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The history of slavery in America

Slavery was a system where African Americans did not have freedom and were treated like property. It existed from the beginning of the 1800s to 1865 in America. Slavery caused many conflicts throughout America’s history, including the Civil War (Newman).

Slave rebellions, like Nat Turner’s revolt in 1831 scaring Virginians and the South, John Brown’s heroic earlier raids in the 1850s solidified people’s opinions on slavery, and John Brown’s horrific raid in 1859 on Harpers Ferry, Virginia jeopardized the South’s beliefs about slavery, were leading causes to the Civil War. The South needed a way to make a lot of money. The slaves worked for free and were able to do the labor fast and efficiently because the were more suited for the conditions. The climate and soil in the South was well suited for farming (Newman).The slaves made the people in the South a lot of money. They worked for free and did not cost very much because the slave owners gave the slaves the least amount of sleep, food, and water possible in order to keep them alive.

The settlers were very harsh, “worked the slaves very hard and treated them poorly…. In the colonies, slaves were sometimes worked to death, but the price of replacing slaves was high enough that they often were given just enough food and rest to survive. It also allowed slaves to form informal families, which helped to replace their numbers” (“Slavery”). Also, in order to make it easier, “most of the kidnapping of Africans and forcing them into bondage was actually done by other Africans, requiring even less effort on the part of whites to perpetuate the system” (Newman).

Slavery appealed, especially to the people in the South, because it was easy. The slaves were cheaper because they did not have to be paid like indentured servants (“Slavery”), they were not required to have much to eat or drink, they could be treated however the white people wanted to treat them, and it did not take any time to get the slaves because other Africans did that job (Newman).The slaves were more used to the conditions for working on the fields than anyone else. They could do it faster and more efficient than indentured servants or any other settler. Therefore, slavery continued to be a very important part of the South’s way of life. Slavery became so important when “Tobacco was an extremely labor -intensive crop, requiring field hands to spend long hours bending over plants under the blazing hot sun. Most whites proved entirely unsuited for this labor…African slaves solved many of these problems” (Newman).

The labor that the South needed the slaves to do was very difficult, and was hard for the white people to do because they were not used to hard work outside on plantations like the slaves. That is why the South fought so hard in order to keep slavery. The white people were also lazy, and did not want to do the hard work the slaves did, which made them enjoy slavery even more. They were able to make money without much effort. It was beneficial to them all around, even though it took away the slaves rights as people (Newman).

Nat Turner was the leader of the a slave revolt. He had a passion for fighting against slavery, and so on August 21, 1831, he and 75 other African Americans marched around and killed 51 white people in two days. Eventually, Nat Turner was killed and the others helping him were captured or killed. The Gag Rule was one example of how Nat Turner’s rebellion scared people, including Congress, which later caused the coming of the Civil War (“Nat Turner’s Rebellion”). Many petitions were made in order to get the District of Columbia to change the rules so that slavery was not allowed.

The Gag Rule, made in 1836, only 5 years after Nat Turner’s rebellion, said that Congress would decide whether to accept the petitions and read them instead of deciding what to do with them. It was purposefully confusing so that the Senate did not have to deal with the petitions, and “Most senators wanted this irritating issue to disappear. They feared that Calhoun’s proposal to bar the Senate door to these petitions would inadvertently benefit the small and regionally isolated anti-slavery movement. Overnight, the troublesome enemies of slavery could be transformed into noble champions of civil liberties” (“The Gag Rule”). Nat Turner’s rebellion influenced the creation the Gag Rule because he made others want to stand up and petition slavery. He was a just an African American slave who revolted in order to stand up for his beliefs. The Gag Rule did not stop the Civil War from coming, but instead just caused the war to be fought later because the petitions were not dealt with, and they would eventually need to be (“The Gag Rule”).

Also, this ultimately led to the Civil War because the South were scared, which caused them to try to stop any more rebellions and tried to stop the North from threatening to stop their main source of labor (Newman).Nat Turner’s rebellion influenced the 1832 national slavery debate that took place in Virginia and influenced the petitions made before the debate. Nat Turner’s revolt “sent shockwaves of fear throughout Virginia” (Root). In one of the petitions from December 6, 1831, only three and a half months after Nat Turner’s rebellion, it stated, “we earnestly recommend to the owners of vessels in this county, immediately, or as soon as practicable, to discontinue the use and employment of slaves and free negroes on board of their vessels as we do firmly believe the practice dangerous to the peace and safety of our society…[we need to be] getting rid of our free negroes, whom we regard as a most prolific source of evil to our community” (“Citizens of Northampton County”).

The people in Virginia wanted all the African Americans to be taken out of the country or wanted them to not be apart of society because they thought they were a danger. They were afraid they were a danger because they had just recently witnessed how many white people Nat Turner killed during his two day raid. Then, the National Slavery Debate, where the issue of what to do with the African Americans was addressed, was a result of all the petitions. The National Slavery Debate led to the Civil War because it really made people understand how much the people in Virginia did not agree about slavery (Root).John Brown’s earlier raid took place in May of 1856. Brown wanted to get back at the people who were violently fighting to keep slavery, so he attacked the place where some of those people were staying at Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas. Brown killed five of the people there. His raids took place during “Bleeding Kansas”, where many were rushing to fight for their opinion on slavery. There were 200 or more people dead in Kansas at the end of 1856 (“Harpers Ferry Raid”).

The circular written by the Kansas Emigration Society of Missouri in 1856 proves that everyone’s opinions became solidified. This was written and passed out to many people, and the Kansas Emigration Society was in favor of slavery. The Kansas Emigration Society said in the circular that “the abolitionists, staking their all upon the Kansas issue, and hesitating at no means, fair or foul, are moving heaven and earth to render that beautiful Territory a ‘Free State’…The time has come for action—bold, determined action. Words will no longer do any good; we must have men in Kansas, and that by tens of thousands” (“Pro-Slavery Southerners Urged to Settle in Kansas” ). The abolitionists are described as being very confident in their opinions and fighting hard. The people in the North were set on their opinion and were fighting hard while the people in the South were beginning to realize they needed to fight just as hard to succeed keeping the institution of slavery in Kansas. John Brown’s earlier raids were done May of 1856 in Kansas, which was the place mentioned in the circular. It was in Kansas that the people in the South needed to send more people to in order to fight for their opinions (“Pro-Slavery Southerners Urged to Settle in Kansas” ).

Therefore, John Brown’s earlier raids influenced the making of the circular because his earlier rebellions were very big and impactful. Because the people’s opinions became so strong, there was no compromising, which led to the Civil War. In the end of the whole conflict in Kansas, called “Bleeding Kansas”, 200 people were killed (“Harpers Ferry Raid”). Because of Brown’s earlier rebellions, many people started to feel even stronger about their opinions on slavery. Both sides thought the exact opposite about John Brown, and “For many Northerners, including respected intellectuals such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, John Brown was considered a hero, praised for his righteous and uncompromising stand against slavery. To Southerners, Brown was a loathed and feared abolitionist who threatened a core institution of Southern society. He personified the horrible fate that awaited if the North was able to dictate its will on the issue of slavery” (“Harpers Ferry Raid”).

Many people in the North liked that John Brown raided, while the people in the South were not happy with it. (“Harpers Ferry Raid”). The rebellion also “sparked further retaliation. Early in August, Free-Soil forces captured the slavery stronghold of Franklin, and later that month Free-Soilers under Brown repelled an attack by a large party of proslavery men at Osawatomie. Guerrilla warfare raged throughout the territory” (“Bleeding Kansas, 1855-1858” ). Because the people in the South hated John Brown, they developed a stronger opinion for slavery. Their hatred towards Brown drove them to want to fight to keep slavery even more because they were angry and thought that Brown was wrong in saying that slavery should be abolished. For the North, because they supported Brown, they had Brown influence and motivate them to fight harder to abolish slavery. His rebellions made them want to abolish slavery even more, as their opinions were finally solidified. Then, because both sides became more set on their own opinions, it was obvious that there was no compromising, which led to the Civil War. Something had to be done, and the people had to settle on the issue of slavery.John Brown’s horrific raid in 1859 on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, jeopardized the South’s beliefs about slavery and was a leading cause to the Civil War. It was on October 16, 1859 that John Brown tried to get the weapons in the federal arsenal to give to the the slaves to use when rebelling.

However, it didn’t work. After he captured the arsenal, Brown and his followers took people hostage. Brown and his men got captured and caught, and later, Brown died from execution on December 2, 1859 (“The Harpers Ferry Raid”). He was allowed to have a speech before he died. In his speech, he explained, “Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life, for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country, whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, – I say; let it be done” (Brown).

John Brown explained how he was willing to give up his life in order to get the slaves freedom. He had a very strong opinion, and maintained it through his entire capture. He even expressed his opinion without any hesitation when he was about to die (Brown). Brown “conducted his defense with uncharacteristic dignity and muted religious conviction, inspiring a wellspring of sympathy and support in the North,…Brown’s raid heightened the sense of threat in the South, where many concluded the North approved his behavior, and that secession was the only viable solution to the great struggle over the future of slavery” (“Harpers Ferry Raid”). John Brown rose up with the slaves around him, even though he was not a slave, which encouraged other people like him in the North to rebel too. Because so many people in the North had those opinions, the people in the South were been re-evaluating their opinions. When more people started to believe and take action against slavery, it made the opinions of the people in the South more invalid because of the amount of people that believed the opposite. This led to the southern states exiting the Union, leading to the Civil War (“The Harpers Ferry Raid”).

Because Brown was so outspoken and the South had to deal with raids and outspoken people like him, they were forced to ask themselves if their beliefs were really viable. John Brown created a constitution for the organization he was planning on making, but unfortunately he was killed for his crimes, so he never got a chance to. The constitution was made in 1858, one year before his revolt on Harpers Ferry. It was based off of the rule of no slavery (“Harpers Ferry Raid”). Brown stated in his constitution, “Whereas, slavery, throughout its entire existence in the United States, is none other than a most barbarous, unprovoked, and unjustifiable War of one portion of its citizens upon another portion;…together with all other people degraded by the laws thereof…the better to protect our persons, property, lives, and liberties; and to govern our actions:” (“Provisional Constitution and Ordinances for the People of the United States”).

John Brown wanted to spread the word that slavery was terrible and wanted to get rid of slavery. He explains in his constitution how he, along with the others in his organization, will together create a society with no slavery. His constitution is one example of how Brown continually fought against the people in the South in whatever way he could, including raids and making his own society that did not have slavery. This caused the South to subconsciously consider if their opinions were valid because of how outspoken and rebellious John Brown was. Some could not handle that, and wanted to have slavery, which resulted in the South leaving the Union and the Civil War. Some did not want to compromise at all, including people in the North, which was why the Civil War started. Slave rebellions were a leading cause to the ending of slavery. It was only about 40 years after Nat Turner’s rebellion and 10 years after John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry, which was his latest one, that the Fifteenth Amendment was passed and slave rebellions led to the making of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments (“Nat Turner’s Rebellion”), (“The Harpers Ferry Raid”), (“Reconstruction Amendments”). The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were all created after the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment that made slavery no longer allowed in the United States, the Fourteenth Amendment allowed the slaves who were born in the United States to be citizens of the United States, and the Fifteenth Amendments said a person’s right to vote could not be denied because of their race (“Reconstruction Amendments”). It was said that John Brown ended up “sharpening the regional tensions that led to the American Civil War…where many concluded the North approved his [Brown’s] behavior” (“Harpers Ferry Raid”) and that Nat Turner “hardened sectional animosities, making secession and the American Civil War (1861-1865) more likely” (“Nat Turner’s Rebellion”).

John Brown and Nat Turner caused the North and South to become divided, which was the reason for the Civil War. Also, John Brown and Nat Turner created more support for the North. Therefore, after Nat Turner and John Brown influenced the Civil War, the North had more support because of them so they won the Civil War. Then the North made the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, which shows Nat TUrner and John Brown succeeded in completing their goal of abolishing slavery. Even though the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were made which abolished slavery, gave the slaves citizenship, and gave the African Americans rights to vote, the African Americans were still not treated equally (“Reconstruction Amendments”).

John Brown and Nat Turner’s rebellions influenced the making of those three amendments, in which the government tried to force people to treat the African Americans equally. But the amendments did not work as they were supposed to. In fact, because people were forced to treat African Americans with respect, it led to the making of the Jim Crow Laws. There began to be laws that actually limited what the African Americans could do, because the people did not like the African Americans getting rights. After those three amendments were passed, “as the federal government was working to protect African Americans’ rights in the South, white supremacist organizations emerged to reassert whites’ dominance and racial superiority. Members of the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, and other secret organizations terrorized African Americans and their supporters throughout the South…Jim Crow Laws legalized racial segregation in everything from education to public facilities to religion” (“Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow”). Therefore, even though those three amendments said the African Americans should be free and get the right to citizenship and to vote just like the whites, the African Americans were actually treated the same as before. The African Americans also became segregated from the whites because of the Jim Crow Laws, and did not get the rights the Civil War Amendments gave them. It was because the white people did not like to think about the African Americans getting rights because the white people did not think they were equal (“Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow”).

But about 30 years after John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, which was his latest, and about 60 years after Nat Turner’s rebellion, segregation and the Jim Crow Laws began (“Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow”), (“Nat Turner’s Rebellion”), (“The Harpers Ferry Raid”), (“Reconstruction Amendments”).Therefore, it partly was because of the slave rebellions, specifically John Brown’s and Nat Turner’s raids, that the Civil War happened, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were made, and that the Jim Crow Laws were created. It was Nat Turner’s raid that scared the people in Virginia and the South, it was John Brown’s earlier raids that solidified people’s opinions, and then it was John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, that jeopardized people’s opinions. The people in the South and North were affected by Nat Turner and John Brown’s raids, no matter where they took place. Word got around about the rebellions, so they impacted everyone in the United States. They made some people want to rebel, they made some people scared, and they made some people reconsider their opinions. Ultimately, the rebellions were a leading cause to the Civil War. It was obvious that there was no compromising Both sides had totally different opinions, and so the conflict about slavery broke out into the Civil War. The Union fought the Confederacy, and ultimately ended up winning. There was no compromise on slavery, but instead the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were created which actually abolished slavery, gave the African Americans the right to vote and citizenship of the United States. In the end, the slave rebellions were a success and Nat Turner and John Brown achieved their goal.

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