Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Stripping Away Rights

Moving on from the social reforms, our next unit covers the causes of the Civil War. Our class spent several lessons focusing on the slavery system in the United States during the 1800s. We observed the slavery system through both perspectives and made our conclusions from there.  
         The United States was still considered a young country in the 1800s, just fresh from its gain of independence. However, slavery was well accepted and the population of slaves was approximately 690,000. Slavery was legal-several laws were put in place, and examples are found in the Founders' Constitution. Congress allowed slavery but slave owners were required to pay about ten dollars for each slave. Slaves were always under the power of their masters and they had limited freedom, along with severe punishments. With the growth of the economy and political society in the early 19th century slavery became entrenched. This political and economic boom in society caused a huge increase in the slavery population, as well. The abolishment of slavery was becoming less and less likely. Due to the French Revolution occurring in Europe regarding the freeing of African American slaves, ideals of liberty and equality encouraged slave-owners to do the same. People began to believe that slavery was on a decline because of this influence.
          To understand the main cause for the spread of slavery during the late 1800s our class observed the impact of Eli Whitney's invention- the cotton gin. The cotton gin was a machine used to separate the cotton from its seeds and preparing the cotton for spinning.  Following Whitney's invention in 1793, short-staple cotton plants became economically profitable to grow in the southeast. In about 60 years, cotton production spread west to the Appalachian Mountains, Alabama, Mississippi, and south in places such as Texas. By 1860, cotton production became 57% of America's total export revenue. Relating to this time, the growth of slavery grew from a 700,00 in 1790, concentrated near the Carolinas, to a whopping 3,954,000 in 1860. The demand of the cotton gin correlated with the demand of slaves needed to grow the cotton. Our class concluded that the invention of the cotton gin was a major reason why slavery was entrenched in America.
Spread of slavery compared with the spread of cotton

          History shows us that slavery has always been connected with race and ethnicity. Systems of slavery based on race has effected our human race. The standards set by people in the 1800s claiming differences on skin color determine their status in society has affected the norms in society even today. The dignity of those who fall under this supposedly "lower status" due to their outer appearance have been stripped away. The story of Prince Abdul Rahman, a royal prince from Futa Jallon located in West Africa, shows the impact of slavery on an individual slave. Prince Rahman was a well-respected and powerful man in his country, but when he was captured and made a slave in the United States, his rights disappeared in an instant. His life story gives a new perspective slavery in America.
The system of slavery ignores the fact that all humans, even ones with different skin tones and religious beliefs, have emotions and certain rights. It is awful to see how people fought for slavery to exist for selfish purposes. African and Native Americans (and several other races taken into slavery) were treated inhumanely, almost as animals.
Even though today's society has improved from this horrific racial history, it is alarming to learn what our ancestors had once gone through. Whether it was through the perspective of a slave, a slave owner, or an abolitionist, in my opinion, slavery was an event that should have never taken place. The punishments and lack of freedom the enslaved went through represents a case of injustice. However, from this we must take on and learn what has happened in the past, and be careful that such awful events do not repeat in the future generations.