This paper will be all about how African Americans lives have changed over the years. I will be talking about days of slavery, days of freedom, days of oppression, and days of gaining rights. In this paper I will be addressing the important people that made African Americans equal with everyone and how they played a role in gaining freedom and equality for all.
The Beginning of Slavery
Slavery was very common all over the world in the early stages of society. Slavery was essentially started back in the era of B.C. (before Christ). Early civilizations enslaved people because of many reasons. They enslaved those who owed them money or something equivalent tin expense. They enslaved those who they defeated during war. They also enslaved people because of certain attributes like skin color. Slave owners would use their slaves for many things. They would have the slaves be their servants, nanny their children, cook for them, and even work on their hard labor on their farms. Sometimes, if the slave wasn’t in too much debt or had a gracious master, their master would allow them freedom after a certain time period of working for them.
Slavery in America
Slavery in America started when the English were first planting roots in America. The slaves came from all over but primarily from Africa. An English naval commander established a trade route type deal between America, England, and Africa (National Geographic Society). This was called the Triangle Trade (National Geographic Society). American would ship certain good to England such as sugar, tobacco and cotton. Next, England would send goods to Africa like textiles, manufactured goods, and rum. The last part of the triangle was Africa sending America something in response to all the other trading. In this case, Africa sent Africans. The Africans that were sent to America would later be servants and slaves of those in America (National Geographic Society). The Triangle Trade lasted from 1562 all the way until 1807(National Geographic Society). Slavery was eventually legalized by the “legislative” body the colonialists had back in those days. They were called The Massachusetts Body of Liberties. They were the first to legalize slavery in America. This made Massachusetts the first state to legalize slavery (National Geographic Society).
There were some African Americans who had slaves of their own, such as in Virginia. They usually bought their own family members to be their slaves as a way to sort of protect them from other harsh, drastic, abrasive, cruel slave owners (National Geographic Society).
The first rebellion of slaves in America was called Bacon’s Rebellion (National Geographic Society). This rebellion was made up of African American slaves, black and white indentured servants. Indentured servants are servants who either were born into the debt of their parents who was not payed off or they owed their master money or something for some reason and needed to work or pay off their debt. Anyways, these people made up a rebellion to stand up for themselves (National Geographic Society). They had taken enough. The amount of people who participated in the rebellion intimidated and frightened the rich, white masters.
The first Anti-slavery declaration came of this rebellion. It started with a petition in Pennsylvania. This petition was called the Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery. This abolished slavery to an extent. When this petition was passed many people were not happy. Because they were not happy, they tried to pass a different law that would make it illegal for a white and non-white person to get married. The Supreme Court saw that that law was unreasonable and dismissed the law, allowing whites and non-whites to get married. It’s a shame America couldn’t stick with the non-discrimination laws they had. It would have saved a lot of protesting for multiple reasons (National Geographic Society).
As we all know slavery is no longer legal. This is thanks to the thirteenth amendment in the Constitution. This was put into the Constitution on December 6, 1865 under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln (13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery). Although slavery was now abolished, many states did not agree. These states wanted to keep their slaves enslaved. These states included southern states like Kentucky and Mississippi. Mississippi was the last state to ratify the abolishment of slavery in their state (13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery). After everyone was on the same page with slavery, African Americans had the same equality as white Americans (13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery). They had the right to do all the same things everyone else was doing. White Americans were not happy. The white population started to think that they were superior to the blacks because whiles were more intelligent and educated than blacks. This led to whites demanding that blacks be unable to vote.
Mississippi was the first state to take the blacks right to vote. They created a plan called the Mississippi Plan that basically was a bunch of voting requirements that blacks could not obtain. One example is the requirement stating in order to vote, you must live in the state of voting for two years and one year in the local election district (Shi, D. E., & Tindall, G. B). This was meant to exclude black farmers who usually moved frequently in order to find better economic opportunities. Another stipulation placed on blacks was if they had committed a certain crime, they were not allowed to vote. They not only hurt poor blacks with the next stipulation but they hurt the poor whites too (Shi, D. E., & Tindall, G. B). The third stipulation to vote was the person had to pay all of their taxes on time- including the poll tax. There were other stipulations placed throughout the country to eliminate certain people from voting (Shi, D. E., & Tindall, G. B, 666-667). Those were just some of Mississippi’s.
Segregation was also an issue around the same time of blacks being ripped of their right to vote. This was around the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. This lasted until the late 1960’s. Many, if not most, white Americans did not want the colored people to be equal as them. The white racists did not want to share anything with those who were colored (Shi, D. E., & Tindall, G. B, 667). The first segregation they established was riding in separate cable cars in South Carolina. Even though they established it was against the federal Civil Rights Act of 1875 (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 667). The white Americans found a way to separate blacks and whites without compromising the civil rights of the blacks. In the class History book, the Supreme Court established the separate but equal law. This created the separation that the white folk wanted but still gave colored people their civil rights. This separate but equal reform came from the Plessy vs. Ferguson case (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 668-669).
The Plessy vs. Ferguson case was a case between Homer Plessy, an African American, who was only one eights African American) and John H. Ferguson, a judge (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 668). This case took place in Louisiana. Plessy was arrested after he refused to exit a white only railroad cart when asked (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 668-669). According to Shi and Tindall, it was apparently against the law to refuse to comply with officers. Therefore, Plessy was arrested. The case was later determined that Plessy did in fact commit a crime. The Supreme Court found Plessy guilty though his lawyer said the case violated the thirteenth and fourteenth amendment (Oyez, n.d). In the article on Plessy versus Ferguson case by Oyez, The Supreme Court denied the dismissal of the case because in the state of Louisiana, the state itself could implement a law like the “whites only railcar” because it was constitutional (Oyez, n.d). This case was one of the important events that eventually set the stage for the huge civil rights movements of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Civil Rights Movements of the 1950’s and 1960’s
Civil Rights movements had been going on since the beginning of slavery. It wasn’t until the 1950’s and 1960’s that civil rights blew up hard core. Civil rights movements were motivated when Jim Crow laws segregated whites and blacks. Jim Crow laws were segregating whites and black from places like restaurants, schools, parks, libraries, and bathrooms. They even went so far as to have a whites only water fountain and a colored only water fountains (Freedom Riders, n.d). Not only were blacks being hated on in the streets of towns across America, they were being hated on in the sports world too. For example, Jackie Robinson was the first ever African American baseball player. He was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B.,1016-1017).
Robinson was known for his outstanding baseball talent and resistance to act on the horrible treatment he received by fans and other people in the community. According to Shi and Tindall, Robinson was refused by hotels and restaurants when he traveled with his team. Although Robinson was getting a bunch of hate from people in the sports community, he also had many fans. He had many African American fans supporting him in his career. They would follow him around the country to watch him play says Shi and Tindall in the class History book. Other sports teams saw the outstanding support of the black community that was responding so well to Robinson’s professional career and they eventually started signing African American baseball players too. This was a start to changing the segregation in America (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 1017).
Segregation was beginning to cause major issues within the black community. Black schools were not up to par with white schools, black jobs were not as equal in opportunity as whites were. It wasn’t until President Eisenhower came into office that schools became a combination of whites and blacks (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 1054-1055). The integration of race in the schools was all due to the famous court case of Brown v The Board of Education (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 1054-1055). This famous case was basically the blacks fighting against white supremacy in public schooling. The Supreme Court ruled that “in the field of public education the doctrine of separate by equal has no place” (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 1054). The Supreme Court ruled this way even though President Eisenhower suggested they not since it “would set back the progression of the South at least fifteen years, therefore he would not fund the integration of races in public schooling” (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 1054-1055).
Another civil rights movement that went on during this time period was the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 1055-1056). The Montgomery Bus Boycott started when a black woman refused to give up her front seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 1055). Rosa Parks, a forty-two-year-old black woman, refused to give up her seat for a white man (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 1055). This act of refusing to give up a seat for a white person was against the law. Mrs. Parks was supposed to go to the back of the bus. The reason Mrs. Parks did not give up her seat was because she said “she was tired of giving in” (Shi, D.E., & Tindall, G.B., 1055). Parks was then arrested. Little did she know, this refusal would lead to a country-wide civil rights movement that would change race equality and segregation forever. After Rosa Parks got arrested blacks and white activist were set out to boycott the bus. This was a huge stress for the bus company because blacks were the main group of people who used the bus for transportation since many did not have the money for a family car.
- Gascoigne, Bomber. “History of Slavery.” HISTORY OF SLAVERY, 2001, www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ac41.
- National Geographic Society. (2018, August 28). A History of Slavery in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/interactive/slavery-united-states/
- 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (1865). (nod). Retrieved November 6, 2018, from https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=40
- 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (1865). (n.d.). Retrieved November 6, 2018, from https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=40
- Shi, D. E., & Tindall, G. B. (2016). America: A narrative history (Tenth ed., Vol. 2). New York: W.W. Norton.
- Plessy v. Ferguson. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1850-1900/163us537
- Freedom Riders. (n.d.). Jim Crow Laws. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/freedom-riders-jim-crow-laws/