Slavery in the United States commenced at the moment when the first slaves form the African continent were brought in the northern part of America in 1619 with a view of aiding in the production of crops that are lucrative such as tobacco. During the 17th century and the 18th century, slavery was being practiced in the American colonies as the African American slaves were helping in building the foundations of the nation. The cotton gin invention in 1793 led to the solidification the central value of slavery that tore the nation apart as a result of the civil of American in 1861 to 1865. The legacy of slavery has continued to highly influence the history of America right from the period of reconstruction to the movement of civil rights that arose during the 1960s after the emancipation period. The manner in which the United States is founded stems from the notion of blackness and whiteness as a social hierarchy as a consequence of the institution of slavery as well as the implication of slave revolts
Foundations of Slavery in the United States
From a historical point of view, slavery grew as an economic system whereby the North American European settlers opted for the African slaves as a source of labor that was cheaper as well as a more plentiful labor source. The African slaves worked mainly on plantations such as tobacco and rice plantations in the southern coast. Slavery spread in the entire economy of the United States following the importation of more slaves in America by a ship in 1619. In the light of the Virginia slave code of 1705, it provided that all the servants that were imported or rather brought into the United States and were not Christians in their home countries to be considered as slaves. This is provided in the Virginia Slave Code of 1705 that all servants imported and brought into the country who were not Christians in their native country shall be accounted and be slaves. However, after the 1775-1783 American Revolution, various colonists began linking the black slaves oppression to their individual oppression specifically by the British hence the call for the abolition of slavery. It is however surprising to note that after at the end of the American Revolution, the new constitution of the United States acknowledged the slavery institution by counting every slave as a fraction of an individual for reasons of taxation as well as congress representation hence the guaranteeing of the right in the repossession of any individual that is responsible for the provision of labor services.
The Slaves and the Slaveholders in America
The slaves that were found in the antebellum south consisted of around one third of the population of the southern America. A large number of these slaves lived on huge farms or rather small plantations while a large number of slave owners owned not more than fifty of these slaves. The slave owners worked in all ways possible in ensuring that the slaves become highly dependent on them. The petition by Halifax County citizens in relation to the attempt to stop slavery with the assertion that, Permission to possess and inherit Bond Servants, we have reason to conclude, was continued through all the Revolutions of the Jewish Government, down to the advent of the Lord. This assertion reflects the attitude toward keeping slaves, as they were also completely prohibited from learning how to read and write besides the restriction of their behavior in addition to movement. Many of these slave owners engaged in sexual freedom with the African slave women besides rewarding obedient behavior in slavery with favors. To add on, the slaves that were rebellious received brutal punishment. There was a social hierarchy in respect to the African slaves as their highest social class consisted of house slaves that were privileged while the lowest social class comprised of the slaves that worked in the fields. This social classification served the purpose of eliminating the chances of them organizing against their masters besides serving as an essential element of their division. Moreover, various states came up with slave codes that ensured that the rights and freedom of slaves were restricted. Based on the slave codes that were provided in various states, slave marriages were not legalized. This particularly points out to the Maryland 1664 slave code which provided that whatsoever woman shall intermarry with any slave...shall serve the master of each slave during the life of her husband. However, the slaves married amongst each other and formed large families which were consequently divided by their masters through selling or removing them.
Slave revolts occurred within the institution of slavery examples being the slave revolts that were spearheaded by Gabriel Prosser in 1800 as well as that of Denmark Vesey in 1822. However, few of these slave revolts were successful. According to the document on the trial of Gabriel Prosser, evidence is provided from the testimonies provided by the Blacks during the trial of Gabriel Prosser that he was indeed the pioneer of a slave revolt commonly referred to as the Gabriels plan. From this evidence, it is noted that Gabriel said all the negroes from Petersburg to join him after he has commenced the insurrection. The most terrifying slave revolt was the one that was fueled by Nat Turner in 1831. This slave revolt led to the killing of a total number of 60 whites within a period of two days which led to armed resistance particularly from the local whites in addition to the arrival of militia forces of the state which overwhelmed the African slaves. The supporters of the institution of slavery specifically pointed out the slave revolt that was spearheaded by Turner as critical evidence in the notion that the Blacks were inherent inferior barbarians that needed to be disciplined by an institution such as that of slavery. As a response to the slave revolt, mentioned above, many states in the South further strengthened their slave codes with a view of limiting the education of slaves in addition to their movement and assembly as they feared the insurrections of another slave revolt. However, in the northern part of America, the increased repression of the blacks in the South lit the fire in line with abolishing the institution of slavery.
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The Effects of the Slave Revolts
As mentioned earlier, the occurrence of salve revolts led to the further strengthening of slave codes as well as the constitutional acts with a view of placing the Blacks under the complete rule of the Whites. In particular, the Fugitive Slave Act that was passed by the Congress in 1793 led to the legitimization as well as the increasing of bounty hunters in slavery who had their operations in the North in order for them to return away slaves that were running away from slavery from the Southern slave owners. The Act is termed as an act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from the service of their masters. The act provided that who shall receive the fugitive in his custody shall be empowered to transport him or her to the state or territory from which he or she shall have fled. Therefore, the slaves that run off to other states had to be returned to their respective states by the individuals that found him/her. Other legal reforms were introduced which prohibited black preachers besides making it difficult in freeing slaves by the use of manumission.
The slave revolts also influenced both positive and negative attitudes towards slavery in America as different Americans had varied pints of views or rather opinion in line with the institution of slavery. From a positive point of view, the slave revolts undermined slavery activities in America and in the British Empire. It also influenced the feelings of the abolition of the institution of slavery. On the other hand, the slave revolts led to the creation of the attitude that indeed the slavery institution was not un-Christian especially in the South as the revolts were considered as brutal.
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The Notion of Blackness and Whiteness as a Social Hierarchy
The notion of blackness and whiteness as a social hierarchy was social constructed as far as the history of slavery in the United States is concerned. During the period of slavery in America, the blacks from the African continent are likened to savages. Moreover, they are viewed as inferior creatures who can only work as slaves for the Whites. They were also viewed as individuals who lacked a consciousness. That is the reason why they were denied the opportunity of receiving education and treated as inhumane creatures. The story of David George emphasizes the denial of education to black people through the assertion, As master was a great man, he kept a white school-master who was a great man to teach white children to read. This is clearly demonstrative of the fact that blacks had no chance to education. They were placed under poor working conditions in the plantations characterized by heavy work and long periods of working. On the other hand, the Whites were viewed as a superior race as compared to the Black race.
The Influence of Slavery and the Notion of Blackness and Whiteness on the United States
Slavery as well as the notion of blackness and whiteness has influenced the foundation of racial politics and racism in the United States. Particularly, racial discrimination in addition to ethnic discrimination has been a huge issue in the history of the United States since the period of colonialism in addition to the period of slavery in America. From a historical perspective, legal privileges and privileges that were socially sanctioned were provided to the Whites in America. These privileges were not granted to the Native Americans, the Asian Americans or the African Americans. The European Americans were the only individuals who were granted privileges in education, granted voting rights, granted the right to land acquisition in addition to being granted immigration rights from the period following the 17th century over to the 1960s. The American population was not considered as an entirely white population due to the presence of non-whites in the country such as the Jews and the Arabs. Racial discrimination was banned at the middle of the 20th century as it was considered as socially unacceptable. However, racial politics have remained a key phenomenon and racism has continued to be a reflection of the socioeconomic inequality in the United States. Racial stratification tends to be seen in employment opportunities, education, and housing and even in matters of governance.
In conclusion, the institution of slavery in America has influenced the foundation of the United States based on the events that have occurred in the United States and the events that are still happening as far as the politics of racial discrimination and racism are concerned. In particular, the aftermaths of the slave revolts shaped the notion of whiteness and blackness not only in the United States but rather all over the world too. The current racial discrimination and instances of racism in the United States all stems from the history of slavery in America whereby the Blacks who were working as slaves were viewed as an inferior race as compared to the Whites. In this regard, they were maltreated by the Whites and made work as slaves under strict slave codes.