Black Africans helped the Portuguese and the Spanish when they were on their exploration of the America. During the 16th century, some of the explorers who were of black origin went ahead to settle within the Valley of Mississippi as well as in areas that came to be known as New Mexico and South Carolina. However, Esteban was the most celebrated black explorer of the, who followed the Southwest route in the 1530s. Blacks in the United State and their uninterrupted history can be traced from 1619; this was after 20 Africans were landed within the English colony of Virginia. Though these blacks were by then not slaves, they served as servants who were bound to an employer for a limited number of years as it was to most of the white settlers. By 1660s bigger numbers of Africans were taken to the English colonies. By 1790, the number of blacks was almost 760,000; this was about a fifth of the United States’ population.
In the event of holding black servants to more than the normal term of indenture, it turned to legal establishment of black slavery within Virginia in the year 1661 as well as in the entire English colonies by 1750. Because the blacks could be easily distinguished from the rest of the population based on their color, they became highly visible enslaving targets. In addition, the fact that people had belief that they were inferior race, having heathen culture, it paved the way for whites to rationalize black slavery (Lisa Vox, 2012). These blacks who were enslaved were forced to work; they cleared as well as cultivated the New World’s farmlands. Among about 10 million Africans who were brought to the Americas through the slave trade, approximately 430,000 entered the territory of what is now referred to as United States. Majority of them were from western Africa covering region which is now called Senegal to Angola. At these places of origin social organization in addition to art, music as well as dance was highly advanced.
As slavery and slave trade began making a lot of profit, people of Africa started fighting each other with intention of providing for European traders. Africans who happened to be captured were taken to the coast where they were crowded into holds of slave ships which was to pass heading to the West Indies, (Haskins James, 1999). In the process of being taken to the coast, one sixth of them died from shock, diseases as well as suicide. Reaching to the West Indies, those who survived were to be seasoned and be taught the rudiments of English and the discipline and routine of the plantation.
Acts of the slaves themselves and their slave revolts have been positioned on the margins of the history of the abolitionist movement because slaves especially black slaves highly contributed in laying the United States’ foundation even though they were not willing and failed to be rewarded. Blacks as well were the major contributors of the development of the Southern folklore, dancing, speech and food thus blending the Africans culture with the one in Europe, (Greene, Meg, 1999). In the 17th and 18th centuries, African slaves were working majorly on the rice, tobacco as well as indigo plantations which were in the Southern seaboard. Soon, act of slavery became developed within the South’s plantations of the Southern huge sugar and cotton plantations. Even though the northern businessmen used to make great fortunes out of the slave trade as well as from investments from the southern plantations, in the north slavery was not widespread.
The first martyr to cause American independence from Great Britain was an ex-slave Crispus Attucks who was killed in the Boston Massacre of 1770. In that revolutionary war, about 5,000 black soldiers and sailors made up the team that was in American forces. When the revolution ended part of the slaves (former solders) were set free leading to the abolishing of slavery in the northern. However, because of the 1788 ratification of United States constitution, slavery within the south turned to be more widespread than before. According to that constitution, a slave was counted as three fifths of a person for taxation and representation in Congress and it was extended the African slave trade by 20 years and paved way for return of fugitive slaves to their owners (Wood Betty, 2005).
When African slave trade officially ended in 1808, another domestic slave trade came up within the United State, which was used as a source of labor for new cotton lands that were in the interior of Southern. As it continued, the slave supply changed to practice of slave breeding, where women were persuaded to be pregnant at the age 13 and they were encouraged to give birth more often as they could. Slave codes laws were in regulation of slave system in order to facilitate full control by the master as well as total submission by the slaves. A slave was considered like a property and a source of labor that could be easily bought and sold just like an animal. These slaves were not given the opportunity of stable family life and were given very minimal privacy. The law did not allow them to learn how to read and write. The slaves who tend to be meek were to receive token just from their masters, while the ones who were rebellious got brutal punishment. To keep them divided, there was establishment of social hierarchy among the plantation slaves. The hierarchy began at the top with house slaves, followed by the skilled artisans and the lower one were the field hands who were the largest in number.
Because of the tight control a few successful slave revolts existed at this time. Any plot by the slave fell under betrayal. In 1739, Cato in Stono (S.C) led a revolt which took 30 lives of the whites. In 1741, there were slave revolts in New York City which resulted to heavy damage of property. Slave revolts which were somehow elaborately planned were of Denmark Vesey (Charleston, S.C., in 1822) and Richmond, Va., in 1800). While the most frightening revolt to the whites at that time was led by Nat Turner (Southampton, Va., in 1831), which swept the life of almost 60 whites. This led to the capturing of Turner as well as his coconspirators.
Slaves tried to resist individually where mothers were killing their newborn babies so that they could be saved from slavery, they destroyed machinery and crops, poisoning the slave owners, running away, malingering and arson. Slaves who ran away were led into freedom in the North as well as in Canada through the blacks and white abolitionists who organized for them a network of hiding places and secret routes that were later known as “underground railroad.” Harriet Turban (an ex-slave) who is considered as the greatest heroes of the Underground Railroad, through his numerous trips to the South, assisted many slaves escapes to freedom.
Actions of northern free blacks and whites have been studied more by American historians than the slave revolts because at the era of slavery free blacks formed one tenth of the whole black population. By 1960 the population of free blacks was approximated to be 500,000; half of them were from North and the other half from South. This population of free blacks had their origin with former indentured servants as well as their descendants. Other free blacks were immigrants from the West Indies in addition to blacks who were freed by individual slave owners.
Even though free blacks were left free, they remain technically free. The ones who were in the South where threats to the slavery institution existed, the same restrictions that were being imposed on slaves in terms of law and by custom were still being applied to them. On the northern side the free black faced discrimination against property freedom of movement, ownership, and voting, however, they had an opportunity of accessing education. They as well still faced the danger of being kidnapped and being enslaved.
Action of northern free blacks has been studied more by American historians as compared to the slave revolts as well because the earliest leaders of American blacks were from the free blacks of the North especially the ones who were in Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Mass. These free black from the North had their own institutions such as schools, mutual aid societies and churches. Among these first organizations was the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) church which was formed in 1816, and its leader was Bishop Richard Allen of Phaladelphia. Other recognized free blacks were mathematician and astromer Benjamin Bannekar.
Free blacks were the first abolitionists. They included Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm who were founders of Freedom’s Journal in 1827 which was the first Negro newspaper in the United States. Through the support of the blacks, “Liberator,” a journal, was founded in 1831 by white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and it survived. The Negro…