Slavery the practice of one person owning another – this type of practice has existed since ancient times. In the United States slaves from Africa were bought and sold like property. Although at first there were slaves in both the northern and southern part of the United States, by the early nineteenth century, slavery had died out in the North. But in the South, most slaves still worked on large farms called Plantations. Plantation owners had invested a lot of money in slaves during the time before machines were able to do the work of many people; owners relied on slaves to do all the work on their farms. Owners argued that without slavery they would have to pay workers, and would therefore be financially ruined. Their way of life, which benefited wealthy white people would end. Many Americans both black and white, thought that slavery was wrong. Fredrick Douglass and Nat Turner were among those who opposed slavery. They were called abolitionists, and they worked to end slavery in the United States. In 1857, as tensions grew between the North and South over slavery, a slave from Missouri named Dred Scott asked the courts for his freedom. Dred Scott’s owner had moved and taken him to Illinois and then to Wisconsin Territory, where slavery was not allowed. Scott felt that because he was now living in a free territory, he should be free. His case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which declared that a slave was “property” and not a citizen with constitutional rights, whether or not he lived in a free state. The court denied Dred Scott his freedom. This decision angered many in the North, who continued to pressure the South to end slavery. When Abraham Licoln was elected president of the United States, the South feared that Lincoln and his Republican Party would finally put a stop to slavery. By 1861, eleven southern states decided that they no longer wished to be united with the northern states. They banded together to form their own country – the Confederate States of America – where slavery would be legal. But many in the US including President Lincoln, did not believe that any state should be allowed to leave the federal union. The Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865 to decide this issue. During the Civil War, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the South. And after the South was defeated, three amendmants to the Constitutions were passed to ensure the rights of African Americans. The 13th amendment approved in 1865 abolished slavery everywhere in the United States. The 14th amendment approved in 1868 promised all citizens equal protection under the law. The 15th amendment approved in 1870 gave African American men the right to vote. Although the law’s changed many people across the United States didn’t change their opinion towards black individuals. Slavery was now illegal, but the feeling remained that black people were “less than human”. Due to this belief problems continued arising such as: Black people could not use the same public rest rooms or waiting rooms as white people. They were not allowed to attend “white” schools” or sit in “white” facilities. “COLRED” was the word to describe black people; and “Colored Only” and “Whites Only” signs ensured that white Americans would never have to question their own prejudices. Moreover these types of problems continuously arised and although it was hard many African Americans obeyed them.
Discussion: In your opinion, try to put yourselves in their position, how would you react to these actions?
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