African Americans have been tolerating slavery and oppression for several centuries. They were deprived even of the most elementary rights and their lives were completely at their masters’ disposal. Closer to the middle of the nineteenth century, certain disturbances started to be observed among the enslaved African Americans. A number of narratives by such historians as Deborah White, Donald Wright, Harriet Ann Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, and others depict black people’s life in slavery. The stories presented in their narratives, and especially the tone they were written in, help to understand why namely African Americans are believed to have brought an end to slavery in the United States, how exactly they resisted oppression, as well as a number of other issues which the ending of slavery entails.
The most convincing evidence to the fact that African Americans ended slavery in the United States is that they themselves stood up for their freedom and social equality. Black people could not stand oppression anymore; they differed from the whites not only in their skin color, but in the way they were treated. For instance, Frederick Douglas in his “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” directly points at the facts which made him indignant even when he was a child: “A want of information concerning my own [age] was a source of unhappiness to me even during childhood. The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege.” (Douglass and O’Meally 17) Similar evidence can be found in “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriet Ann Jacobs. In her narrative she tells how slaves’ families were separated and “driven away like cattle, to be sold they knew not where. Husbands were torn from wives, parents from children, never to look upon each other again this side the grave.” (Jacobs 91) Therefore, African Americans themselves ended slavery because they started the fight for their rights and freedoms which gradually overflew into the Civil Rights Movement.
Slavery could be characterized not only by oppression but by extreme cruelty and brutality with which masters treated their slaves. This oppression and cruelty created the conditions for slavery demise by evoking offence, resentment, hatred, and sometimes even a desire to get revenged in the hearts of African American slaves. It seems that it was not the limitation of freedom that the slaves hated about the slavery above all; it was namely brutality and cruelty of their masters which made them hate them and their own life. Douglass’s narrative abounds with the stories about the ways in which slaveholders punished their slaves. However, the most impressive are the writer’s own words regarding the slaveholders’ unwillingness to admit that they treated their slaves brutally, “as if it were less cruel to reduce a human being to the condition of a thing, than to give him a severe flagellation, or to deprive him of necessary food and clothing!” (Douglass and O’Meally 9) He blames them on thinking that “whips, chains, thumb-screws, paddles, bloodhounds, overseers, drivers, patrols, were not all indispensable to keep the slaves down, and to give protection to their ruthless oppressors!” (Douglass and O’Meally 9) Thus, it is namely oppression and brutality against black slaves that initiated a fight for freedom and created conditions for slavery demise.
As such, slavery is not a passive power of no significance, it is something of crucial but not immediate effect. Black people become the abductees of a period in history, when being free on the land of Africa and feeling no hazard from somewhere outer they were seized and enslaved. Their destiny fulfills the idea of the fully predictable end of the slavery in the US.
By the efforts of not so many people in the fields of literature, music, social activity nowadays Afro-Americans are full of American identity as they manifested it by means of having no desire to endure evil of ancient and medieval tradition, namely, the problem of slaves.
When talking about the attitude of white men one should clearly point to the idea of a deliberate urge to enslave black people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This intention was a resonance of a man’s ability to oppress somebody without giving a freedom to choose in the context of people’s rights. For example, Klaus Benesch tells in his book about a situation that was obvious throughout whole America in terms of inequity between people of different race:
Slavery in the United States was among the most oppressive forms of slavery in the long history of this institution in the world (see Paterson). Slaves in the United States had no protection of the laws of this country. In the Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Taney of the United States Supreme Court said that slaves in his country had no rights which any white man was bound to honor. He meant specifically no right to live, to marry, to protect and maintain families, to read or learn, to vote, to participate in government or the systems of justice. (Klaus Benesch 140)
This should shame people of today’s America. The diversity of people with different skin colors is high here and surely it embodies the power of the country. Its magical ability to be one of the best countries on the world arena is a result of people living in America to stand against injustice within society to make it stronger. This paradox characterizes present day’s America and the sons of this country.
The South of the United States was thought to be the power of the country as there were fields of cotton and too many Blacks providing the process of gathering. It was real hell for them, as Whites pressed on them on every stage of age. The effect was feed by those agrarian landowners who still saw the greater profit in using non reimbursable labor of colonized people of Africa.
Due to the Union victory in the American Civil War, Blacks got a first breath proclaiming their freedom similar to those of European origin. Still as there were no law base according to this problem of American society, the constancy of ignorance on the part of “pure Americans” were continuing until present days. The reason is ideological fulfillment in minds of Americans.
People struggled against each other in the Civil War, but received no feedback about the problem of racial segregation in the society. Americans took part in the World War II fighting against fascism and again have no idea about the aims of the victory in the war. With a verse picture of American culture, traditions and people, possessing an extraordinary significance for the nation the world is able to imagine the real authority of the US throughout the international relationships. It now concerns great changes in American society with the rise to power of Barak Obama, the black President. He reflects hopes of many African American as of justice performance within former slaves.
It offends the principles of democracy, which the United States tend to bound in the world. When people do not have own fundamentals about providing the values of democracy, which one ventures to explain democratic virtues in the world?
Returning to the problem of racial segregation in the US and in terms of Black people lives being suppressed by so-called heirs of puritans Jonathan Scott says:
The analogy with racial oppression is subtle: the rhythmic formation of seashells is a metaphor for the infinite, universal diversity of human figures and countenances, which can be suppressed only by systematic denial and willful misrecognition of their playful differences and idiosyncrasies. (Jonathan Scott 202)
To sum up, the constant alignment of American society in terms of the problem of African Americans in the middle of the nineteenth century until now seems to be positive. This factor is emphasized by the crucial concern of people about the issue.
Donald Wright, Harriet Ann Jacobs, Deborah White and others flaming with a great desire to bring changes into American society, caught man’s attention on the danger of slavery and racial intolerance within the nation. The authors provide readers with the dreadful and blood-minded reality of Blacks with the emphasis of their united actions to reach freedom.
Douglass, Frederick and O’Meally, Robert G. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Spark Educational Publishing, 2005.
Jacobs, Harriet A. Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl Seven Years Concealed. New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
Racism in Contemporary America. Meyer Weinberg, Racism in Contemporary America; Greenwood Press, 1996.
Scott, Jonathan. Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2006.
Klaus Benesch, Kerstin Schmidt, Space in America: Theory, History, Culture; Rodopi, 2005.