Beads of sweat rolled down their faces as they toiled to complete the day's tasks and keep up with the harsh, volatile weather. The vibrant sun vehemently shone upon their backs every day without mercy, regardless of their cries and prayers. Unbearable as it seems, this reality was repeatedly lived by millions of people - people who, even in the Land of the Free, were regarded as inferiors for the color of their skin, for their ancestral background, for being who they are. These people were known as slaves.
The practice of owning slaves in America had begun long before any action was taken to eradicate it, and had always been viewed by the majority as a guiltless custom up until the early 1800's. By 1810, more than one million slaves were present in America, the populace being confined in the South.
The South, who needed and kept innumerable slaves, tenaciously bickered with the North about the legitimacy of slavery. The South was an agricultural society, constituted primarily of rural land, packed with massive fields that needed to be farmed by large amounts of laborers. The number and size of the fields in the South compelled field owners to solely depend on free labor from extensive amounts of people they could control and govern. Furthermore, the cotton gin had been invented in 1793. This innovation was much more adept at separating cotton fibers from seeds, and in order to keep supply up with demand, Southerners bought more and more slaves to pick the cotton from the fields. Hence, owning slaves became a necessity to the South due to the influence of economics.
The North, a rather industrialized society compared to the South, saw no need in possessing slaves. The North was self-reliant, with its various factories and employees. This type of organization did not require the manipulation of slaves, as immigrant laborers were constantly relocating from their homeland to America, and could be hired or fired at the will of the factory managers. The North supported very few large farms demanding such large amounts of workers, and slowly, the Northern states abrogated slavery one by one. As the North continued to prosper from their flourishing industry, slavery became less ideal in the eyes of Northerners. The cruel treatment of slaves in the South angered many Northerners, who began to despise the Southern region. Gradually, people in the North conspired to eradicate the Southern practice of purchasing slaves.
The acrimony between the North and the South heightened as time progressed. The South remained unyielding and refused to conform to Northern ideas for a slave-free union, and the North firmly adhered to their request for the retraction of slaves. Subsequently, people of different ages, abilities, and backgrounds began to protest the legality of slavery in America, and demanded that something be done about it. These abolitionists sought to improve the lives of those who were mistreated as a result of slavery. Instead, their accomplishments were much greater than the greatest expectations they had in mind. These abolitionists would, together, ultimately change the course of history.
Candid thoughts and fiery words propelled William Lloyd Garrison through the turmoil of his time. Unafraid to reveal his view of slavery, Garrison founded an abolitionist newspaper in 1831, entitled The Liberator. The first edition of this newspaper was published on New Year's Day of 1831 in Boston, and clearly asserted Garrison's disdain for slavery to those who read it. Not a hint of hesitation was to be found in the words Garrison wrote. In the first edition of his newspaper, Garrison quotes, "On this subject [of slavery] I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen - but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest - [I] will not equivocate - I will not excuse - I will not retreat in a single inch - and I will be heard." Each statement called for the immediate emancipation of slaves, declared slavery a sin, and proclaimed all slave owners sinners in the eyes of God. Though this undaunted endeavor to recruit more adversaries of slavery was not particularly successful, it inspired many educated abolitionists to take their stand in the long run.
Further south, in Southampton County of Virginia, an educated Negro clandestinely planned out a scheme with his friends in the dark of night. His name was Nat Turner, otherwise known as the Black Prophet. Unlike the other slaves, Turner could read, and knew more of the outside world than his fellow laborers did. Turner had always despised slavery, and dreamed of freedom for his people every day of his life. On the night of August 21, 1831, it seemed that his dream would finally come true. Turner assembled six men with him, and began his mission to administer the death of all white families who owned slaves. That night, nearly one hundred white people were exterminated as Turner violently demanded liberty for slaves. His brutal behavior led to the death of innocent African Americans who were suspected to have participated in Turner's rebellion, as well as his own death. As he was hung on November 11 of 1831, Nat Turner left a lasting, rebellious legacy among all African Americans that marked the first war against slavery.
Although some drastic steps were being taken to end slavery in America, change was imperceptible. One Negro boy shone apart from the other slaves on the plantation. This boy hungered for a taste of freedom, disregarding all the obstacles in his way to educate himself and become a learned individual. This boy was named Frederick Douglass, and when he became liberated from slavery by way of the Underground Railroad in 1838, he was no longer a lad. On September 4, 1838, Douglass stepped into New York City from the train he had boarded in Baltimore. He was saved from destitution by an honorable man called David Ruggles, who was part of a committee that aided fugitives. With the support of Ruggles, Frederick Douglass subscribed to Garrison's newspaper The Liberator, which instantaneously aroused his urge to join the antislavery movement. Douglass spoke eloquently in churches, aided runaways along the Underground Railroad, and cooperated with others working for the same cause. Countless achievements in the history of slavery have been credited to Douglass, who established his lifelong career as an abolitionist by freeing a single slave - himself.
Born to a slave mother with ten other children, Harriet Tubman was destined to be a prisoner of slavery. Clever and defiant, Harriet's embittered feelings for slavery grew as she became older and more experienced. She encountered separation from family members, and endured the terror of being shipped away to a foreign plantation. Despite the disapproval of her loved ones, Harriet slipped away from the plantation near Cambridge, Maryland, in the dark of one summer night. The year was 1849, and the futures of slaves were not promising. Tubman prayed to God and pleaded to Him for guidance and strength. As she arrived at the doorstep of a woman who had offered help to fugitives, Tubman unknowingly stepped into a world of liberty; a land that promised more than she ever imagined. She was at the first stop of the Underground Railroad. After reaching Philadelphia, Tubman decided to return to Maryland and set other slaves free through the Underground Railroad. Her initial intention was to rescue her family members from slavery, but gradually, Tubman began to release those slaves who were not related to her at all. Not intimidated by the Fugitive Slave Law with the Compromise of 1850, Tubman proceeded to liberate slaves, even if it meant a longer and more dangerous journey to Canada. Known to her people as Moses, Tubman courageously steered more than 300 slaves to their freedom, making her one of the most successful conductors along the route of the Underground Railroad, the ultimate silent abolitionist in the war for freedom.
While the South battled to keep down the chaotic conditions, the North had a plan of its own. At the height of the Northern effort to help runaways, a fictional book that dealt with the immoralities of slavery was published in 1852. This book, called Uncle Tom's Cabin, was written by a white female Northerner named Harriet Beecher Stowe. This novel depicted Stowe's view of slavery through the main characters. Stowe had lived in Ohio for a period of time in her childhood, and had seen the atrocities of slavery firsthand. She witnessed slaves in chains being sent to auctions along the Ohio River, and witnessed the agonized looks on mothers' faces when their babies were forced from them, all of which motivated Stowe to write her first novel. Stowe hoped to bring the awareness of slavery to a wider audience, and her book did just that. Uncle Tom's Cabin became the abolitionists' most influential accomplishment, and united the Northern sentiment against slavery. The South, however, responded to this book with resentment. Slave owners disliked being called sinners by the Northerners, and were concerned about the financial status of the South if they ended slavery for good. The value of all the slaves in the South totaled to be somewhere around two billion dollars, and no one had a clear solution of how to end slavery without causing the collapse of the entire Southern economy. Stowe's novel, though powerful in every way, was not able to efficiently end slavery in America.
What America needed at the time was a strong, central leader who had the trust of both the North and the South, a leader who was both peaceful and effective at resolving dilemmas. John Brown was no such leader, preferring conflict to compromise. Unlike the Black Prophet Nat Turner, Brown was no slave, yet he detested slavery just as much. John Brown's father, a captain in the Revolutionary War, filled him with hatred for slavery, and this hatred continued to build up inside of Brown until he could take it no longer. In May of 1856, Brown heard about the beating of the antislavery senator - Charles Sumner - by a proslavery congressman. This news enraged him, and he assembled a party of twenty-one to begin his raid on Harpers Ferry. John Brown's philosophy was simple: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. He hoped to attack the federal government by seizing the federal arsenal instead of staging guerrilla warfare, despite admonitions and advice from Frederick Douglass. In the end, Brown was hung for his misconduct as Nat Turner was, and his lifetime's demeanor made the war to end slavery inevitable.
What was known as the final rupture between the North and South occurred in 1860. Abraham Lincoln was elected as President of the United States on November 6, 1860, and the South was not at all pleased. Lincoln was a Republican, a fairly new party that opposed slavery's expansion westward. He was seen as a dangerous threat to the Southerners, and the discussion of secession became more intense. By early 1861, seven states - South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas - had voted to withdraw from the Union, and formed their own nation, called the Confederate States of America. This newly developed nation created a constitution which protected the right of slave owners to own slaves in their states and any of their future territories. Lincoln, obliged by his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Union, sent supplies to a Southern military fort in Charleston, South Carolina. The Confederates saw this as a challenge to their authority, and on April 12, 1861, they launched the first shots of the Civil War at the fort.
During this war, President Lincoln worked for the gradual emancipation of slaves as well as preserving the Union. In July of 1862, he passed the Confiscation Act, asserting slaves who came over to the Union side free. It became unlawful to return fugitives to their masters and made it legal to seize the property of any Southerner who rebelled, as well as set free any slaves they might own. This Act was a significant symbol of how the North was no longer aiming to just bring the South back into the Union. It was striving to change the basis of the Southern lifestyle. In September 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. This proclamation warned the Confederacy states that if they did not come back to the Union by January 1, 1863, all the slaves would be set free. When none of the rebel states yielded to Lincoln's proclamation, he went ahead with the final proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863. Though the proclamation won prevailing approval in Europe, no slaves were actually freed. The slaves it applied to were in the Confederate states, over which Union laws had no effect. Thus, Lincoln proposed to make a law in the form of an amendment to the Constitution. This amendment would be known as the Thirteenth Amendment, which dealt specifically with the debate over slavery. After this amendment was vetoed once in 1864 by Democrats in the House of Representatives, the Thirteenth Amendment was finally made part of the Constitution in December of 1865. Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction as a final effort to help the South abide to these new laws.
All these abolitionists sacrificed incalculable amounts of time to hopefully resolve slavery in a peaceful yet effective way. Nevertheless, many innocent people died from battles and wars, all of which were steps resulting in an effort to terminate slavery, but the end justified the means. The abolitionist movement led to a slave-free America and improved the country's morals in the long run.
A turning point in history had taken place. Abolitionists not only worked to improve the status of the slaves, they also influenced the path of one another, which in turn changed America's course of history for the better. If these abolitionists had not taken their stand and left their imprints in the error known as slavery, this country would not be what it is today. The United States of America would most likely be a group of economically estranged nations, struggling to battle issues like slavery. American principles and beliefs would be outright disparate, hence there is no telling what would have become of the nation we live in.
The strong message of the slavery abolitionists has been effectively carried out in history and spread to all corners of the world in order for us to recognize and understand our past errors, moreover, learning from them so that the same mistake will not be made twice.
Did you like that paper? It will be judged by judges on Saturday, April 29th at William Paterson University in NJ, wherever that is. I feel like dying/quitting and not going because my whole Saturday will be spent there, awaiting the results (obviously not gonna be in my favor), but I'm afraid of my Social Studies teacher. *shudder* If you don't like this paper, then G2H because this is about the best I could come up with the night before Class Finals were due.Also, if you catch any SPELLING or GRAMMATICAL errors, e-mail me immediately!!!