African-American Historical Notebook/Primer

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Nat Turner Insurrection - 1831 - South Hampton, Virginia

Nat Turner was a slave preacher. He used in freedom of movement among the slaves to preach the gospel and organized a rebellion against slave owners. Slaves understood his symbolic sermon about the "apocalypse." His small group of seven men armed with only one hatchet and a broadax struck on a Sunday night. As they moved from farm to farm killing whites as they went, they gathered the slaves of each farm as they went. They did not allow any to stay behind or to flee. In all they killed 57 whites. Subsequently they were captured and Nat Turner was hanged. However, the name, Nat Turner, caused consternation among whites for generations to come.

In 1778 Emperor Mowlay Muhammad recognized American independence, making Morocco second only to France in accepting the United States as an independent nation. Robert J. Allison, The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World. 1776-1815 [New York: Oxford University Press, 1995] p. 110

What does the Marines anthem, "From The Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli" mean?

It means the establishment of European-American dominance or Empire. Crotez killed Montezuma and stole walls of gold in Mexico early in the Spaniards colonialization of southern America and to the shores of Tripoli had to do with one of the United States first foreign wars of the marines invading Tripoli in 1805 and burning it because the Barbary states Moors, Muslims had seized American ships and sailors. Since the racist inquisition when the Moors were forced to leave Spain in 1492 and return to the Northern Coast of Africa; they fought back by seizing European ships as pirates and enslaving their crews or holding them hostage for ramsom. The European nations would have to pay tribute to the Barbay coast."

In 1785 Algiers seized two Americans merchant vessels, and by 1815 some six hundred Americans would be held captive in the Muslim world. No longer protected by the British navy, captive American sailor languished in Algiers while their government debated what action to take. Some, like George Washington and John Adams, thought the United States should pay tribute to Algiers, as other nations did. Others, most notably Thomas Jefferson, wanted the United States to build a navy, which would demonstrate not only to Algiers, but to England and France, that the Americans were a people who deserved to be free.

Between 1785 and 1815 some thirty-five American ships manned by over 700 sailors were

captured by the Barbary states. These ships and men were captured at sea and were treated as

political hostages . . . Algiers captured twenty-two ships, Tripoli six; Morocco five and Tunis

two. The Barbary states captured ships for political or diplomatic reasons.

Robert J. Allison, The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World. 1776-1815

[New York: Oxford University Press, 1995] p. 110

Also read: Stanley Lane-Poole, The Story of the Moors After Spain [Brooklyn. New York: A&B

Publishers Group, particularly, Chapter Twenty, the United States and Tripoli, 1803-5

1675 Successful slave revolt in Brazil establishes the states of Palmaria that lasts for fifty-years.

How did the war of 1812 help develop the U.S. Textile industry?

During the war of 1812, the British had a naval blockade keeping Southern Cotton from getting to European ports: As a result textile factories began to develop in New England with Southern Cotton being transported to the U.S. north for refinement.

What was the trail of Tears?

After 1793 with the invention of the cotton gin there was a great need for unpaid

labor to pick cotton. The Cotton Gin picked the seed out of a bowl of cotton

which had been previously picked by hand. Now one person could turn the

handle of the cotton gin while a person or two dumped the cotton into the gin and

the gin picked the seed mechanically.

As a result there was a great demand for the importation of African slaves and

the need to steal more Native American land to plant the cotton. Native

Americans were forced by the U.S. Army to walk in freezing winter from their

lands in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi to the Oklahoma territory where thousands died (many women and children) along the way. Prior to the establishment of institutional slavery African male slaves and European (white indentured women slaves) intermingled and intermarried. In fact often they would sleep in the same quarters (barracks) and were often breeded or encouraged to procreate in order to produce stronger offsprings.

1679 Virginia Colony Law: European indentured servants cannot mingle w/Black

slaves. A slave for life. This is institutional basis of separation. Some Africans owned slaves including white slaves. Slavery was originally a class institution and gradually it becomes a predominately racial caste institution. Black Slave Owners.

1680-1700 Thousands of Africans were brought to the American colonies as slaves. Average life span of a male slave was 33 years old.

African slavery did not begin in Americas: Spain, Italy, France, England, Portugal (1441-1502)

Merchants and large landowners promised freedom to some African slaves and white indentured servants if they served in the American Revolution. African Americans believed that if they fought for American independence they would get more freedom. 5,000 African slaves fight on side of the white Americans and 20,000 on the side of the British. Most slaves utilize the conflict to runaway during the American revolution.

1789-1808 Philadelphia, PA African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) resulted from discrimination in Methodist Church created by Free African Society

Richard Allen/Absolam Jones led walkout of African Americans from Methodist Church

Mother Bethel (1st AME Church) established AME: 1st major social organization of African Americans. Slave Codes: codes to ensure the maximum protection of white population and to maintain discipline among slaves.

What were the Seminole-Indian wars?

Native American (Indian) Tribes (Nations) would be forced by white Americans to put Africans in slavery or be forced into slavery themselves. Often there was a Native American (Indian) slave trade between the United States and the Caribbean for those rebellious Native Americans. Native Americans who refused to put runaway Africans into slavery were called Seminole (rebellious). The Seminoles in Florida intermarried with runaway Africans.

Fort Negro a fort on the Apalachicola River in Florida, about 60 miles from the Georgia border. The stockade had been built by the British. It acquired the name Fort Negro after the British withdrew following the War of 1812, and the stockade was taken over by about 300 runaway slaves and 30 Seminole Indians who used it as a base to raid Georgia plantations. After numerous complaints from slaveholders, [Andrew Jackson] sent a U.S. army force to destroy the fort even though it was located in Spanish territory. After a 10-day siege, the runaway slaves, who were led by a man named Garcia, were forced to surrender when a heated cannon ball scored a direct hit on the fort's ammunition supply, causing a huge explosion and killing or wounding more than

250 of the fort's defenders. Garcia was shot by a Firing squad, and the remaining 63 survivors were returned to slavery. The July 27. 1816, attack on Fort Negro marked the beginning of the Seminole Wars, which were to stretch over 40 years and cost the U.S. government more than 30 million dollars. Between the years 1810 and 1850 it is estimated that 100,000 slaves valued at more than 30 million dollars escaped through the underground railroad.

From Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage [New York: Facts or File Inc., 1997] p. 90. Also see: Alan Gallay, The Indians Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South 1670-1711 [New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2002

From the time of the establishment of a government separate from Britain, the former 13 colonies struggled to also become economically independent of their former mother country. Much of the economy was still tied, particularly the import of manufacture goods, to the English economy up through the War of 1812.

By 1800, nearly one million people of African origin were enslaved in the United States.

King Cotton

The population of the United States in 1790 was approximately 3.9 million of which almost 700,000 were slaves. The historic development of cotton culture began with the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793. The most important contribution to the supply or productive factors from the U.S. international economic relations was the acquisition of land specifically the purchase of Louisiana in 1803 due to the success of the Haitian revolution, this approximately doubled the land area of the United States (1803 - Louisiana Purchase). Between 1793 and 1808, the economic development of the United States was tied to international trade and shipping growth of cotton production.

Cotton ~ growing immediately felt the stimulating effect of the cotton gin and the ravenous new machinery in England production soared. In 1790, just before the invention of the gin, an estimated 3,000 bales of 1000 pounds each, were produced in this country. At the close of the war of 1812 cotton produced in the United States was estimated at less than 150,000 bales. The crop produced in 1859 amounted to 4,541,000 bales, an increase of over thirtyfold. During the first five years following the close of the war of 1812 production approximately doubled. By 1826 it had about doubled again. For the next four or five years there was but little increase, probably because of low prices. Between 1830 and 1837 the crop doubled again. The period of low prices from 1839 throughout most of the next decades was not conducive to rapid expansion, but there was some upward trend, and by 1851 the crop was again approximately double that of 1837. The crop of 1859 was more than double that of 1849.

This extraordinary growth was made possible by two conditions; a vast territory of virgin land adopted to cotton production and the rapid expansion of demand. As already noted, a third factor, the labor supply, was limited mainly to natural increase of slave population engaged in cotton production, supplemented by those who could be transferred from other employments. For a time the supply of land and labor, amplified by great progress in labor efficiency, permitted a rapid increase in volume of production, which for considerable periods even ran ahead of demand.

Shipping and the re-export trade are the kinds of industries which, directly and indirectly, encourage increased urbanization. The income effect through the growth of a variety of multiplier effect through the growth of a variety of locally oriented manufactures and services to meet the needs of a growing urban population. The rapid growth of New York and the other major ports reflected the development of a local consuming market. There was an increased

demand for foodstuffs for this urban population, with a consequent widening of the market area around these urban centers and concerted efforts to reduce internal transport costs.

The cotton gin was unquestionably, the most significant invention during the years between 1790 and 1860. At the time of the invention of the cotton gin Great Britain was the principal market for cotton and the series of British inventions of textile machinery increased the predominance of Great Britain. By 1821 French imports from the United States amounted to 27,333,000 pounds, as compared with 93,500,000 for Great Britain and 9,750,000 for all other countries. French imports increased to 104,000,000 pounds in 1840 and to 168,000,000 by 1855. The last three decades of the ante bellum period witnessed a steadily increasing expansion of cotton manufacturing in other countries of continental Europe. From 1839-40 to 1859-60 the distribution of the supply of American cotton in bales as between Great Britain, the continent of Europe, and the United States increased.

Consumption by the rivals of Great Britain was increasing at a more rapid rate than that of Great Britain, a tendency welcomed by persons in the South who resented the so-called British monopoly. Nevertheless, just before the Civil War, Great Britain still accounted for more than half of the World's consumption, and the growth of British consumption had been largely responsible for the increase of American exports from an annual average of less than 220,000,000 pounds from 1830-1832 inclusive to nearly 713,000,000 for 1853-1855.

In 1805 cotton employed in American manufacturers amounted to only 1,000 bags. It increased to 10,000 bags in 1810 and reached 90,000 by 1815, nearly a fourth of the product of the United States in a very favorable year. During the sixteen years following 1816 it was estimated that American consumption increased 600 percent. By the three-year period 1842-43 to 1844-45 (October 1 to September 30 inclusive) annual average delivers for consumption in the United States amounted to over 400,000 bales. For the period 1858-59 to 1860-61 they averaged 914,000 bales. About the close of the period the three-year average consumption was about 37 percent of English consumption and nearly one-fifth of world consumption. Practically all of this was domestic cotton. Imports of raw cotton by the United States began to increase rapidly about 1834, advancing from approximately 600,000 pounds to over 13,000,000 pounds in 1845. Even this was not a large proportion of domestic consumption, and apparently the import trade was largely curtailed by the tariff of 1846. Thereafter until the Civil War imports were rarely as much as a million pounds.

A considerable amount of cotton was used in the South throughout the ante bellum period in household manufactures, much of it not reported in the commercial supply. In the census of 1810 Southern States and territories, not including Maryland, Kentucky and North Carolina reported over 12,000,000 yards of cotton goods produced in households. For the years 1850-1857 inclusive consumption south and west of Virginia was estimated at an average of 95,000 bales a year. There was also a small development of cotton manufacturing under the factory system.

Development of domestic consumption in the North gradually made New York not only a domestic distributing market but also a market for re-export. By the year ending September 30, 1825, receipts at New York amounted to 174,465 bales and exports to 153,757 bales. By the close of the period receipts had increased several fold but this had been largely absorbed by domestic consumption, so that for the three years ending August 30, 1859, exports averaged only 178,734 bales per year out of total receipts (including cotton in transit) averaging 396,497.

The vicissitudes of the cotton trade - the speculative expansion of 1818, the radical decline in prices in the 1820's and the boom in the 1830's - were the most important influence upon the

varying rates of growth of the economy during the period. Cotton was strategic because it was the major independent variable in the interdependent structure of internal and international trade. The demands for western food stuffs and, northeastern services and manufactures were basically dependent upon the income received from the cotton trade. This dependent resulted not only from the developing regional specialization but from the characteristics of the South itself.

The economy in the period 1820-1840's steadily accelerated though greatly dependent on cotton and its ups and downs on the market. When cotton prices dropped, the entire economy suffered. Westward expansion began to open other possibilities for the expansion and further diversification of the southern, eastern and western regional economies.

Western produce and foodstuffs and growing eastern manufacture played an increasing role in the U.S. By the middle of the 1840's cotton was still king but the dependence by the northeast upon southern slave grown cotton and other produce had begun to be broken. More inter-regional relationships and interdependence occurred between the west and the east.

Not as great, but still quite significant, was the role of "foreign," primarily English, capital in the U.S. In the western region English capital invested heavily into capital improvements (canal building, later railroads, ports, etc.)

By 1850 the North was solidly "the manufacturing region" of the U.S. It clearly competed with cotton as the dominant force in the economy. Textile mills and iron works became more numerous and an integral part of the economy.

The development of the New England textile industry was implemented by the shift of capital from shipping into textiles.1

Some manufacturing plants were located in the South even though it couldn't compare with agriculture as the basis of the southern economy and life. Expansion in the west spurred manufacturing growth in the east; materials had to be supplied to build the roadways and other improvements on virgin land; fabric for clothing and other textile needs; tools for the "opening of the west": had to be supplied.

Even though cotton producing acreage greatly increased (with the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase, the taking of the lands now known as Arkansas, Oklahoma, later eastern Texas), the price of cotton dropped because of soil depletion therefore costing the planter more to grow less cotton. As a result, cotton contributed less percentage wise to the overall country economically.

The decrease in importance of cotton to the maintenance of the country's economy and the growing diversification of the U.S. economic picture laid the economic foundation for the abolition of slavery. For in the decrease in the profitability of cotton lay also the increasing unprofitability in maintaining the African slaves who grew the cotton. However, the southern planter was stubborn: took non participation in more scientific developments of the day in farming and agricultural methods. Nor did he make use of other produce to diversify the southern output and replenish the soil. Consequently the plantation system became less and less profitable and more of a drain on the other regions.


By the 1840's and '50's the U.S. was divided into clearcut sub-divisions. Northern society had three main strata: the owning (ruling) class-large land owners, factory and ship owners etc.; white workers (engaged primarily in industry-production and longshoremen); and Black people on the bottom engaged mainly in personal service jobs (porters, maids, nurses domestically etc.) and the vast majority of the time barred from industrial (direct production) jobs.

In the southern region four distinct classes existed: the ruling class of planters, the masses of white people ("workers"), semi-free Black people and lastly and most importantly, the slaves. 'Douglas C. North, The Economic Growth of the United States 1790-1860. [New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 1966]p. 169

Perhaps the most key factor, and definitely the most far reaching of the Southern social economic and political make-up was that the vast majority of southern whites were unemployed or the poorest dirt farmers. The minority were overseers and "paddy rollers" (patrollers of the roads to keep track of the movement of Black people and make sure no slaves escaped); in limited places they were engaged as longshoremen and miners in the isolated areas. They were blocked out of any skilled or craft trades (carpenter etc.) because owners made it cheaper to "hire out" a skilled slave to a shopkeeper or plant owner than to pay free workers even subsistence wages.2 The short-sightedness of white workers focused his animosity and hostility against the slave who had no control over his situation or the fee he virtually never made instead of the owners who set the wages in the first place.

Semi-free black people, a minute segment of most sections of the southern region, are termed that way because their status of freedmen in the South (sometimes the North) could revert to slavery at the whim of any white. They were not allowed to work as craftsmen. In some cases they were allowed to work the docks. For the most part they worked small plots of land and related jobs, i.e. lumberjacking. They were allowed into mining mainly because the regions where mining was a major preoccupation were isolated from the southern mainstream and therefore the dominant thought patterns (which said that Black people were incapable of holding any mechanical or industrial work steadily both healthwise and mentally).


As more Africans were enslaved in the U.S., the various cultural, language and other distinctions between the varying nationalities began to fuse. Slaves now could more easily communicate with each other.

In direct relationship to this, the numbers, type and level of resistance and insurrections greatly increased. In addition, word of the Haitian Revolution flashed through the African grapevine. While its impact in totality still is mainly conjecture, there are clear cases on insurrectional activity taking this historic first successful slave revolution in the western hemisphere into strategic consideration.

There are records of at least 250 slave conspiracies and rebellions from the beginning of slavery to 1861.

9 plus 17th Century Most centered in Virginia

41 plus 18th Century Great increase in number, frequency and sophistication

200 plus 19th Century The "fateful" years

African slave resistance and rebellion took four general forms:

  1. The establishment of Maroon societies

  2. Flight to the North and Canada;

  3. Open rebellion;

  4. Continuous convert resistance on the plantation

All forms were daily reinforced and organized by African slave social organization

Before going into further detail on each of these areas, it should be noted that throughout the slavery era and throughout the colonies, Black/Native American cooperation, alliances and joint actions took place. The most noted of these were the Seminole Wars, and the cooperation and alliances between Africans (particularly the Maroon societies) and Seminoles in the Florida areas. 2Robert S. Starobin, Industrial Slavery in the Old South [London: Oxford University Press, 1970] p. 163

Maroon societies were settlements and societies developed by ex-slaves who had made successful flight into isolated territory. These societies were created throughout the Western hemisphere. Wherever slavery was to be found - the Caribbean, South America, North America and existed from the 18th century to the last half of the 19th century. Maroons varied in size from a handful of people to several thousand. The Republic of Palmyra, perhaps the best known, was located in the central rainforest of South America during the 17th century. It lasted more than 30 years and was finally militarily defeated after several attempts by European armies. Other documented settlements and societies were located in Jamaica, Georgia, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Florida and Virginia. In fact settlements were exposed during the Civil War.

The best known characteristics of the Maroons were their use of African social and political organization and their fierce independence. Not as well known is that Maroons would send out parties to raid slave plantations freeing slaves and/or bringing new recruits. There were egalitarian relationships and women were regular members of the raiding parties.

Flight to the North and Canada are probably the best known method of resistance used by Africans enslaved in the U.S. "Going to the Promised Land" was so widespread that all southern states passed acts prohibiting giving assistance to any slave fleeting. Acting as the paddy roller and reaping rewards for the capture of a slave in flight were significant and widespread sources of income for the masses of impoverished white dirt farmers and would-be workers. The Underground Railroad was the invention first of the "free" Black population as was the abolitionist movement.

As the years passed, Africans gelled into one people with a common history, language, culture, psychological make-up, relationship to the economics of the overall society and relation to a common land area - into a nation. As this process matured, so did Black resistance. Resistance took both forms of individual and collective resistance, active and passive, overt and covert. In fact a generally uniform culture and social organization whose cornerstone was Black survival, resistance and liberation.

The slave quarters and its social organization became the center for resistance and insurrection being that it was the area of a slave's life relatively the furthest removed from the master's eyes. While in the production process (mainly in the cotton fields) absolute "equally" of production output reigned between men and women, women still shouldered the burden of domestic work and social organization (cooking, mending, care of infants etc). As a result, women were the center of the enslaved community's social organization and as such were the trainers and reinforcers of the oppressed culture of survival and resistance.

Black revolt was not in isolation from general conditions in the south or the rest of the world. The period from 1810-16 and 1820-30 were times of intensified rebellious activity. The first period was in a time of economic depression for the south and the second a period of world-wide revolutionary activity in the world, and especially sharp in numerous Caribbean islands.

The three largest and most significant slave conspiracies of this period were the Gabriel and Nanny Prosser insurrection attempt of 1800, the Denmark Vesey attempt in 1822 and the Nat Turner Rebellion in 1831.

In spring of 1800 Gabriel Prosser, his wife Nanny, other members of his family as well as other Africans began planning an insurrection to include taking control of Richmond, Virginia. The projected date was August 30th. Estimates on numbers involved range anywhere between 2,000 to 50,000. Throughout the spring weapons including swords, bullets and bayonets were made while Gabriel also studied the layout of Richmond and where arms were kept. In the last weeks before the target date the governor of Virginia found out about the plot and brought out militia and cannon in the state capitol. On August 30, 2,000 armed slaves, some mounted, met six miles outside the city. When they realized that they would not be able to proceed they disbanded. Scores of free and enslaved Africans were arrested. 36 eventually executed including Prosser who had attempted to escape by ship. None of the original revolutionaries betrayed the cause. Key points of significance of the Prosser Insurrection were the sheer numbers of rebels involved, its level of organization, the discipline of the revolutionaries and their tactical plan to involve the French and Catawba Native Americans

In the same year Denmark Vesey bought his freedom. Born in Africa, Vesey had served on a slave ship and once "free" moved to Charleston. It is in this urban setting that he and several literate slave artisans planned an insurrection scheduled for the 2nd Sunday in July 1822. This date was picked because it was a time when the greatest number of whites would be away from Charleston and on a Sunday because that was when the greatest number of slaves would come into the city.

The leadership was literate and extremely cautious not to recruit any domestic servants for fear of betrayal. For six months the security measures remained intact and plans are reported to have extended to between 6,600 and 9,000 African freedmen and slaves. However in May a domestic slave (House Nigger) was incorrectly asked to become part of the revolt. He immediately informed his master. Two members of the leadership were arrested however through their actions they convinced Charleston jailers that they knew nothing and were subsequently freed.

But a month later two slaves agreed to inform and spy on the plot and the total thing was exposed. 131 were arrested and 49 condemned to death.

In 1831 Africans in the U.S. scored a victory through the success of the Nat Turner Rebellion in Virginia. Not a lot of details are available of the six month period preceding the insurrection beginning on August 21 and which started much smaller than the Vesey and Prosser attempts.

Nat did agitate for six months and formed a small cadre. The collective originally chose July 4th of that year for the rebellion to start however because Turner was ill on that day the date was pushed back to August 21st. The six slaves started out on that evening from plantation to plantation. The numbers expanded rapidly and as they pushed on commandeering horses and arms. By the morning of the 23rd, 57 whites had been killed by the approximately 70 bloods. On the way to the Southampton county seat they stopped to recruit at a wealthy plantation - over the objections of Turner. It was here that a portion of the forces were attacked by a volunteer corps of whites. At first they were able to force the whites to give ground but reinforcements of a company of militia gained the offensive and the slaves were forced to flee.

This proved to be the decisive battle, Turner was unable to round up the rebel forces nor recruit. Three more companies of state militia completely overpowered the situation. "Prophet Nat" Turner went into hiding, but never left the county and was captured more than two months later.

After the suppression of the rebellion massacre of Africans was wholesale. It is estimated that at lest a hundred Africans were murdered, some by bullets, others by lynching and still others decapitated.

One last note: it was feared by southern planters that David Walker traveled throughout the south spreading the message of rebellion in the book, David Walker's Appeal. And it was to this book that they attributed the rebellion.

Organizational Development of the Black Liberation Movement to 1860, the North

Introduction: During the entire period of slavery in the U.S. there existed a small community of "quasi free" African people, the majority of whom lived in the Southern states. Their existence in the South was an uncomfortable contradiction to the slave owning class and its collaborators. Quasi free Africans were a constant reminder of the weak moral and philosophical foundation upon which the slave owners justified their oppression and exploitation. In both the North and the South, African people could not be granted the rights and privileges of Whites. Free Africans could not be treated as an exception. A relentless campaign of terror which included arson, murder, intimidation, rape, and illegal seizure of property was waged against free Blacks in both areas. Economic exploitation and discrimination were a daily part of their lives.

It is important to consider what percentage of the population free Africans represented, and the contradiction inherent in their status as free men and women. In 1790 free Blacks numbered 59,577, 32,000 to 35,000 of whom lived in the South. By 1840, a total of 386,293 (some placed the total at 488,000) free Africans lived in the U.S., with an estimated 50% in the South, and the remainder of the population in the North and West. See Table 1 and 2 for a population breakdown for the years 1800-60.





Census Total U.S.

Total African

African % of



Free African % of



total population population































total population






















**Between 1820-1860, 5 million European immigrants came to the U.S. This accounted for 25% of the total population for

that period.

Source: McAdoo, B., 1966. Originally from Historical Statistics. Colonial Times to 1957: Statistical Abstract of the U.S.

1963: and The Negro in Our History,

Woodson and Wesley

Africans were free for various reasons. A very small minority had been granted their freedom by slaveowners. The vast majority had earned or taken their freedom either by working and paying their owners, or through heroic service in the colonial war with Britain in 1776, or by fleeing north. What is critical to keep in mind is that although they may have had the legal documents to attest to their free status they could be, through minor transgressions or kidnapping, sent back into slavery. Many states required free Blacks to carry Certificates of Freedom; all Southern states required them to carry passes. Failure to carry the necessary documents carried the most serious consequences. The discriminatory laws passed to control free Blacks increased as the years progressed. There were laws enacted in the Southern states to limit their right to travel, move place of residence, hold church services, convene benevolent and social organizations, sell various goods and services, work in certain industries, procure credit, and significantly, they were restricted from contact with their enslaved sisters and brothers.

In the North the condition of free Africans was somewhat improved, although only by degrees. They were generally able to assemble at will, publish their own newspapers and books, exercise free speech, own property, gain an education if they could afford to pay for it, and of course pay taxes. But they could not vote in some states, and in others had to pay a poll tax and own property. They were also refused work in certain industries and occupations, were excluded from juries, and could not testify against Whites. They were required by law to work, and maintain a visible means of support.

Black Workers in the North: The free African community in the North was working class. Subjected to uncompromising discrimination, regardless of education, property, or sex, all Blacks workers recognized the privileges accorded to a white skin. Unskilled workers, the vast majority of the Black community, were forced by economic necessity to accept menial jobs at depressed wages. The few skilled artisans and workers (ironworkers, seamstresses, mechanics, caulkers, etc.) also were systemically pressured by, and competed with White workers for jobs. The Africans gradually lost economic ground in these skirmishes. It was clearly in the interests of the capitalists to encourage the racism of White workers. Attacks against the person and the rights of African workers increased from 1820 to 1860 as a result of European immigration and economic fluctuations. Immigrant laborers, who swelled the ranks of Northern workers after 1820, quickly adopted the racism of their employers, and White co-workers. Within the African community chronic and periodic unemployment were the pattern for the majority. Barred from White labor unions Blacks did organize benevolent and labor organizations. The New York African Society for Mutual Relief founded 1808; the Humane Mechanics, 1820; the Stewards' and Cooks' Marine

Benevolent Society, 1830; and the American League of Colored Laborers, 1850 with F. Douglass as vice-president, are important examples of the organizing efforts of African workers.

A small number of free Africans were ministers, teachers, lecturers, lawyers, inventors, doctors, and small merchants. Their investment in the U.S. capitalist economy varied. Some believed that the future of Africans depended on their capacity to integrate themselves, at least economically, into the system. The majority of these individuals felt that their future was intregally tied to that of captive Africans in the South. There was sufficient disagreement within the northern African community on this question, and others related to the future of Blacks in the U.S. These issues were debated in numerous local, state, regional and national conventions, and in local organizations from 1830 to 1861.

The National Negro Convention Movement 1830-1861: Free Africans in the U.S. were the first to recognize their need for unified responses to their condition, and the condition of enslaved Africans. In 1794, Richard Allen (a former slave who had purchased his freedom from his Delaware slaveowner in 1777) with other free Blacks organized the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. It spread throughout the eastern seaboard and was strong enough in 1816 to tie the separate churches together into a major structure, the A.M.E. Church. Blacks also formed the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in N.Y in 1796; the Abyssinian Baptist Church in N.Y. in 1809; and the Negro Baptist of Boston in 1809. In every instance the establishment of separate churches was caused by the recognition of the need for Africans to have a forum of their own, and as a response to the racism practiced by White churches. The organization in 1787 by Prince Hall, another minister, of the Master African Lodge No. 459 (Prince Hall "Black Masons") in Boston is an early example of the key role that the clergy played in forming other supportive organizations. The separation of Black Christians allowed for the development of African leadership that would not have been possible within the White churches. The church was the first institution (aside from the Black family**) that allowed for Black self expression, and unified action.

**For a discussion of the role of the African family as an institution for group survival see: Blassingham, J.W. (ed.) Slave Testimony. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977; The Slave Community. New York: Oxford Univesity Press, 1972; Gutman H. The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom. 1750-1925. New York; Pantheon Books, 1976. Webber T.L. Deep Like the River: Education in the Slave Quarter Community, 1831-65. New York. North. 1978.

The organization of the African press (newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and books) was another significant attempt to provide a voice and direction to community concerns. Freedom's Journal organized in New York City in 1827 by Samuel Cornish and John Russman, was the first Black newspaper. Cornish was a militant advocate of African rights, self expression, education temprance, and community cooperation. He was the first person to publicly call for unified national action. (See Franklin, J.H. p. 231-4, for a more detailed description of the Black press.) David Walker, a frequent contributor to Freedom's Journal, published his Appeal in 1827. In it he denounced northern Blacks who had become complacent about the abolition of slavery, bitterly attacked the hypocrisy of American democracy, and called for captive Africans to resist.

But these attempts at unity and debate within African communities needed a national forum that went beyond what the church or press could offer. A conflict in Cincinnati, Ohio between African and White workers in 1829 led to a call for a national convention to consider this issue, among others. There was various infighting among the leadership of New York and Philadelphia, which continued during the early years of the convention movement. At times it seriously threatened national unity. Fortunately other communities and states were able to provide direction to the

convention movement at a various times over the thirty year period. Through the aggressive efforts of Rev. Richard Allen the first national convention was held on September 15, 1830 in Philly.

Eleven national conventions were held from 1830-61. During these years large numbers of Blacks lived in Philly and N.Y.C., and it is not surprising that five of the first six convention were held in Philadelphia, the other was in New York. After 1840 New York and Ohio generally dominated. Throughout the period Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Illinois, and Michigan played minor but significant roles. Conn, and Ohio each had twenty or more state conventions; N.Y ten; Maine and New Hampshire had a coalition which held ten; and other states occasionally held state conventions. There were also numerous local assemblies held during these years which addressed specific issues, such as, the Dred Scott decision, or suffrage.

During these national and state conventions certain issues were regularly debated; and particular themes emerged that are important to bear in mind. The major issues debated were the following: first, delegates discussed self improvement for themselves and African captives. What would be the role of education in the transformation of Africans from slavery to freedom: How could local Black communities set-up grade and trade schools, and colleges? Also how could delegates encourage temperance, frugality and morality in their communities? Between 1835 and 1840 a trend developed which took the burden off the individual African to be the instrument of his/her own education and betterment. Legislative reforms were advocated as a way to make sweeping changes in the northern free community. The problem with this position was that Africans could only persuade and petition legislators, because they were disenfranchised. But this development indicates a more systematic analysis of the forces that oppressed them than the previous person-blame approach.

A second major issue involved the contradictions of racism, capitalism, and national oppression. Was the U.S. capable of treating Africans as equal citizens? Was it hopelessly racists? Was emigration to Haiti, Canada, or Africa the better alternative? (These questions are identifical to those being debated today in the BLM.) These issues grew out of the question, "What is to be done with the African?", that had been asked since our arrival in the Americas. Emigration as proposed by the American Colonization Society was strongly resisted by the majority of Blacks because it was controlled by slave owners, and it had refused to support social equality. In the 1820's emigration to Africa was opposed by Blacks, although Canada and Haiti were more favorably considered. After 1833 even Canada and Haiti were disapproved of as emigratory sites. By 1837 emigration was not supported generally. Martin R. Delany relegitimized emigration to Africa, so that by the late 1850's a significant number of northern and Canadian Blacks, including Rev. Henry H. Garnet, supported the idea. In the entire period of African existence in the U.S. prior to the Civil war no more than 12,000 Blacks emigrated to Africa and the Caribbean. By 1860 there were 50,000 Africans in Canada, but 30,000 of them returned to the U.S. in the years following emancipation. Eventually the dominant position was that emigration of free Africans was equivalent to desertion of those enslaved. Emigration. Emigration could be considered as a temporary condition, but not as a solution to the problems of the African.

A third major issue was the abolition of slavery, and the abolitionist movement led by W.L. Garrison. The debates centered on the antagonistic contradiction that existed between those abolitionists who argued that slavery could only be abolished by moral persuasion, and those, like Garnet, who stated that militant resistance was necessary. The failure of the Americans Anti-Slavery Society to both support social equality in its constitution and its statements lead many Blacks to break with it. Finally, the failure of the Garrisonians to present a practical program for the abolition of slavery created further strain.

The themes that characterized the convention movement are, firstly, the delegates who attended the conventions represented the small group of intellectuals who were scattered throughout the Northern and Southern free African communities. These individuals were generally males (women were given full status in 1839), often were ministers, had in most cases been former slaves, and often had ties with White abolitionists.

Secondly, the role of Whites in the first national attempt to create a Black forum created problems. Whites financially supported the conventions, attended many of the conventions, and participated in the discussions. On occasion their interests became the interest of the convention. This can be illustrated by studying Bell's (p. 19-22) description of the proposal by Garrison, Jocelyn, and Tappan at the 1831 National Convention regarding the establishment of a Black college under their auspices. The intrusion of the Whites stole the initiative from the Africans, hindered unity, stifled debate, and limited the potential for the development of African leadership. A few Blacks feared breaking with Garrison and the abolitionist establishment. But after 1835 the delegates were more willing to openly criticize them, and as time went on to denounce them. In fact the growing militancy can be illustrated by considering Garnet's fiery address to the 1843 convention in which he called for the slaves to resist. This speech was up for adoption before the body and lost an endorsement by one vote. This was in sharp opposition to the moral persuasion abolitionists.

Thirdly, other movements and political parties (the Republicans, the radical Liberty Party, the temperance societies, etc.) all exerted a degree of influence on the state and national conventions.

Fourthly, the conventions were broad gatherings in which delegates were not bound by any decisions. They were more similar to open forums. In times of crisis Africans came together, but as is true today, when the crisis subsided it became increasingly harder to maintain the organization.

Finally, the themes of theory versus practical programs; militant struggle (including armed resistance) versus passive resistance; the role of religion in the Black movement versus more objective analyses; and the question of self-determination and land, were all present during this period prior to the Civil War.


Please note that the starred (*) items are required; all others are recommended.

* 1. Aptheker, Herbert. "Militant Abolitionism", in To Be Free: Studies in American Negro

History • New York: International Publishers, 1948, 1968, p. 41-74. International Publishers, 381
Park Ave. South, New York, N. Y., 10016, in paperback.)

*2. Aptheker, Herbert. A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States. Vol.1

New York: The Citadel Press, 1968.

(The Citadel Press, 222 Park Ave. South, New York, N. Y. 10003, in paperback.)

In this volume read the following: Pages

The First Negro Newspaper's Opening Editorial, 1827 82-5

The Negro Woman on Women's Rights, 1827 89

The Pioneer National Negro Convention, 183 0 98-107

Fifth Annual Negro Convention, 1831 114-9

Second Annual National Negro Convention, 1832 133-7

Third Annual National Negro Convention, 1833 141-6

Fourth Annual National Negro Convention, 1834 154-7

Fifth Annual National Negro Convention, 1835 159

The Split in the Abolitionist Movement, 1839-1840 192-6

Garnet's Call to Rebellion, 1843 226-33

(This was originally published by Garnet as, An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America, 1843. It can also be found in a book which includes Walker's Appeal published by Arno Press and the New York Times, New York, 1969, p. 89-96.)

Michigan Negro Convention, 1843 233-4

Fifth Annual Convention of New York Negroes, 1844 244-5

State Convention of Ohio Negroes, 1849 278-8

A Douglass-Garnet Debate, 1849 288-90

The National Negro Convention, 1853 341-57

* 3. Bell, Howard Holman. A Survey of the Negro Convention Movement 1830-1861.

New York: Arno Press and the New York Times, 1969. Arno Press, 330 Madison Avenue, New York,N.Y. 10017.)

  1. Delany, Martin Robinson. The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored
    People of the United States, Politically Considered. Philadelphia: By the Author, 1852.

  2. Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. New York: Collier Books, 1962,
    especially p. 271-313. (Collier Books, 866 Third Ave. New York, N.Y., .10022, in paperback.)
    *6. Foner, Philip S. Organized Labor and the Black Worker, 1619-1973. New York:
    International Publishers, 1976, p. 3-16

* 7. Loewenberg, Bert J. and Eogin, Ruth, eds. Black Women in Nineteeth-Century American
Life. University Park, Pa: The Pennsylvania State Univ., 1978, "Maria Stewart," p. 183-200;
"Sarah Parker Remond," p. 222-33.

*8. Lynch, Hollis R. "Pan Negro Nationalism in the New World, Before 1862," in Boston University Papers on Africa. Vol. II, African Historv. Boston, Mass: Boston University Press, 1966, p. 149-79.

9. McAdoo, Bill. Pre-Civil War Black Nationalism. New York: Black Liberation Commission of the Progressive Labor Party, 1966. (336 Lenox Ave., Harlem, New York, N. Y. 10027.)

  1. Mil ler, Floyd J. The Search for a Black Nationality: Black Emigration and Colonization.
    1757-1863. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1975, p. 54-169.

  2. Ofari, Earl. "Let Your Motto Be Resistance:" The Life and Thought of Highland Garnet.
    Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1972.

  3. Quarles, Benjamin. Black Aboliionists. New York: Oxford University Press9 1969.

  4. Schor, Joel. Henry Highland Garnet: A Voice of Black Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century.
    Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1977, p.28-109. Greenwood Press, Inc. 51 Riverside
    Ave., Westport, Conn. 06880, in hardback.)..

  5. Walker, David. Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles Together With a Preamble to the Coloured
    Citizens of the World. But in Particular, and Very Expressly to Those of the United States of
    America. Boston, Mass. September 28, 1829. Republished in a phamplet by Arno Press and the
    New York Times, 1969, p 7-88. This phamplet also contains Garnet's Address...

  6. Franklin, John Hope. From Slavery to Freedom. New York: Vintage Books, 1969, p.214-


  1. During the period from 1830-1861 the northern African community held eleven national
    conventions and numerous local, state, and regional conventions. Discuss the major
    programmatic proposals (such as, suffrage, temperance, and education) put forth in these
    conventions, and how they varied as a response to changes within the north and south. Discuss
    the role of regionalism (New York vs. Philadelphia, north vs. west) in the attempt to build unity
    among Black communities in the north. Discuss the factors that lead to a hiatus in national
    conventions from 1836 to 1842. Discuss the rise of militancy in the national conventions after
    1848. Why did it occur at that time? Who were it's leaders?

  2. During this period some of the most influential Black intellectuals debated key issues, such as,
    emigration versus staying in the U. S. and demanding rights of citizenship abolition of slavery
    through moral persuasion versus militant action, and the responsibilities of northern Blacks to
    those held in capativity in the south. These individuals included Martin Delany, David Walker,
    Henry Highland Garnet, Maria Stewart, Frederick Douglass, and Samuel Cornish. Discuss the
    different positions that these individuals (and others you feel should be included) represented. Did
    any of their position change overtime? If so, discuss the factors that influenced these changes?
    Identify the historical roots of ideologieal issues that are currently being debated in the Black
    liberation movement. Can positions be identified as reformist, reactionary, or revolutionary? Be
    sure to identify the criteria you are using to define these terms. From orientation one, sessions two
    and three: Philadelphia African People's fairly, approximately 1976-1977 period.

Why were there more slave revolts in South Central America and the Caribbean than in North America (United States?)

Under the Portuguese and Spanish more retention of indigenous African culture (African dicties; orishes) religion could be hidden in the practice of the Catholics sect with it's twelve saints. Also during the first hundred years of African slavery in the Western Hemisphere (1500-1600) there was often more direct importation of captured Africans from the same tribes or areas and in many cases they could communicate with one another. With the retention of the congo or talking drum Africans could communicate messages across language and religious barriers. Plus, in South and Cental America and the Caribbean plantations would often be located in valleys often near hills or mountainous terrain or swamps whereas in North America (United States) the land in the south with warm climate conductive to supporting the staple crops from slave labor was often flat. Also in South Central America and the Caribbean often there would be anywhere from a thousand to fifteen hundred slaves on a plantation whereas in North America (United States) the



average plantation had about 50 slaves per plantation. A large plantation in North America (United States) would be 300 slaves per plantation.

Two good sources: Anthony S. Parent Jr., Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740 [Chapel Hill and London: University of North Caroline Press, 2003] Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Alone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America [London, England; Harvard University Press, 1998]

What was the Underground Railroad about and what were conductors?

\ It was not a train. It was an informal network of black and white abolitionist willing to assist escaping slaves to find refuge in the North or Canada. The Underground Railroad was a secret; illegal system that was used to help slaves escape from the South to free shelter, and money to the fugitives. The conductors were people who went on the journey with the slaves and showed them how to get into free areas. Conductors were those who, at great personal risk, led other escaping slaves out of bondage.


hat was Harriett Tubman?

Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who became the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. She made at least 1 5 trips back into slave territory to lead other slaves out even though she knew there was a price on her head. She freed more than three-hundred slaves. What were the three major tendencies in the colored people's conventions? The three major tendencies were: Frederick Douglass believed that all whites were not the same and that there is a significant amount of whites that were opposed to slavery and that blacks should divide the white racist front. He also wanted to unite with the antislavery front. He also wanted to unite with the anti-slavery whites to develop a broad coalition in opposition to slavery. Delany advocated returning to Africa and repatriation or migrating to Haiti or Canada. Garnett called for a slave insurrection.

Who was Sojourner Truth and what did she advocate?

Sojourner Truth was born a slave, Isabella Baumfree, who escaped slavery in 1826. She became an itinerat preacher in 1 843 after losing her son at sea. She changed her name to Sojourner Truth to signify her role as a traveler speaking the truth about slavery; often reducing her audience to tears. She was an advocate of equal rights, especially for women. She was involved in reform activism. She preached at many meetings. She insisted on the need for the inclusion of black women in any vision of social reform. She became a spokesperson for human rights often sharing the podium with Frederick Douglass. After emancipation she turned her attention to advocating for the plight of homeless and needy former slaves. She was also a strong advocate for the enfranchisement of Black men and women.

Who was the Reverend Henry Highland Garnet?

Henry Highland Garnet was born a slave in 1815. Upon the death of their slave master, the Garnet family fled rather than risk being separated by the heirs to the masters estate. Henry attended the African Free School and then attended the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York. He subsequently became a preacher and staunch supporter of the message of David Walker. He sought to make change through political action. He became a leader in the Liberty Party. He called for the violent overthrow of slavery. He wanted an African nation as the result of

emigration. He called for an slave insurrection. Subsequently, President Garfield appointed him to a diplomatic post in Liberia.

Who was Martin R. Delaney?

Delaney was born free in 1821, in Charlestown, Virginia. His mother taught him to read and write which was a crime which caused the family to flee to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He studied, as an apprentice to a white doctor. His medical training encouraged his involvement in the temperance movement encouraging Blacks against alcohol to improve physical health. He also became a dentist, supper, leacher and bleeder.

In 1841, he started a newspaper, called "The Mystery." His intent was the "moral elevation of the Afro-American and African race, civilly, politically, and religiously yet it shall support no distinctive principle of race. ~ ," In 1847 the paper was taken over by the AME Church. 1847 was also the year he met Frederick Douglass who was establishing his own paper, "The North Star". Delaney became its co-editor. Delaney and Douglass differed on the issue of emigration. Delaney believed the U.S. would never change its stance on slavery nor on the racial discrimination experienced by African Americans.

Delaney completed his medical studies at Harvard University but left without a degree. He published his first book in 1851, "The Condition, Elevation, Emigration (and) Destiny of the Colored People of the United States Politically Consider." He was considered the father of Black Nationalism. He held a secret convention in Cleveland to look at colonialization. He went with a delegation to Africa to repatriate.

Delaney worked as Sub-Assistant Commissioner in charge of district of Hilton Head for the Freedmen's Bureau. He advised the freedmen to work only for themselves and not for white men. "Get up a community all the lands you can. Grow as much vegetables as you want for your families. On the other part of the land cultivate rice and cotton ..."

What was the Missouri Compromise about?

Missouri wanted to join the Union in 1819 as a slave state. There were issues that had to be taken into consideration, such as sectional balance and the morality of slavery. There was considerable debate over the issue from 1819, when Missouri first applied until 1821, when its request was finally granted. The issue also raised the debate over states rights- whether or not the federal government had the right to restrict or prohibit slavery in the territories.

Missouri Compromise of 1820

(Agricultural Slavery Industrialization)

Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky proposed compromise, represented small slaveholders, free

farmers, petty business interests. Manuever between Southern slave holders and North


  • Admission of Missouri as a slave state.

  • Maine as a free state

*Drawing of demarcation line for slavery at 36 degrees parallel, 30 degrees north longitude of United States.

Northern politicians did not want to admit another slave state. To do so would tip the balance of power in the Senate. Congressman Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois made the compromise that Missouri would be entered as a slave state with Maine being entered in as a free state. They also prohibited the introduction of slavery into the remaining portions of the Louisiana Purchase north of the latitude 36' 30" North.

Wilmont Proviso

The concern was maintaining the balance between free states and slave states in order to preserve the existing representation in Congress.

In 1846, during the Mexican War, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, David Wilmot, introduced a measure in Congress to prohibit slavery in any lands acquired from Mexico. Wilmot later explained that he wanted neither slavery nor black people to taint territory that should be reserved exclusively for whites: "The negro race already occupy enough of this fair continent.. . I would preserve for free white labor a fair country. . . where the sons of toil, of my own race and own color, can live without the disgrace which association with negro slavery brings upon free labor."

Wilmot's Proviso failed to become law, but white Southerners, who saw the measure as a blatant attempt to prevent them from moving west and enjoying the prosperity and way of life that an expanding slave-labor system would create, were enraged. They considered any attempt to limit the growth of slavery to be the first step toward eliminating it. And the possibility that slavery might be abolished, as remote as that may have seemed in the 1840s, was too awful for them to contemplate.

White Southerners had convinced themselves that black people were a childlike and irresponsible race wholly incapable of surviving as a free people if they were emancipated and compelled to compete with white Americans. Most white people believed the black race would decline and disappear if it were freed. Virginia lawyer George Fitzhugh wrote in 1854, "the negro race is inferior to the white race, and living in their midst, they would be far outstripped or outwitted in the chase of free competition. Gradual, but certain, extermination would be their fate." Thus southern white people considered slavery "a positive good"-in the words of Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina-that benefited both races and resulted in a society vastly superior to that of the North.

To prevent slavery's expansion, the Free-Soil Party was formed in 1848. It was composed mainly of white people who vigorously opposed slavery's expansion and the supposed desecration that the presence of black men and women might bring to the new western lands. But some black and white abolitionists also supported the Free-Soilers as a way to oppose slavery. They reasoned that even though many Free-Soil supporters were hostile to black people, the party still represented a serious challenge to slavery and its expansion. Frederick Douglass felt comfortable enough with the Free-Soil Party to attend its convention in 1848. The Free-Soil candidate for president that year was the former Democratic president Martin Van Buren. He came in a distant third behind the Whig victor and hero of the Mexican War, Zachary Taylor, who won, and the Democrat Lewis Casso Nevertheless, ten Free-Soil congressmen were elected, and the party provided a growing forum to oppose slavery's advance.

Name the five aspects of The Compromise of 1850 and what it was about.

*Failure of the federal government to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793

*Fear that Texas might split into several smaller states; thus threatening the balance

between free states and slave states in the Congress

*The entrance of California into the Union as a free state.

*The territories of Utah and New Mexico could organize and let the people decide

whether to be free or slave states.

*The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

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