During the early colonial period, indentured servants had filled the role of labor, working primarily in the Chesapeake region in the cultivation of tobacco. However, as the Dutch lost their monopoly on the slave trade, the price of slaves fell, allowing many plantation owners to purchase slaves and encouraging the growth of the slave trade to America. During the Revolutionary War and the decades following, slavery continued to boom, particularly in the South, where the use of slaves in crop cultivation came to dominate the Southern economy.
In the North, industry supported the economy, allowing for a decreased need for slave labor. The difference between the economies of the North and South allowed for different levels of importance for slavery in those areas; however, discrimination prevailed throughout the young nation, leading the African-American community of the time to struggle against whites for freedom and civil rights. In the South, the largest contributing factor to the expansion of slavery was the westward growth of America during the early 19th Century.
The Louisiana Purchase, signed under Thomas Jefferson, opened millions of acres to settlement encouraging many white southerners to move west into Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. These areas with their warm climates encouraged the expansion of the plantation system westward and accounts for the massive growth of slavery in those areas by 1830 seen in the Document C map illustrating the difference in slave concentration of the colonies. Lord Dunmore offered all slaves the opportunity to be free by joining the British military, as explained in his proclamation.
The British sought to weaken colonial resistance by the support of the slaves. While many joined the British military to escape slavery, some colonial states offered slaves their freedom if they joined the colonial side after realizing how many slaves were rebelling to the British side. Some free blacks joined the British side because they felt discriminated against and believed they should have the same rights and privileges as whites, as they were denied property rights. In Venture Smith’s “narrative,” a master consents ted to his salve buying his freedom.
Even though the slave could not pay it all in one lump sum, the master allowed him to pay it in “payments” he paid all he had as the down payment and then earned the rest by fishing and cropping. This example just came to show that not all slave owners were opposed to slaves being free. The Vermont Colonization proposed a 1? contribution from each inhabitant in order to help the society establish colonies on the coast of Africa. The colonies opened the door for emancipation. Some white abolitionists even advocated freeing blacks and relocating them to Africa, as did the American Colonization Society).
Between 1790 and 1830, slavery vastly expanded. As slavery decreased in the north, the south more than made up for them due to the production of cotton booming in the south and especially down the Black Belt on the East Coast. Cotton production was already a huge industry in 1790, but it because even bigger when in 1793, the Cotton Gin was invented by a slave of Eli Whitney. The Cotton Gin made separating the cotton from the seeds quicker and easier, making the meticulous work a breeze compared to when it was done by hand.
Slavery during the period also grew out of an economic need as the South looked to prosper solely through agricultural means. This meant slavery was simply an economic necessity as huge plantations, particularly those that produced cotton, were heavily labor-intensive. Because of this, slave-owners sought to control their slaves entirely and prevent them from escaping, although some slave holders allowed them to purchase their own freedom, as referred to in Venture Smith’s “Narrative”.
Nonetheless, conditions were harsh leading many slaves to attempt rebellion or escape. In The Confessions of “Ben,” the document details the plans of one slave rebellion, plotted during Peace time so as to avoid conflict with soldiers or patrols. Rebellions during the period, usually small in scale, were rarely successful in the short term and merely resulted in stricter treatment of slaves, particularly in the Deep South. The harsher the treatment, the more impassioned became anti-slavery rhetoric, particularly in the African-American community.
David Walker’s “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World,” shows just how frustrated many had become with the system of slavery, and the determination of the community to free itself through any means. Denmark Vesey was a slave who had bought his freedom and planned what would’ve been the biggest slave rebellion in the United States; however, the Vesey’s conspiracy leaked and he was tried, convicted, and executed. In the North, slavery as a practice was a lost interest as the more industrial economy did not rely upon slave labor for its success.
Upper class families often owned one or two slaves to carry on matters of the home, yet the majority of Northerners never owned a slave. That, however, did not mean free blacks received equal rights or good treatment in the North. Paul Cuffe’s Petition and Prince Hall’s Masonic Movement both point out the denial of rights to free blacks, as well as the harsh racism that prevailed throughout the region. Blacks were not allowed to vote, and were often paid less for the same jobs as whites.
However, some in the North took up the issue of discrimination looking for ways to solve the struggles of the African American community. Plans for colonization of Africa by free blacks and former slaves were supports by some in the North such as the Vermont Colonization Society discussed in Document H; however, movements like this never picked up wide support and, in the end, amounted to little. During the late 18th century, the 2nd Great Awakening began as the second period of religious revival that extended into the antebellum period.
Bishop Richard Allen was the founder of the African American Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Allen was granted the title of the first bishop for his hope offering of the religion given to the Black community. In the picture of Document D, an AME meeting is taking place in Philadelphia. Free Blacks often celebrated their freedom, especially since their church was the first independent black domination in the US. Many Northern Whites plead Black causes, turning into abolitionists.
Free Blacks were gracious to Whites who worked hard to Improve African conditions. Most White abolitionists were great supporters of the American Colonization Society in order to send them back to their homes in Africa. While some Whites were helpful, others were discriminate like those in Boston, were Black’s lives were endangered due to hate as described in Prince Hall’s Masonic Movement. Disfranchisement gave the right to vote to Blacks in the North where their votes would’ve usually counted as less effective or completely ineffective.
Although some slaves were able to buy their freedom or escape to the North, slavery as a practice boomed between 1775 and 1830. The westward expansion of America and growth of the plantation system required a large number of slaves to support the agrarian economy. Free blacks were not spared harsh racism and discrimination, leading many African Americans to campaign for both the freedom of their people in the South and their own personal liberties at home.