Slavery in the United States
Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of chattel slavery that existed in the United States of America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slavery had been practiced in British North America from early colonial days, and was recognized in the Thirteen Colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. When the United States was founded, even though some free persons of color were present, the status of slave was largely coincident with being of African descent, creating a system and legacy in which race played an influential role. After the Revolutionary War, abolitionist laws and sentiment gradually spread in the Northern states, while the rapid expansion of the cotton industry from 1800 led to the Southern states strongly identifying with slavery, and attempting to extend it into the new Western territories. The United States was polarized by slavery into slave and free states along the Mason-Dixon Line, which separated Maryland (slave) and Pennsylvania (free).
Although the international slave trade was prohibited from 1808, internal slave-trading continued, and the slave population would eventually peak at four million before abolition.
As the West opened up, the Southern states believed they needed to keep a balance between the numbers of slave and free states, in order to maintain a balance of power in Congress. The new territories acquired from Britain, France and Mexico were the subject of major political compromises. By 1850, the newly rich cotton-growing South was threatening to secede from the Union, and tensions continued to rise. With church ministers under pressure to preach slavery doctrine conforming to the local politics, the Baptist and Methodist churches split into regional organizations. When Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election on a platform of no new slave states, the South finally broke away to form the Confederacy. This marked the start of the Civil War, which caused a huge disruption of the slave economy, with many slaves either escaping or being liberated by the Union armies. The war effectively ended slavery, before the Thirteenth Amendment (December 1865) formally outlawed the institution throughout the United States.
American History USA Articles
- The Atlantic Slave Trade to the United States
By any measure, the Atlantic slave trade was one of the great human crimes of the last thousand years.
- Elizabeth Key Grinstead, the Freedom Suit, and Colonial Virginia
Elizabeth Key Grinstead was one black woman who sued and won her freedom in early Colonial Virginia. Such cases were soon put to an end.
- The Three-Fifths Compromise, Black Personhood, and Southern Representation
As a compromise between northern and southern delegates, slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person towards Congressional representation.
- The Great Mistake - Why Did the South Secede in 1860?
Although the Civil War was disastrous for the South, there's been little analysis on the wisdom of seceding in 1860. Here we examine the alternatives.
- Slave North -- "Slavery in Rhode Island"
Slavery was practiced in Rhode Island until the early 19th century, and that state's merchants also played a key role in the transatlantic slave trade.
- The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and its Effects
The Northwest Ordinance defined the Midwest region, both physically and legally. It's protection of the individual foreshadowed the Bill of Rights.
- Slavery in the United States - John Simkin
- Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Texas Narratives... - Work Projects Administration