THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND SLAVERY
Word "slavery" is not used in the Constitution
Article I, Section 2: (Three-fifths clause)
"Representatives and taxes will be apportioned along the states according to respective numbers adding the "whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons"
Article I, Section 9: (importation of slaves will not be banned before 1808)
"The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight (1808)"
Article IV, Section 2: (Fugitive slaves must be returned to owners)
"No Person held to Service or Labour- in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due."
BACKGROUND OF SLAVERY IN THE U.S.
Arrived 1619 on Dutch ships
Probably worked as indentured servants.
Atlantic Ocean between America and Africa
Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793
Separated seeds from cotton bolls.
Renewed the interest in slave labor.
Slave population in America rose from about 700,000 in 1790 to almost 4 million by 1860.
Cotton replaced sugar as the world's major crop produced by slave labor 19th c.
3/4 of world's cotton supply came from southern U.S.
Supplied textile mills in Great Britain.
From 1803, cotton was America's most important export
Cotton, unlike sugar, doesn't grow very high so slave overseers can see their workers.
Other crops in the South
Rice (southeast coast of South Carolina and Georgia)
Sugarcane (southern Louisiana)
Tobacco (western Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri)
Hemp (Kentucky, Missouri)
SLAVE TRADE AFTER 1808
Importation of slaves outlawed after 1808 (see constitution)
Internal slave trade continued - mostly up and down Atlantic coast.
SOUTHERN SLAVE OWNERS
3/4 of white southerners didn't own slaves.
Most lived on self-sufficient farms and supported slavery and the planter elite
By 1850, most slave holding families owned 5 or fewer slaves.
Fewer than 2,000 families owned 100 slaves or more.
Only 250 families owned more that 200 slaves.
Biggest plantations were on the coast of South Carolina and along the Mississippi River.
Most supported slavery and the planter elite.
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF SLAVERY
Paternalism and slavery as a "positive good."
Idea that slave owners were kind, responsible masters who took care of the slaves.
Who would feed and clothe slaves and take care of them in old age.
George Fitzhugh argued that "universal liberty" was exception, not the rule
And because slaves not burdened with financial concerns, they were the happiest and freest people in the world.
Slavery as a "necessary evil"
Slavery is necessary for human progress.
Ancient Greece and Rome used slaves.
Without slavery, freedom was not possible (for whites)
Argument that white people were biologically superior to slaves.
Fitzhugh wrote Cannibals All! 1857
Said Negro race incapable of civilization's higher callings.
So owners doing slaves a favor (see paternalism above)
Josiah Nott collected skulls and measured brain cavitities
Concluded that blacks had smaller brains than whites
Slavery guaranteed equality for whites
As long as there were people who were below whites in social status.
All white people would be equally superior.
The Bible contains many references to slavery so God must have approved.
However, black Christians looked to Biblical stories about freedom and empowerment:
Exodus, David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale.
Slaves not allowed to testify against a white person
slaves not allowed to carry firearms
Slaves not allowed to leave plantations without permission
Slaves not allowed to read or write
Slaves not allowed to gather in a group without a white person present.
Masters controlled whether slaves were married
Masters controlled how slaves spent free time.
LAWS FOR FREE BLACKS
About 1/2 a million (488,000)
226,00 in North (100% of the total black population)
262,000 in South (6.2% of the total black population)
Most in the Upper South (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina)
In Virginia, created community called Israel Hill
Free blacks allowed to own property and get married
Free blacks could not be bought or sold
Free blacks not allowed to own a firearm.
Free blacks not allowed to own dogs
Free blacks not allowed to have liquor.
Free blacks could not testify in court or serve on a jury
Free blacks could not strike a white person - even in self-defense.
Article IV, Section 2: (Fugitive slaves must be returned to owners)
Followed the North Star as guide (see journal by Douglass)
Estimated 1,000 slaves a year escaped
Most from Upper South
In South most escaped to cities where they could blend in with free black population.
County governments were requried to maintain slave patrols to cruise the countryside looking for wandering slaves.
Some counties hired "paddyrollers" -- posses of armed, lower-class whites who had level right to break into slave cabins and demand at gunpoint that they account for themselves.
Slaves needed written passes from masters giving them permission to be off property.
Loose organization of abolitionists who helped slaves escape.
Harriet Tubman, escaped slave, made 30 trips to Maryland to lead slaves to freedom.
1839 group of slaves collectively seized freedom while on board Amistad.
Supreme Court accepted J.Q. Adams argument that they had been illegally seized in Africa and should be freed.
STONO REBELLION (1739) (South Carolina)
Largest revolt in 13 colonies.
20 slaves under Jemmy
Many of the slaves were former soldiers (some in Angola)
Gathered at Stono River and raided a warehouse, killing white owners
Then to other houses killing more white people.
On their way to Spanish Florida (where they would be free)
Grew to 100 rebels, shouting "Liberty!" in native African languages.
Slaves were caught and 50 were executed.
Consequence: slaves more harshly treated than before.
NEW YORK CITY CONSPIRACY (1741) (New York)
GABRIEL'S CONSPIRACY (1800) (Virginia)
Led by a slave named Gabriel who lived on Prosser plantation.
Gabriel, a skilled blacksmith, could read and write (only 5% of slaves were literate)
Inspired by revolt in French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti)
Gabriel planned to march to Richmond
Take armory and hold Governor James Monroe hostage
Until demands for equal rights were met.
Uprising planned for August 30
But thunderstorm made travel difficult.
Many slaves lost faith, one, called Pharaoh, revealed the plot.
Virginia captured Gabriel and co-conspirators.
25 African Americans (including Gabriel) were hanged.
DENMARK VESEY, 1822 (South Carolina)
Free black carpenter and Methodist preacher in Charleston, S.C.)
As a religious man, he believed the Bible condemned slavery
And saw hypocrisy of Declaration of Independence.
Hatched plan for a slave uprising:
Salves would sack the city for arms and provisions
Seize ships in the harbor
Then sail for Haiti (all blacks free after successful slave rebellion)
Vesey's chief lieutenant - Gullah Jack (Angolan-born plantation slave)
Vesey recruited rebels on plantations outside Charleston
Many, like Gullah, had been imported from Africa in 1807
Year before importation outlawed, SC imported 40,000 Africans
The conspiracy was discovered before Vesey could act.
Rising was scheduled for June 16 but informer reveled plan.
33 hanged (including Vesey and Gullah Jack)
NAT TURNER'S REBELLION (1831) (Virginia)
Nat Turner led bloody uprising in Southampton County, VA.
Turner was deeply religious
And planned rebellion after prophetic vision ordering him to gain freedom by force.
Turner killed his master’s family as they slept
Then 70-80 slaves from house to house
Killed 50-60 whites, mostly women and children.
Militia put them down
And Turner and 55 other slaves executed.
Last large-scale rebellion in South
Caused hysteria – as many as 200 slaves eventually killed by white mobs and militias.
Triggered series of oppressive restrictions on slave populations.
Laws passed making it illegal to teach blacks to read and write.
HISTORY OF ABOLITION
Between 1800 and 1840
Slavery abolished in most of Spanish America and the British Empire
By mid 19th century, slavery only in:
Cuba, Puerto Rico and Brazil
Slavery outlawed in Britain in 1838
Slavery outlawed in U.S.
Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery in northwest area
Missouri Compromise of 1820
Slavery illegal north of 36' 30" line.
Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745-1797)
Former slave who bought his freedom from an American Quaker
Wrote autobiography in 1789
Traveled to London where he supported the British movement to end the slave trade.
Influential in passing Slave Trade Act 1807 ending slave trade in Britain and its colonies
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
Escaped slave from Maryland
Said "I appear before the immense assembly this evening as a thief and a robber, I stole this head, these limbs, this body from my master, and ran off with them."
Published his own antislavery newspaper, the North Star.
Leader of the Abolitionist movement in Mass. and NY.
"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" (1845)
David Walker (1796-1830)
Free African-American from North Carolina
Published Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World in 1829
Discussed immorality and injustice of slavery
Described instances of cruelty slaves suffered.
As evangelicalDavid Walker backed every point with quotations from the Bible.
Said if whites did not abolish slavery
Black people had a morel right and duty to rise up and destroy slavery violently
Advocated violence and rebellion as only way to end slavery.
William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879)
Became assistant to Benjamin Lundy
Quaker publisher of Baltimore anti-slavery newspaper, Genius of Universal Emancipation.
But Garrison thought it was too gradualistic.
Lundy also supported colonization.
1831 Garrison and Isaac Knapp founded Boston antislavery newspaper, the Liberator
Attacked slavery and called for immediate end to it.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
Wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852
Sold 300,000 copies within a year.
Uncle Tom was a submissive and loyal old slave
Who was sold by his kind paternalistic planter to an evil slave owner (Simon Legree)
Book described cruelty and Tom's suffering.
When southerners complain that it distorted reality.
Stowe wrote A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin which documented allegations with quotes from southern newspapers.