For over one hundred fifty-five years ago, the amendment to the US Constitution, abolishing slavery, entered into force. On 18 December 1865, almost 156 years ago, the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, abolishing slavery, entered into force. Let’s recall when the first slaves appeared in the New World, why Beecher Stowe received a parcel with a black man’s ear cut off, and what publications wrote about Lincoln’s activities.
Back in 1619, British colonists brought African slaves to Virginia. This is how the African American author Jay Saunders Redding described the arrival of the first ship with slaves: ‘With the sails retracted and the flag lowered at the rounded stern, it came with the tide. According to everyone, it was indeed a strange, frightening, mysterious vessel. No one knows if it was a merchant, pirate, or warship. The port of destination is the English settlement of Jamestown, in the colony of Virginia. The ship arrived, traded with it, and soon it disappeared. Perhaps no ship in modern history has carried a more sinister cargo. What was the load? Twenty slaves.’
At first, slaves were given freedom for good behavior and good work.
For example, in 1635, slave Antonio Johnson freed himself from Angola, changed his name to Anthony, and became a slave owner himself – and even white-skinned slaves from European countries were subordinate to him.
However, soon the situation of the slaves began to deteriorate sharply. Some historians note that in the middle of the 17th century, due to the skin color of Africans, black began to be considered a sign of bad taste – as opposed to white, which symbolizes beauty. And in 1691, Virginia passed a law that white men and women should be immediately expelled if they “marry a black man, mulatto, Indian man or woman, dependent or free.”
There were a huge number of rebels among the slaves. For example, newspaper advertisements for the years 1736-1801 contain information about the escapes of 1,138 men and 141 women. In this regard, the Virginia slave codes stated: In view of the fact that slaves often run away and hide, hiding in swamps, forests, and other secluded places, killing pigs and causing other damage to the inhabitants… if the slave does not return immediately, then anyone can kill or destroy such slaves using the methods that he… deem necessary…. If the slave is caught… must be… recognized as lawful by the county court to impose such punishment on the said slave, be it dismemberment or otherwise … as they (these courts) deem appropriate, in order to re-educate any such incorrigible slave and intimidating others from such acts.
The North Abolishes Slavery
In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, a historic document in which the British colonies in North America declared independence from Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, introduced a clause in the document providing for the abolition of slavery. However, wealthy planters succeeded in removing this clause from the final text – thus, slavery remained in the young free state.
However, slavery was soon banned in the northern United States. At the same time in the south, the exploitation of slaves reached the peak of its sophistication – the planters “bred” black slaves for sale.
In 1808, a ban was introduced in the United States on the import of slaves from outside. At the same time, the domestic slave trade became one of the most prestigious professions – it brought in more profit than, for example, the production and export of cotton.
In 1850, the United States passed a law allowing the search and detention of escaped slaves in areas where slavery had already been abolished. One of the most prominent thinkers and writers of the United States, Ralph Emerson, exclaimed: “Just think, this dirty law was adopted in the 19th century by people who can read and write. I swear by heaven, I will not do it!”
The crimes of a sinful country
In the 30s of the XIX century, American abolitionists became more active – supporters of the elimination of slavery. The abolitionists were divided into two groups: the first was led by the poet and publicist William Lloyd Garrison, and the second was by the writer and orator Frederick Douglas. Garrison advocated the elimination of slavery without the use of force, while Douglas believed that it was necessary to rescue slaves by armed means.
One of the first white abolitionists to fight to abolish slavery was John Brown. He made a failed armed attempt to free the slaves in 1859 and was charged with treason to the state of Virginia, murdering white people, and inciting blacks to riot.
“I have a few words to say,” Brown declared in his last speech at the trial. “First, I deny everything except what I confessed to, that is, my intention to free the Negroes…. I believe that my actions… were right.”
The abolitionist was found guilty, and 42 days later, Brown was executed. On the last day of his life, he wrote: “I, John Brown, am now fully convinced that the crimes of this sinful country can be washed away by nothing but blood.”
Liberia – Land of Liberty
American abolitionists bought land on the coast of Africa in 1816 and founded the state of Liberia, “Land of Liberty” in Latin. Slaves ransomed by anti-slavery fighters were transported to this country. However, the standard of living in Liberia is not the highest: since 1990, this country has been regularly included in the list of the world’s least developed countries.
Slaves and Fallout 4
In the computer game Fallout 4, “The Railroad” is an organization that helps intelligent cyborgs escape from their masters. It is an allusion to the Underground Railroad, a designation for a secret system used in the United States to organize escapes and transport slaves from the slave states of the South to the North. “Underground Railroad” had “conductors” – escorting fugitive slaves – and “stations” – housing provided by sympathizers for rest and shelter.
Harriet Tubman, an American abolitionist, and fugitive slave, especially distinguished herself – she made 19 “road trips” and freed some 300 slaves.
By the way, when Tubman was 13 years old, the overseer demanded her help in beating a runaway slave. The girl refused and stood in the way of the overseer – at which point he threw a two-pound weight at her head.
How the Anti-Tom came to be
“The Negro is dead – think how important,” asserted the slave trader from the South, Simon Legree, the antihero of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By the way, after the publication of a book directed against slavery in the United States, Beecher Stowe received not only a huge number of threatening letters but also a parcel with a black man’s ear cut off.
It is significant that a bookseller from the city of Mobile, Alabama, who put Uncle Tom’s Cabin on sale, was forced to leave his native place under public pressure.
Although Slave Tom is currently ranked 11th on the American list of the 101 Most Influential Non-Existent Personality, a whole genre of Anti-Tom literature emerged during those years. The novels of this genre defended the position that slaves could not live without the supervision of their masters.
War to end slavery
In 1861, the American Civil War broke out between North and South. The main cause of the conflict was slavery and the desire of the southern states to extend it to the northern states, against the wishes of the latter. Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, realized that the country would become either complete slave or completely free. If earlier the politician advocated the gradual emancipation of slaves, now he came to the conclusion that slavery should be abolished once and for all.
Lincoln soon signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slaves living in territories in rebellion against the United States free. So the Civil War turned into a war to abolish slavery.
Slavery was abolished completely after the end of the Civil War and the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in December 1865. The text of the Thirteenth Amendment reads as follows:
- Section 1. There shall be no slavery or servitude in the United States, or anywhere under its jurisdiction unless it constitutes punishment for a crime for which the person has been duly convicted.
- Section 2. Congress has the power to implement this article through the passage of appropriate legislation.
Interestingly, in Kentucky, the amendment was only ratified in 1976.
In Mississippi, a vote on the ratification of the amendment took place only in 1995, and the formal procedure for the abolition of slavery was completed in 2013.