History of Slavery in the United States of America 1619

Introduction

The Independence War was the most important event in the United States during the 19th century. Many social, cultural, economic and politic phenomena appeared in that era. Slavery is the most important fact about the early history of America. It is “the state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household” (“Slavery”). Somehow, slavery had an impact on some other related developments.

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A Brief History of Slaver in the United States of America 1619-1861

The first step on the road of slavery took place by the arrival of 20 Africans to Jamestown in 1619 (“Timeline”). They were transported by a Dutch ship all the way from Africa. They were brought to work as servants. Slavery was first legalized in “colonial Massachusetts” in 1641 (“Slavery”). This first ship to deliver slaves arrived to America in 1645. The ship was called “Rainbowe” (“Timeline”). In Virginia, slavery started to get colonist’s attention. They needed physically-qualified workers to work in their “plantations”. Thus, slavery became legal in Virginia in 1661. The slavery law “provided that the status of an African child would be determined by the status of its mother. If the mother of a child was a slave, then her child was doomed to slavery”. The first step in slavery was catching Africans by the Dutch people or even by other Africans. Slaves were transported to America by many companies like the “Dutch West India”. This company was specialized only in the business of slavery. There were other big companies like the “East India Company” and “the Royal African Company”. The slavery companies didn’t take good care of slaves when they were transporting them. As a result, a lot of slaves died before reaching America.

African slaves always showed resistance. In 1688, black slaves started to get help from “Quakers” and the “Society of Friends”. Quakers “publicly declared that slavery was at odds with Christianity”. Most of them were in Pennsylvania (“Slavery”).

The slaves’ situation was different between different colonies. In the north, the main economic activity was trading, and that made colonists there involved in slave trading only. The “New England colonies” legalized slavery and illegalized some of the slaves’ freedoms. In the south, slavery was legal too but the situation there was worse because the southern states stricter. In the “middle colonies”, the laws were in the favor of slavery and against the slaves’ rights. New York was one of the middle colonies (“Slavery”). New York’s laws were extremely abusive to slaves:

In New York, for example, any slave found forty miles north of Albany was presumed to be escaping to Canada and could be executed upon the oath oftwo witnesses. In New York City, slaves could not appear on the street after dark without a lighted lantern. (“Slavery”).

Although the New York’s laws were very harsh toward slaves, slavery was not common like it was in the south. And that’s because plantations were small and didn’t need slaves to fulfill the needs of labor. Also, many people didn’t agree on the concept of slavery.

European colonists needed slaves to work in their plantations (especially in the south states). Thus, some laws were quite decent toward slaves. Those laws regulated the number of hours of work for a slave everyday (“Slavery”).

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Some black Americans were free. Some of them were declared free by their masters, some were members of the families of the first Africans who came to America in 1619 (they were servants, not slaves), and some paid for their freedom. Laws prevented slave owners from or “manumitting” slaves if it could cause slaves financial problems (like the inability to pay a debt or living without a source of income). Some states forced masters to support their slaves financially after they set them free. However, in some southern states it was not allowed to free slaves. One of the ways of freeing a slave was to give him “a gift of land”. Back then, having land was something exclusive for free people only (“Slavery”).

The Independence War kicked off in 1775 and ended in 1783 (“Independence War”). Following the war, the north states set new laws that helped in ending slavery. In the north, lawmakers were “inspired mostly by the revolutionary, liberal philosophies of the period, began advocating expanding notions of freedom that were being rejected in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia” (“Slavery”). In 1787, the United States started a long-run “struggle” to reach an agreement on a new Constitution for the country. It was “ratified” in 1789 (“Slavery”).

Some economic changes took place during the era following the ratifying of the new Constitution. The owners of plantations in the south started to change their corps. Previously, they were producing “rice, tobacco, and indigo” and their new choice was “cotton”. Back then, new technologies came and helped in easy production of cotton. Thus, the productivity of slaves would increase. Southern states started to import huge numbers of slaves to fulfill their needs. But in 1807, the federal government decided to prevent “the importation of African slaves” (“Slavery”).

In 1819, “Missouri” wanted to become a part of the United States as a “slave state”. Missouri had to acquire the approval from the “U.S. House of Representatives”. One of them, “Henry Clay”, agreed with many members to vote for accepting Missouri as a slave state. Southern states gave northern states something in return. “In exchange for legal slavery in Missouri, the southern legislators agreed to limit the northern boundaries of slavery to the same latitude as the southern boundary of Missouri. Thus were the terms of the Missouri Compromise of 1820”. Missouri’s laws didn’t give slaves his freedom. It was possible only by the choice of masters. Also, blacks were prevented from entering Missouri. Many Congressmen didn’t welcome that decision because the federal Constitution allowed American citizens to move between different states. The slaves were American citizens. In 1821, “Maine” became a part of the United States as a “free state” (“Slavery”).

One of the most significant events in the history of American slavery was the “Dred Scott v. Sandford” case. Scott was a slave. After his master died, he decided to sue his master’s widow in Missouri to get his freedom. In 1857, the 23-year-old case ended with Scott losing the case. “Abolitionists” were upset about that decision. “The decision also strengthened the resolve of pro-slavery forces in the South. As the struggle for power between slavers and emancipators intensified, the geographic lines proscribing slavery, drawn and redrawn, were fast becoming battle lines”. This case was a hot issue in the presidential campaign of “Abraham Lincoln” (“Slavery”).

1860 was a lucky year for the Republicans. Lincoln became the new president of the United States. They also were the dominating power in the Congress that year. Abraham Lincoln decided to end slavery in the country once and for all. The decision was opposed by the states that used to support slavery. As a result 11 American states seceded from the Union and formed the “Confederate States of America”. As a result the American “Civil War” began in 1861(“Confederate”).

Slavery in the United States of America 1861-1670

The United States’ government kept “passing federal legislation on the subject of slavery” during the time of war. This first one was the “Confiscation Act” in 1961. According to this act, if a certain property “used in insurrection” against the United States’ federal government, the ownership of the property will be transmitted immediately to the federal government. In 1862, it was announced that slavery should be abolished “in all territories owned by the federal government”. The following year, the government announced that slaves would earn their freedom with no possibility of becoming slaves again. This declaration is called the “Emancipation Proclamation”. The Civil War ended in 1865. The Union defeated the “Confederates”. During the years following the end of the war, the government made a number of constitutional amendments in order to abolish slavery:

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  1. “The Thirteenth Amendment” (1865): The total abolishment of slavery (“Slavery”).
  2. “The Fourteenth Amendment” (1868): Every black citizen will become a “regular citizen”. And he will have full rights just like a white citizen (“Slavery”).
  3. “The Fifteenth Amendment” (1870): Blacks will be allowed to vote in elections. But that’s exclusive for males only (“Slavery”).

How Did Slavery Impact Other Related Developments?

Slavery had an impact on religious revivalism. Slavery made religious revivalism successful by making many slaves convert to “evangelical religions such as the Methodist and Baptist faiths”. Also, although there was an evangelical revivalism in both north and south, their different views about slavery prevented them for working together (“Evangelicalism”). Also it’s claimed that the differences between north and south in religious opinions (especially slavery) caused the civil war (“Awakening”).

Conclusion

The impact of slavery was stronger than the impact on any other aspect in the history of America. It’s the only reason that made a domestic war take place. Unfortunately, after the end of slavery, black Americans were segregated from white Americans. And that was happening in northern and southern states (“Slavery”).

Works Cited

“Confederate States of America.” Answers.com. 2009. Web.

“Evangelicalism.” Answers.com. 2009. Web.

“Slavery.” Answers.com. 2009. Web.

“Slavery – Free Will – Revivalism – Second American Awakening.” 2006. Web.

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“Timeline of Slavery in America.” Black History. 2008. A&E Television Networks. Web.

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