19th Century Slavery Enduring Freedom History Essay

Published: 2021-07-20 15:15:06
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War was peace for slaves during the 19th century. Life and rebellion was one and the same. Slaves voiced many opinions on how things should be changed, as well as concealed thoughts and motives towards the rebellion. Hidden courses of action were taken that the owners were not aware of as a way of rebelling. Many key points during this time include the following; religion being used against them, families being torn apart, and music to keep them sane. Their perseverance came only from the hope of, one day, being set free.
The need for slavery in the Americas first arose in the Spice Islands (now known as the Caribbean Islands) where sugar plantations were formed. The Portuguese were the first to look for slaves in Africa. After successfully finding them, Europeans began buying slaves which committed the first slave trade. When transporting them back, a route across the Atlantic was taken. The voyage was called the "Middle Passage." This horrific death sentence allowed 10% - 15% of the total number to die because of the harsh conditions; little to no food was given out each day and they were forced to stay in unsanitary environments with hundreds of others crowded next to them. Soon thereafter for those who did make it over, a problem was presented on how to cheaply feed the workers. In North America, Carolina was formed solely for the purpose of growing rice. This was a solution for the hunger situation, but resulted in the need for more slave labor to harvest rice.
Work in the Americas vaguely differed from the journey over. The unjust, inhumane conditions implied here, as well. Three ways you could become a slave were being sold among slave owners, forced by other Africans, or willed by your family previously being owned. On an average plantation, slaves were issued a pair of poorly made clothes and the majority of the time, no shoes. The southern slaves worked from sunrise to sunset most every day doing the following jobs: men cleared or worked the land, tended fields and animals, or harvested crops while women catered to the white families and worked as household servants. Because they were considered "property," they had to do anything demanded by the master or were beaten for refusing. If that required doing something cruel and unfair (such as stealing) they were expected to do it without question. Resisting such authority resulted in whippings, longer hours, and harder work in days to come. After a long day of work, they were rewarded (in the owners' eyes) with salt pork and corn, on a good day.
Like many things forced upon slaves, religion was no different. Many owners made a relentless effort to convert the slaves to Christianity. This forbid many of the traditional beliefs of African-Americans such as dancing and music. Hoping to reinforce cooperation, they used verses relating to 'obedience' and 'honor’ for those in authority to try and guilt trip them out of rebellion. This only added fuel to the fire. Slaves then put their own twist on Christianity. They took passages from the Bible and interpreted it to fit their hardships. Many of these reinvented stories were associated with deliverance. The most common theme and idol was Moses. As he was delivered from slavery in Egypt, they relied on God to do the same for them; a recurring thought that kept them fighting for freedom. This was something their masters did not approve of and considered this an act of rebellion because they did not fully accept Christianity.
Music, as previously mentioned, was another unannounced form of rebellion. To preserve the African- American culture, this was widely practiced and encouraged amongst the slaves, and highly discouraged by owners. The owners viewed this as a way of communication between the slaves, which happened to be correct. Certain songs relayed messages to others about meetings, and also reinforced determination and perseverance for the ultimate goal of freedom. A very popular type of music for slaves was spirituals. Dance was heavily involved in this particular genre; it included many free-flow upper body movements, clapping, drumming, and chanting. Music provided entertainment and a temporary stress-relief in the fields and around the house. This gave a sense of comfort, which was not felt very often.
Slavery took a forceful toll on African-American families. If they were not already separated upon arrival in the Americas, they were threatened with being sold to another owner at any time, or a family member instead. Although marriage was not common during this time, due to the need for strong men able to work the fields and less demand for women, if a black male happened to find a female and have children with her, those children became property to the owners because of their parents. If they had enough workers, they would sell the children to a different white family. There was always a fear of having their family split and not knowing if you would ever see your relative again. Women were forced to take care of the white children and became very attached to them, too, which made it hard for them to switch families.
Two specific, contributing rebellions that very openly took place were the Stono Rebellion and the Nat Turner Rebellion. The purpose of the Stono Rebellion was to steal weapons from storage areas and attack white slave owners. Many houses were burned down and many people were killed. Shortly after, they were stopped by the Carolina state militia and were executed if not already dead from the fight. Many strict laws were passed after this, restricting many rights of slaves. The Turner Rebellion, the largest uprising in slave history, rose from a dream seen by Turner that he interpreted as a sign from God for the need of a rebellion. Many Americans and African- Americans died in the pursuit of freedom worth fighting for. Two days later, the uprising subsided with the force of an army. In attempt to resolve this problem and prevent future rebellions, laws were enforced limiting slave abilities to retrieve weapons. It also constrained access to preach to other slaves. The most common way of rebelling was secretly because of the terrible consequences they would have to face if caught. Much of the time, slaves rebelled without the owners being aware. Undercover rebellions were a way for them to show discontentment without using words to get straight to the point. Some examples of protests are as follows: breaking tools they needed to complete work, faking an illness, destroying property, and disobeying orders. Of course, this made their masters crack down on them much more if they caught on to the scheme, and beatings were a given.
Every day life was a battle for justice, which is why they were determined and eager to continue to protest. Freedom was a question and time was not in their favor. Hope forced slaves to look forward and keep their goal in the forefront of their minds. With a way of life hanging in the balance, perseverance was the only way to achieve the overall purpose of being truly free. Humanity was at its worst, so things could only get better from the present situations.

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