Saturday, May 2, 2015

Resolving Riots

After observing the battles of the Civil War, our next lesson focused on the situations of the African-American slaves after the war.
  The gruesome Civil War finally ended on April 9th, 1865 with the Union victorious. Regardless the conclusion of the war, everyone knew that there was another situation to deal with- the status of African American slaves. The situation was dealt with in two ways, from authorities such as the government, and from the slaves who helped themselves. Abraham Lincoln was the president at the time, and a strong supporter of the Union. To observe how America would deal with the slaves, our class was assigned to read four documents authored by Lincoln. From these documents we had to conclude Lincoln's goal of the war, his position on freeing the slaves, and evidence of his personal feelings on slavery. We also observed a painting and a letter regarding the topic of freeing slaves. We then had to decide whether slaves received freedom from above or from below, and create a diagram depicting our conclusion.
Diagram showing conclusions from each document after

          There were many times the freedom of slaves was considered from "above". In Lincoln's reply to an open letter from Horace Greeley, he writes "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery." His response didn't promise any freedom for the slaves. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln redefines freedom, but doesn't act towards the situation.

Lincoln's priority was to save the north first, and if in doing so he could free the slaves, his plan would be fully accomplished. In his personal opinion, he believed that all men should have equal rights. However, Lincoln did not let him beliefs mix in with his presidential actions, in fear of losing half of the Union support. Not everyone in the north were solid abolitionists, and Lincoln kept this in mind. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln executed the Emancipation Proclamation in order to encourage
the Union to keep fighting. But in this case the slaves in the border states were not free. In the Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, Lincoln officially makes freeing slaves a goal of the War. These few actions can be defined as help from above to free the enslaved.

          The help from the government didn't ensure freedom for the African American slaves. The most the Second Inaugural Address did was state that slavery was the root cause of the Civil War. No action was currently being made to rectify the situation, so the slaves themselves decided to act upon it and enforce the issue. My class was assigned to analyze a letter from General Ambrose to the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. In this document, Ambrose writes to Stanton, irritated by the fugitive slaves surrounding fields and plantations. Fugitive slaves began to act, in a non-violent way, and became "a source of very great anxiety" to the soldiers. The slaves would have to be "dealt" with, therefore getting their freedom by helping themselves.

Due to these small rebel acts, the Fugitive Slave Act was repealed on July 5, 1864. The act stated that all free people, including local, state, and federal government officials, to assist slave catchers. Seeing as it was not effective having the law in place, Abraham Lincoln, signed the bill repealing the act into law. By cooperating with each other, the African-Americans succeeded in gaining their freedom on their own.

          While discrimination based on race is not as obvious as it was before, our society still struggles to treat everyone equally. Just by turning on the news channel, we can gather the calamities caused by the difference in race and skin color. Is it really necessary to seclude into groups because of the race we were born into? In cases such as the Ferguson unrest in Missouri, we can observe how society acts towards situations of discrimination. There has been a lot of heat towards the shootings taken place in Baltimore and Ferguson. Many claim that white policemen have taken advantage of their duty and use it against African Americans who seem "threatening". Using their power, the law enforcement has created quite a racket to protect to keep their good reputation up.

In my opinion, freedom for those who are facing such consequences are neither gaining freedom from above or below. The violent riots held by mobs in Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri are only encouraging the law enforcement to fight back. The sad part, however, is that we have not yet seen the government take serious action to resolve the conflict. Perhaps it will take a few months or years to conclude these riots, and generations for people to realize that everyone should be given a fair chance, regardless of race, and not treated inferior to others based on their physical appearance.