquire civilization on the plantations (2007).”
The Russians had serfdom instead of slaves. “Serf’s,” as they were called were unfree people that could be sold with the land he or she was living on. The most important task of serfs was to work on the demesne land of their lord for two or three days each week, and more during busy periods like harvest time. All of the food produced from that land went to the lord. It was sometimes possible for a serf to send a family member (providing they were physically able) to perform the labor on the demesne in their place. On the other days of the week, serfs could farm that land given to them for their own family’s needs. Usually, serfs could not legally leave the estate on which they worked but the flip side was that they also had a right to live on it which gave them both physical protection and sustenance. A landowner could sell one of his serfs but the right for sale was that of labor, not direct ownership of the person as in slavery. Theoretically, the personal property of a serf belonged to the landowner but this was unlikely to have been enforced or had any relevance in practical terms (Cartwright, 2020).”
“Throughout Islamic history, slaves served in various social and economic roles, from powerful emirs to harshly treated manual laborers. Early on in Muslim history they were used in plantation labor similar to that in the Americas, but this was abandoned after harsh treatment led to destructive slave revolts. Slaves were widely employed in irrigation, mining, and animal husbandry, but the most common uses were as soldiers, guards, and domestic workers. Many rulers relied on military slaves, often in huge standing armies, and slaves in administration to such a degree that the slaves were sometimes in a position to seize power. Among black slaves, there were roughly two females to every one male. Arab slaves, however, usually obtained as captives, were generally ransomed off amongst nomad tribes. The slave population increased by the custom of child abandonment, and by the kidnapping, or, occasionally, the sale of small children. Whether enslavement for debt or the sale of children by their families was common is disputed. (Abd Brunschvig argues it was rare, but according to Jonathan E. Brockopp debt slavery was persistent.]) Free persons could sell their offspring, or even themselves, into slavery. Enslavement was also possible as a consequence of committing certain offenses against the law, as in the Roman Empire (2020).”
After the Civil War
On April 12th, 1861, the Civil war began. The war ended in 1865 with the confederates surrendering and the confederacy disappearing. Alabama, being a confederate state, was the 27th state to uphold the 13th amendment giving the approval to make it the law of the land. The 13th amendment was officially in place on December 18th, 1865 (2010). The amendment states Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction (constitutioncenter). Even though slavery in the United States was abolished in 1865, France abolished it in 1794. It was reinstated in the Napoleonic era and was eliminated in 1848. Great Britain eliminated slavery in 1833, and Russia in 1861. Cuba followed after the United States terminating slavery in 1886 and Brazil followed in 1888. It wasn’t until 1962, Saudi Arabia banned slavery and trafficking (freetheslaves).
Even though slaves were free and no longer being abused, there was still a prejudice issue. The south enforced a law called the Black Codes. “These laws granted certain legal rights to blacks, including the right to marry, own property, and sue in court, but the Codes also made it illegal for blacks to serve on juries, testify against whites, or serve in state militias. The Black Codes also required black sharecroppers and tenant farmers to sign annual labor contracts with white landowners. If they refused, they could be arrested and hired out for work (Article).”
Life after slavery, blacks wanted to start families, practice their faith, and become educated. Black women wanted to stay at home taking care of their families, but were forced into work again because of poverty. “Black churches became centerpieces of African American culture and community, not only as places of personal spiritual renewal and communal worship but also as centers for learning, socializing, and political organization. Black ministers were community leaders (Article).” Then came education for the black community. “African Americans’ desire for education found expression in the establishment of schools at every level, from grade schools for basic-education to the founding of the nation’s first black colleges such as Fisk University and Howard University. The Freedmen’s Bureau (1865-1870), a government agency established to aid former slaves, oversaw some 3,000 schools across the South, and ran hospitals and healthcare facilities for the freedmen (Article).” Due to the African-Americans having more freedom the Jim Crow Laws were put into place.
Jim Crow Laws
“Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws. It was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to the status of second-class citizens. Jim Crow represented the legitimization of anti-black racism. Many Christian ministers and theologians taught that whites were the Chosen people, blacks were cursed to be servants, and God supported racial segregation. Craniologists, eugenicists, phrenologists, and Social Darwinists, at every educational level, buttressed the belief that blacks were innately intellectually and culturally inferior to whites (ferris).” The Jim Crow Laws felt that whites were superior to blacks. During the time of these laws, blacks had to follow many rules. This is when signs where put above water fountains, seating on busses, in business, and restrooms. Even though black and white people were allowed to ride the same bus and go to the same schools, they were not allowed to be seated next to each other. There were many African-Americans who lost their lives during the time of the Jim Crow Laws for disobeying the rules and fighting for equal rights. There were riots and police officers brutally attacking African-American people for this disloyalty.
When the Board of Education vs Brown came was enforced it was the foundation to the Civil Rights movement. This law “granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States—including former slaves—and guaranteed all citizens “equal protection of the laws (History.com Editors, 2009).” “Brown claimed that schools for black children were not equal to the white schools, and that segregation violated the so-called “equal protection clause” of the 14th Amendment, which holds that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (History.com Editors, 2009).” The Civil Rights movement started during the 1940’s and ended in 1968.
The End to it All
Slavery started in 1619 and was made illegal in 1865. Even though slavery ended, there was still segregation between whites and blacks. African-Americans still struggled to really be free for three hundred years. The Civil Rights movement is what eventually brought everyone together and we were finally equal. It’s laws like Brown vs Board of Education, the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendment that helped balance the world out giving equal rights to everyone.
The world we live in today is still not perfect, but it is nothing like it was in the sixteenth century and the 50’s-60’s. If men and women didn’t fight for what they deserve we would be living in a much different world. It’s important to remember these dates and the passion it took for people to become equal. We should look back at these moments with pride and really honor those who gave their lives for desegregation. Everyone is human and no person is better than another. We may never truly get away from the bias’s of people or bullying, but maybe one day someone will stand up and make a change for others just like African-Americans did so many years ago.
- Boundless. (n.d.). Boundless US History. Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ushistory/chapter/slavery-in-the-u-s/(n.d.). Retrieved from http://slavenorth.com/columns/frenchslavery.htm
- History in Focus. (2007, May 1). Retrieved from https://archives.history.ac.uk/history-in-focus/Slavery/articles/sherwood.html
- Cartwright, M. (2020, February 23). Serf. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Serf/
- History of slavery in the Muslim world. (2020, February 25). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_slavery_in_the_Muslim_world(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.freetheslaves.net/about-slavery/slavery-in-history/
- Slavery abolished in America with adoption of 13th amendment. (2010, July 21). Retrieved from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/slavery-abolished-in-america
- The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment/amendment-xiii
- “Life after Slavery for African Americans (Article).” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/civil-war-era/reconstruction/a/life-after-slavery.
- What was Jim Crow. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm
- History.com Editors. (2009, November 9). 14th Amendment. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/fourteenth-amendment
- History.com Editors. (2009, October 27). Brown v. Board of Education. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/brown-v-board-of-education-of-topeka