African American History
African American history is a long journey. I am an African American, so African American history is personal with me on many different levels. We, who are African Americans, have made amazing accomplishments and still there is a long way to go. From the Motherland of Africa to the 21st century, black people have shown resiliency, courage, strength, grace, compassion, and a stirring passion for justice. Today, we live in a new age with a new bigoted, demagogic President soon to be inaugurated in America (by January 20, 2017). The vast majority of African Americans descended from African slaves centuries ago. Many African Americans are recent African immigrants living in America too. Also, it is important to note that our history, as African Americans, didn’t just involve the Middle Passage and slavery. Our history revolve around literature, architecture, spirituality, music, athletics or sports, art, dance, political affairs, economics, STEM fields, and other aspects of human civilization spanning thousands of years. Now, we are in the very close to the quarter century mark of the 21st century. We still live in a nation where racism and classism (in other words, a certain [not all] segment of middle class and wealthy black people ignore the legitimate needs of working class and poor black people) remain a stark reality in American society. When even innocent black children are unfairly stereotyped harshly and hate crimes are abundant, it reveals the truth that we don't live in a post racial society. The only way to end these injustices is not only education, but to use social activism to fight back against such evils. We want to fight against democratic violations domestically and imperialist wars overseas. Going good is crucial in instituting real change. Undoubtedly, real change has nothing to do with worshiping the establishment. Instead, it has to do with making revolutionary impact on how society functions. It is about replacing a corrupt system with a progressive system filled with justice and true human liberation. This is what we're fighting for. We desire not only the growth of economic power, but political independence. We don't worship the Republicans or the Democrats. We honor our African American heritage while desiring total freedom and justice.
Therefore, it is time for us who to show the complete history of African Americans from the beginning to the present. I’m going to write a 7 Part series that describes African American history and culture from Africa to 2017. It will show information about the civil rights movement, the Harlem Renaissance, Marcus Garvey, Ella Baker, Reconstruction, various musical genres, the Great Migration, Malcolm X, Dr. King, the Age of President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Oscar Micheaux, Mary McLeod Bethune, and other components of our journey. Our journey is filled with the strength of our ancestors and the influence of the youth too. This is Part one of this series. In America, we have been a part of a journey for more than 500 years. Our black forebears fought in every war of American history, but we continue to fight the war against racism, bigotry, and intolerance in the USA. Our cause is just and we will keep on fighting for justice in the world as Brothers and Sisters. It is important to reiterate that the African American community is not a monolith. Like other communities, we are diverse in our cultures, religions, politics, socioeconomics, and other parts of our lives. It is vitally clear though that we are survivors too. We survived the whips, the chains, and many objectionably tyrannical circumstances. Justice is our aim. I love my black people as I am Black and Beautiful.
First, the story begins in Africa. The vast majority of African Americans descended from Western and Central Africa.
In the beginning, human beings originated from Africa during the start of human history. There is no complete understanding of the African American experience without understanding African history and culture. African history is diverse. Modern humans existed from East Africa and spread globally. The Ishango bone which is a lunar calendar existed from 23,000 B.C. to 18,000 B.C. As time went on in Africa, the agriculture grew and the domestication of animals developed. There was the spreading of grains and other resources globally. In ca. 3,500 B.C., ancient Nubia and ancient Egypt grew in power. West Africa had tons of civilizations as well like: the Nok culture, the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire, the Ghana Empire, the Ashanti Empire, and so many other forms of government and infrastructure. By the late Middle Ages, European imperialists grew in their trading power. They wanted more resources in the world, they wanted to spread their religion, and they desired more control over territories. So, they used many methods both technological and otherwise to explore many locations in order for them to extract resources for their own benefit. Slavery existed in Europe, Africa, and Asia for thousands of years. Europeans enslaved Europeans before the days of the Roman Empire and afterwards. Many people in Africa enslaved Africans too. The difference was that the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was extensive across multiple continents, it was more brutal, and it was more far reaching. It totally stripped the language, culture, religion, and other ways of life for millions of black Africans. Even before the modern Trans-Atlantic slave trade, many Arabic people enslaved black Africans as well. That Arabic slave trade was in Western Asia, North Africa, Southeast Africa, the Horn of Africa, parts of Europe, etc. The Arabic slave trade lasted from the 7th century to the late 20th century. The slavery against black people in many mostly Muslim countries continues today in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia secretly, etc.
The European nation that started the modern Trans-Atlantic slave trade was Portugal. During the 1400’s, the Portuguese desired to travel into Africa. The Portuguese invaded and colonized the Canary Islands in the 1400’s to produce wine and sugar. They captured the native Canary Islander people called the Guanches and made them slaves in the islands and across the Mediterranean region. As historian John Thornton remarked, "the actual motivation for European expansion and for navigational breakthroughs was little more than to exploit the opportunity for immediate profits made by raiding and the seizure or purchase of trade commodities." Later, they moved into the western coast of Africa to use raids in which slaves (or black people) were captured and sold in the Mediterranean. African naval forces resisted this injustice. They defeated many Portuguese imperialists, so the Portuguese used the slick tactics of trying to form agreements with some Africans in exchange of them to travel into African lands (yet, the aim of the Portuguese raiders was about gaining power not egalitarianism).
In 1441, the Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão captured 12 Africans in Cabo Branco (modern Mauritania) and take them to Portugal as slaves. In 1444, Lançarote de Freitas, a tax-collector from the Portuguese town of Lagos, forms a company to trade with Africa. In August 8, 1444, de Freitas lands 235 kidnapped and enslaved Africans in Lagos, the first large group of African slaves brought to Europe. Black Africans are forced into sugar plantations in 1452 too. In January 8, 1454, Pope Nicholas V issues Romanus Pontifex, a bull granting the Portuguese a perpetual monopoly in trade with Africa. That bull or document was sent to King Afonso V of Portugal. As a follow-up to the Dum Diversas, it confirmed to the Crown of Portugal dominion over all lands south of Cape Bojador in Africa. Nevertheless, Spanish traders begin to bring slaves from Africa to Spain. In October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus becomes the first European since the Viking era to travel into the Americas. Columbus and his crew set foot on an unidentified island he named San Salvador (modern Bahamas). Columbus was a cruel man who enslaved Native Americans, glorified oppression, and was a religious hypocrite. By 1494, the Portuguese king had entered agreements with the rulers of several West African states that would allow trade between their respective peoples, enabling the Portuguese to "tap into" the "well-developed commercial economy in Africa..." Hostilities continued and the European imperialists grew in power. Many Africans were involved in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, but the Africans didn’t create the travel plans, didn’t build all of the slave ships, didn’t formulate the plans for anti-black oppression, and Africans didn’t organize the majority of the economic infrastructure to conduct the brutal, evil slave trade either. The people who did these things were European capitalist imperialists.
By the early 16th century, many Native Americans were slaves. European Spanish conquistadors explored territories and conquered lands in Mexico and the southwestern parts of America. One well known black African who came into the Americas was Juan Garrido. He was born in Africa and went into Portugal as a youth. Later, he worked in a Spanish expedition can arrived in Santo Domingo (or Hispaniola) in ca. 1502. He was among the first black peoples to arrive in the Americas in the modern age. In 1513, he accompanied Ponce de Leon to explore Florida. Therefore, Juan Garrido was the first black man in the modern age to arrive in modern day United States of America in 1513. Unfortunately, he was a conquistador too. He married and settled in Mexico City. He worked with Herman Cortes (to invade and conquer the Aztec Empire in Mexico). He worked with Spanish forces for more than 30 years to travel in western Mexico and to the Pacific. He cultivated wheat in the Americas. He communicated with Native Americans. He also traveled into many places and passed away in ca. 1550. The Atlantic slave trade has been divided into 2 eras. They were First and the Second Atlantic Systems.
The First Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans to, primarily, South American colonies of the Portuguese and Spanish empires. It accounted for slightly more than 3% of all Atlantic slave trade. It started (on a significant scale) in about 1502 and lasted until 1580 when Portugal was temporarily united with Spain. While the Portuguese were directly involved in trading enslaved peoples, the Spanish empire relied on the asiento system, awarding merchants (mostly from other countries) the license to trade enslaved people to their colonies. During the first Atlantic system most of these traders were Portuguese, giving them a near-monopoly during the era. Some Dutch, English, and French traders also participated in the slave trade. After the union, Portugal came under Spanish legislation that prohibited it from directly engaging in the slave trade as a carrier. It became a target for the traditional enemies of Spain, losing a large share of the trade to the Dutch, English and French.
The Second Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans by mostly English, Portuguese, French and Dutch traders. The main destinations of this phase were the Caribbean colonies and Brazil, as European nations built up economically slave-dependent colonies in the New World. Slightly more than 3% of the enslaved people exported from Africa were traded between 1450 and 1600, and 16% in the 17th century. It is estimated that more than half of the entire slave trade took place during the 18th century, with the British, Portuguese and French being the main carriers of nine out of ten slaves abducted in Africa. By the 1690's, the English were shipping the most slaves from West Africa. They maintained this position during the 18th century, becoming the biggest shippers of slaves across the Atlantic. Following the British and United States' bans on the African slave trade in 1808, it declined, but the period after still accounted for 28.5% of the total volume of the Atlantic slave trade. A burial ground in Campeche, Mexico, suggests slaves had been brought there not long after Hernán Cortés completed the subjugation of Aztec and Mayan Mexico in the 16th century. The graveyard had been in use from approximately 1550 to the late 17th century. Many Europeans switched from making slaves among Native Americans to Africans, because of many factors. One was that Native Americans declined rapidly in population including the fact that the European imperialists shifted into kidnapping black people more often than Native Americans.
As for African American history, the vast majority of the ancestors of African Americans came from West and Central Africa. Africans, who came into the Americas, via the slave trade came from many regions like Senegal, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, Benin, Nigeria, the Congo, Angola, East and Southeast Africa (like in Mozambique and Madagascar). Some West Africans were skilled iron workers and made tools in agricultural endeavors. Many tribes had their own customs and religions. Many Africans were Muslims. The transport of slaves was extremely harsh. Obadiah Equiano wrote an account of this. He was a former slave. He wrote about the slaves on the ships being separated from their families long before they were forced on the ships. They were segregated by gender. Slaves were cramps and they couldn’t walk freely. Males were kept in the ships hold. Diseases spread because of malnourishment, lack of basic hygiene, and dehydration. Death was common. Some slaves jumped overboard in suicide over the unspeakably harsh treatment. The slaves experienced hellish turmoil physically and emotionally.
The crewmen raped the black women on the ships constantly. Women and children were separated. Many Africans in the ships revolted and rebelled. Heroic women instigated the 1797 insurrection of the British ship Thomas. Slaves got weapons and passing them to the men below as well as engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the ship's crew. The journey from Africa to the Americas in average took about six months. Slaves were stripped of their human rights, their families, home, and their community life. They experienced some of the worst tragedies in human history. In all, about 10–12 million Africans were transported to the Western Hemisphere. The vast majority of these people came from that stretch of the West African coast extending from present-day Senegal to Angola; a small percentage came from Madagascar and East Africa. Only 5% (about 500,000) went to the American colonies. The vast majority went to the West Indies and Brazil, where many of them died quickly. Demographic conditions were more available in the American colonies, with less disease, more food, some medical care, and different circumstances than in the sugar fields. In 1565, the Spanish colony of St. Augustine in Florida became the first permanent European settlement in what would become the US centuries later; it included an unknown number of African slaves.
In 1619, 19 African slaves (some called these human beings indentured servants, but the people were sold making them slaves. The ship was a Dutch ship) were sent to Point Comfort (or today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia), which is 30 miles downstream from Jamestown, Virginia. The English settlers released them after a number of years. Slavery was explicitly race-based throughout the Americas by the 17th century. Many black people in America were slaves and some were free. Freed people wanted resources. Black human beings (regardless if they were slaves or not) in the United States struggled for true freedom and equality. In 1640, John Punch, who was a black indentured servant, ran away with two white indentured servants, James Gregory and Victor. After the three were captured, Punch was sentenced to serve Virginia planter Hugh Gwyn for life. This made John Punch the first legally documented slave in Virginia (and the US). Massachusetts was the first English colony to legalize slavery in 1641. Other colonies continued to enact such evil policies. Many non-Christian slaves were made slaves for life. Africans in the South were outnumbered by white indentured servants. Indentured servants were people who had to work for a certain period of time (bounded under a contract) until they were granted freedom. Many white indentured servants came voluntarily from Britain. Some wanted to pay off debts. They avoided the plantations. With the vast amount of good land and the shortage of laborers, plantation owners turned to lifetime slaves who worked for their keep but were not paid wages and could not easily escape. Laws dealt with slavery back then. It was a crime to kill a slave in some places, and a few whites were hanged for it. Generally the slaves developed their own family system, religion and customs in the slave quarters. Slave owners wanted the exploitation of African human beings for profit. Slaves were treated as property or cattle not as human beings. In 1654, John Casor, a black man who claimed to have completed his term of indenture, became the first legally recognized slave-for-life in a civil case in the Virginia colony. The court ruled with his oppressor, who said he had an indefinite servitude for life. Before the 1660's, the North American mainland colonies were expanding, but they still fairly small in size and did not have a great demand for labor, so the colonists did not import large numbers of African slaves (in a high level) at this point. In 1662, Virginia law, used the principle of partus sequitur ventrem, said that children in the colony were born into their mother's social status. Therefore, children born to enslaved mothers were classified as slaves, regardless of their father's race or status. This was contrary to English common law for English subjects, which held that children took their father's social status. Royal African Company is founded in England in 1672. It allowed slaves to be shipped from Africa to the colonies in North America and the Caribbean. England entered the slave trade in the next level by that time.
One of the most important historical events in early America was the Bacon Rebellion of 1676. It has a long history. Bacon's Rebellion was an armed rebellion in 1676 by Virginia settlers (including both white and black people) led by Nathaniel Bacon against the rule of Governor William Berkeley. I disagree with the Bacon's Rebellion's attack on Native Americans. I want to make that perfectly clear. Native Americans should never be scapegoated for the tyranny of capitalist elites. There is no question that capitalism was involved in international slavery. Slave owners used capitalism to spread divide and conquer strategies like racism and economic exploitation. In other words, the rise of modern day capitalism continued to the further spread of racism worldwide. By the late 1600's, there was a growth of many people who desired freedom. Back then, even in Virginia, there were black and white freed people working side by side in many endeavors. There was many black people who owned land. Lance Selfa gave great information about Bacon's Rebellion. He wrote the following words:
"...Planters' fear of a multiracial uprising also pushed them towards racial slavery. Because a rigid racial division of labor didn't exist in the 17th century colonies, many conspiracies involving Black slaves and white indentured servants were hatched and foiled. We know about them today because of court proceedings that punished the runaways after their capture. As historians T.H. Breen and Stephen Innes point out, "These cases reveal only extreme actions, desperate attempts to escape, but for every group of runaways who came before the courts, there were doubtless many more poor whites and blacks who cooperated in smaller, less daring ways on the plantation."
The largest of these conspiracies developed into Bacon's Rebellion, an uprising that threw terror into the hearts of the Virginia Tidewater planters in 1676. Several hundred farmers, servants and slaves initiated a protest to press the colonial government to seize Indian land for distribution. The conflict spilled over into demands for tax relief and resentment of the Jamestown establishment. Planter Nathaniel Bacon helped organize an army of whites and Blacks that sacked Jamestown and forced the governor to flee. The rebel army held out for eight months before the Crown managed to defeat and disarm it. Bacon's Rebellion was a turning point. After it ended, the Tidewater planters moved in two directions: first, they offered concessions to the white freemen, lifting taxes and extending to them the vote; and second, they moved to full-scale racial slavery.
Fifteen years earlier, the Burgesses had recognized the condition of slavery for life and placed Africans in a different category as white servants. But the law had little practical effect. "Until slavery became systematic, there was no need for a systematic slave code. And slavery could not become systematic so long as an African slave for life cost twice as much as an English servant for a five-year term," wrote historian Barbara Jeanne Fields.
Both of those circumstances changed in the immediate aftermath of Bacon's Rebellion. In the entire 17th century, the planters imported about 20,000 African slaves. The majority of them were brought to North American colonies in the 24 years after Bacon's Rebellion..." ("The roots of racism" by Lance Selfa from October 21, 2010).
As scholar and social activist Deborah Roberts has written: "...Documentary evidence exists of at least 55 slave mutinies on board ships and more than 250 revolts on American plantations, some to the point of insurrection. These revolts show that human beings will want freedom and fight injustice even in the most desperate conditions and against the greatest odds.
Capitalism could not have been built without the systematic exploitation and oppression of the working class, including, crucially, the super-exploitation and special oppression of Black slaves and their descendants. Right up to the present day, American capitalism depends on racism both materially, for the profits it generates, and ideologically, for the divisions it creates within the working class..."
By 1700, there were about 25,000 black slaves in the North American mainland colonies. That was about 10% of the total population. Some were sent into America directly from Africa. Most of them were from the late 17th century onward. At first, they were shipped via the West Indies in small cargoes after spending time working on the islands. Many were increasingly native born on the North American mainland. Slaves were brutalized, raped, and harmed in unspeakable ways. The children of slave mothers were made slaves too. More and more white settlers desired more land for farming and the establishment of plantations. Therefore, the number of slaves imported from Africa directly rapidly increased between the 1660’s to the 1700’s (and beyond). The reason was that slaves from the West Indies were too small to meet the huge demand for the fast growing 18th century North American mainland slave market. Additionally, most American slave buyers no longer wanted slaves coming in from the West Indies - by now they were either harder to obtain, too expensive, or more often, ruined in many ways by the very brutal regime of the island sugar plantations. By the end of the seventeenth century, a relaxation on colonial tax laws, and the removal of royal monopolies by the British Crown made the direct slave trade with Africa much easier.
So, the slave owning criminals wanted newly imported, young black Africans from Africa. They were bought at a cheaper price and they were brutalized in plantations nationwide. From about 1700 to 1859, the majority of slaves imported to the North American mainland came directly from Africa in huge cargoes to fill the massive spike in demand for much-needed labor to work the continually expanding plantations in the Southern colonies (later to be states), with most heading to Virginia, South Carolina, and French or Spanish Louisiana. During the 1700’s, the Northern colonies grew more urbanized and industrialized than the South. They relied less on agriculture as a major economic resource. They didn’t re-import a smaller amount of African slaves in a massive level as compared to the South. The black population in the North was small for a time. However, big Northern cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, had relatively large black populations (slave or free) for most of the colonial period and thereafter. In 1712, the New York city rebellion happened where slaves wanted freedom. It was later suppressed.
By the 1750’s, American-born slaves of African descent already began to outnumber African-born slaves. During the American Revolution, many Northern states started to abolish or heavily restrict slavery. Some Southern states like Virginia had large scale slavery populations. They stopped to take in direct imports of slaves from Africa. Many places of the North back then still had slavery. Other Southern states like Georgia and South Carolina relied on new slave labor to keep up with the demand of their growing plantation economies. They continued direct importation of slaves from Africa up to 1808. They only stopped for the years of the 1770's, because of a temporary lull in the trade brought on by the American Revolutionary War. The continued, direct importation of slaves from Africa ensured that for most of the eighteenth century. South Carolina's black population remained very high, with blacks outnumbering whites three to one, unlike in Virginia, which had a white majority, despite its large black slave population. Some said that South Carolina in the eighteenth century as a British colony looked much more like an extension of West Africa than it did of Britain (which I don't agree with because of obvious reasons). All unjustly legal (as not everything legal is righteous), direct importation of slaves from Africa had stopped by 1808, when the now, newly formed United States finally banned its citizens from participating in the international slave trade altogether by law.
Despite the ban, small to moderate cargoes of slaves were occasionally being illegally shipped into the United States directly from Africa for many years, as late as 1859. Slowly, a free black population emerged, concentrated in port cities along the Atlantic coast from Charleston to Boston. Slaves in the cities and towns had many more privileges, but the great majority of slaves lived on southern tobacco or rice plantations, usually in groups of 20 or more. Wealthy plantation owners eventually would become so reliant on slavery that they devastated their own lower class. In years to come, the institution of slavery would be so heavily involved in the South's economy. it would divide America into two opposing forces. The most serious slave rebellion during this time period was the Stono Uprising, in September 1739 in South Carolina. The colony had about 56,000 slaves, who outnumbered whites 2:1. About 150 slaves rose up, and seizing guns and ammunition, murdered twenty whites, and headed for Spanish Florida. Back then, Spanish Florida allowed black people to be free. Therefore, black people wanted to go into Florida in order to not experience slavery. The Spanish allowed black people to be free in Spanish Florida as long as they professed belief in Roman Catholicism. Many African Americans lived the Fort Mose town in Florida too back then. The local militia soon intercepted and killed most of them (of members of the Stono Rebellion). All the American colonies had slavery including in the North (where 2% of the people were slaves), and field hands in plantations in the South (where 25% were slaves). The heroism of anti-slavery activists, slaves (who rebelled against tyranny), and the Civil War tipped the scales and rid the United States of slavery.
Involving the Maafa and slavery, it must always be reiterated that black people have shown great determination to refuse to be dehumanized and to fight for their human liberation. Back during the 1600’s and 1700’s, slavery was spread in North America from Providence to New Orleans. The majority of slaves who came into North American area of the USA existed in the Chesapeake region (in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland) and the Low Country (which is found in South Carolina and Georgia). By the mid 1750’s, the majority of slaves in the Chesapeake region were never born in Africa. In the Low Country region, many slaves were imported directly from Africa (especially from central Africa like from Angola). New African American cultures were a merging of customs from many African tribes. Many people don’t know the extent of the brutality of what black slaves had to experience. Many slaves were stripped naked and branded with hot iron. Many black people in slave ships have never seen a white man in their lives except by being kidnapped by whites. Many enslaved Africans believed that white men were in league with the devil or the manifestation of the devil because of the brutality that Africans experienced. Slaves in America developed friendships, formed cultures, and enacted bonds of resistance against evil. In essence, my ancestors were not immigrants, but they were involuntarily sent unjustly from Africa into the Americas. Slaves also were leaders in the anti-slavery movement. There were Quakers and Memmonites from 1688 who opposed slavery. The history of African Americans not only involves slavery. It involved the dedicated power of African Americans to make institutions, to fight injustice, and to make ways of activism, so positive change can develop prodigiously in the world.
Early America and the American Revolutionary War.
The latter half of the 18th century had massive changes in America. There was political upheaval. The colonists in many cases opposed the Monarchy of the British Empire. They believed that they had no representation in Parliament after the French and Indian War. The British government wanted the colonists to pay for that war. Many colonists wanted relief from British rule, but some of them hypocritically were slaveholders. Back then, many people pointed that hypocrisy out. Therefore, the American Revolution existed in the realm of profound contradictions. The Declaration of Independence, which said that “all men was created equal” was written by Thomas Jefferson. Yet, Thomas Jefferson owned over 200 slaves. Many Northern and Southern statesmen were major slaveholders. The Second Continental Congress did consider freeing slaves to disrupt British commerce. They removed language from the Declaration of Independence that included the promotion of slavery amongst the offenses of King George III. A number of free Blacks, most notably Prince Hall or the founder of Prince Hall Freemasonry, submitted petitions for the end of slavery. But these petitions were largely ignored. African Americans were both in the Patriot side and the British side of the Revolutionary War. Free black people and black slaves (among both sides) fought for freedom. A free black tradesman, named Crispus Attucks, was the first causality of the Boston Massacre and the ensuing American Revolutionary War. 5,000 black people including Prince Hall fought in the Continental Army.
Many fought side by side with white soldiers at the battles of Lexington, Concord and at Bunker Hill. Yet, when George Washington took command in 1775, he barred any further recruitment of black people in America. About 5,000 free African American men fought with the American colonists. One of the men was Agrippa Hull for fought in the American Revolution for over 6 years. He and other African American soldiers desired changes in their own lives. Black people among both sides wanted equality and freedom. By contrast, the British and Loyalists offered emancipation to any slave owned by a Patriot who was willing to join the Loyalist forces. Lord Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia, recruited 300 African-American men into his Ethiopian regiment within a month of making this proclamation. In South Carolina 25,000 slaves, more than one-quarter of the total, escaped to join and fight with the British, or fled for freedom in the uproar of war. Thousands of slaves also escaped in Georgia and Virginia, as well as New England and New York. Well-known Black Loyalist soldiers include Colonel Tye and Boston King.
The Americans won the war. In the provisional treaty, they demanded the return of property. They wanted slaves returned to them too. The British helped up to 4,000 documented African Americans to leave the country for Nova Scotia, Jamaica, and Britain rather than be returned to slavery. Thomas Peters was one of the large numbers of African Americans who fought for the British. Peters was born in present-day Nigeria and belonged to the Yoruba tribe, and ended up being captured and sold into slavery in French Louisiana. Sold again, he became a slave in North Carolina and escaped his master’s farm in order to receive Lord Dunmore’s promise of freedom. Dunmore's Proclamation of November 7, 1775 was a document of Lord Dunmore promising freedom to any slave joining the British cause. Thousands of black slaves understandably joined the British. The proclamation ultimately failed in meeting Dunmore's objectives. He was forced out of the colony in 1776, taking about 300 former slaves with him. Peters fought for the British throughout the war. When the war finally ended, he and other African Americans who fought on the losing side were taken to Nova Scotia. At Nova Scotia, they were given pieces of land that they could not farm. They also did not receive the same freedoms as white Englishmen. Peters sailed to London in order to complain to the government. “He arrived at a momentous time, when English abolitionists were pushing a bill through Parliament to charter the Sierra Leone Company and to grant it trading and settlement rights on the West African coast.” Peters and the other African Americans on Nova Scotia left for Sierra Leone in 1792. Peters died soon after they arrived but the other members of his party lived on in their new home. On July 8, 1777, the Vermont Republic (a sovereign nation at the time) abolishes slavery, the first future state to do so. No slaves were held in Vermont.
The Constitutional Convention of 1787 sought to define the foundation for the government of the newly formed United States of America. The Constitution set forth the ideals of freedom and equality for certain people, while providing for the continuation of the institution of slavery through the fugitive slave clause and the disgraceful three-fifths compromise. In other words, America was founded in racism and slavery to be blunt. Additionally, free blacks' rights were also restricted in many places. Most were denied the right to vote and were excluded from public schools. Some black people sought to fight these contradictions in court. In 1780, Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker used language from the new Massachusetts constitution that declared all men were born free and equal in freedom suits to gain release from slavery. A free Black businessman in Boston named Paul Cuffee sought to be excused from paying taxes since he had no voting rights.
Back then, many people rightfully viewed slavery as evil and wanted it abolished. Northern states started to ban slavery from the late 18th century. Most of them used gradual emancipation and a special status for freedman. In 1787 Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance and barred slavery from the large Northwest Territory. In 1790, there were more than 59,000 free Blacks in the United States. By 1810, that number had risen to 186,446. Most of these human beings were in the North, but Revolutionary sentiments also motivated Southern slaveholders. For 20 years after the Revolution, more Southerners also freed slaves, sometimes by manumission or in wills to be accomplished after the slaveholder's death. In the Upper South, the percentage of free blacks rose from about 1% before the Revolution to more than 10% by 1810. Quakers and Moravians worked to persuade slaveholders to free families. In Virginia the numbers of free blacks increased from 10,000 in 1790 to nearly 30,000 in 1810, but 95% of blacks were still enslaved. In Delaware, three-quarters of all blacks were free by 1810. By 1860 just over 91% of Delaware's blacks were free and 49.1% of those in Maryland.
During 18th century, black people who were free and enslaved developed their own culture, music, food, and other institutions. In the midst of overt tyranny, black people still had hope that true freedom and equality would exist for them in the future. Many slaves developed drums, banjos, and rattles out of gourds, (which is similar to objects in Africa) in order for them to express themselves and tell stories. Many slaves danced and sang songs. There were many black people back them who organized many institutions that dealt with education, social gatherings, religious functions, and other aspects of black culture. Black cuisine in America formed into diverse foods. Slavery back then existed with brutality, harshness, and anti-human treatment. According to John Reader’s “Africa: A Biography of the Continent” on pg. 408, sometime in the 1700's an average of around 60,000 slaves were exported per year. It has been estimated that each year six persons were taken for every thousand population – whereas 50 persons are said to have died from disease for every thousand.
Many slave-owners would amputate the toes and other body parts of slaves who escaped and returned. Many slaves were branded by racists in order for slave owners to identify them. Slaves were readily separated from their families and spread to various plantations in faraway distances. That is why to this day, African Americans in many cases have difficulty in tracing their genealogy among long centuries. Some slaves were allowed to marry. There were marriages among slaves in New York City allowed by the Dutch Reformed Church (this was during the time when the Dutch controlled NYC before the British controlled it later on). Black families back then readily went into courts to fight for property rights for themselves and their wives and to fight for their freedom in general. By the 1700’s, slavery laws became even more strict and racialized causing racial oppression against black people to grow. Where I’m from, in Virginia, slaves were used in tobacco and cotton crops, which were exported to the North and to England.
Also, rice crops were picked up by black slaves in South Carolina and in the Deep South as well. Cotton was especially picked by slaves in the Deep South from Georgia to Texas. The separation of children from black mothers continued throughout this period. This is why black relatives escaped from plantations in order to search for their relatives and loved ones. Slavery was not only evil, but it was heavily utilized to make economic profits for the capitalists who didn’t care about human dignity and social equality. Many black heroes during the 18th century stood up to fight for freedom. Paul Cuffee was a known abolitionist. Elizabeth Freeman was once a slave, but went into the court to fight for her freedom in Sheffield, Massachusetts. She was known as Bet or Mum Bett. The lawyer and abolitionist Theodore Sedgwick worked with Elizabeth to win her case too. The case of Brom and Bett v. Ashley was heard in August 1781 before the County Court of Common Pleas in Great Barrington. Sedgwick and Reeve asserted that the constitutional provision that "all men are born free and equal" effectively abolished slavery in the state of Massachusetts. When the jury ruled in Bett's favor, she became the first African-American woman to be set free under the Massachusetts state constitution. Richard Allen was the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He opposed slavery and racism. He walked out of one church, because of its segregation policies to form the AME Church (for black people). Allen’s church was in Philadelphia. His friends and allies were Absalom Jones (who gained his freedom in 1784), and other people.
James Derham was a black man who was very historic. He lived from 1757 to 1802. He was the first African American to formally practice medicine. He learned on how to do it from the Revolutionary War while serving with the British. He learned it from Dr. George West. He didn’t have a degree, because of discrimination, but he was an exceptionally great doctor. James Derham was fluent in French, English, and Spanish. He knew how to use compound machines too. He was a great pharmacist. His medical business in New Orleans, Louisiana, reportedly earned him $3,000 per year, which was a lot of money back then. A Philadelphia 1789 newspaper article on the biography of James Derham described him as a person who was born in Philadelphia. James Derham met Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was an early American doctor. Rush was very impressed by Derham. He encouraged him to move to Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, he was an expert in throat diseases and in the relationship between climate and disease. He had 10 siblings. Absalom Jones also was an abolitionist. Sister Jarena Lee was an evangelist who was the first African American woman to publish an autobiography. The earliest mention of Jarena Lee in a newspaper was in 1840, when she was listed as a member of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society from Pennsylvania. There are many other early African Americans who made great contributions in the world. We honor their sacrifice, their courage, and their contributions in the world.
In 1788, the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia is organized under Andrew Bryan. There was the manumission of slaves from 1790 to 1810. Following the Revolution, numerous slaveholders in the Upper South freed slaves; the percentage of free black human beings rises from less than one to 10 percent. By 1810, 75 percent of all black people in Delaware are free, and 7.2 percent of black people in Virginia are free. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was passed in February 12, 1793. This unjust law allowed slave-owners to kidnap escaping slaves in America. It was signed into law by President George Washington. This meant that not only escaped slaves were in risked of being oppressed, but we know that freed black people were kidnapped (in the North and in other places of America) and brought into slavery too. One example was freed black man Solomon Northup was tricked into going into Washington D.C. Slavery was legal in D.C. during the 19th century. Later, he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery. He was in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana. One of the very few to regain freedom under such circumstances, he later sued the slave traders involved in Washington, DC. Its law prohibited Northrup from testifying against the white men because he was black, and he lost the case. The New York Times published an article on this trial on January 20, 1853.
Northup published his memoir, Twelve Years a Slave (1853), a slave narrative of plantation life on the Red River in Louisiana, and a description of the slave trade in Washington, DC. The memoir was adapted as a feature-film in 2013 by Steve McQueen, winning three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film starred the brilliant Sister Lupita Nyong'o and Brother Chiwetel Ejiofor. On March 14, 1794 was a very historical date. That was when Eli Whitney was granted a patent on the cotton gin. This invention would influence the Industrial Revolution and changed the economy of the Antebellum South. Eli Whitney was born in Massachusetts in 1765. He had an engineering career. The cotton gin caused the cultivation and procession of short staple cotton to be profitable in the uplands and interior areas of the Deep South. As the cotton was cultivated more quickly by this invention, it increased the need of evil slave-owners to kidnap enslaved labor and made cotton a chief commodity crop in the South. Also, the slave-owners wanted to meet the labor demand by kidnapping (in a forced migration) one million people (of black slaves) from the Upper South and coast to the area in the antebellum period of the Deep South. The cotton gin in essence expanded slavery and expanded the suffering of black people in America. In July 1794, there were two independent black churches open in Philadelphia: the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, with Absalom Jones, and the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, with Richard Allen, the latter the first church of what would become in 1816 the first independent black denomination in the United States.
Soon, information will be described about religion, the antebellum period, and the Civil War including Emancipation. The struggle continues.
In closing, here is an inspirational quote from one of the greatest historians in history. It is from the late, great Brother John Hope Franklin:
"The very essence of the life of the mind is the freedom to inquire, to examine, and to criticize. But that freedom has the same restraints abroad that it has at home: to state one's position, if impelled by personal conviction, with clarity, reason, and sobriety, always mindful of the point that the scholar recognizes and tolerates different views that others may hold and that his view is independent, not official."
-The American Scholar from 1968