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Slavery Essay

1670 words - 7 pages

On the eve of the Revolutionary War, slavery was well established throughout America; however, subsequent to securing independence from Britain, the institution of slavery underwent dramatic transformations. Initially, many northern states adopted laws to gradually emancipate their slaves because the northern economy was not as embedded in slavery as the South. On the other hand, Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793 spurred rapid economic growth and agricultural expansion, which expanded slavery into the Deep South. Moreover, agreements to fight for the British during the Revolution, coupled gradual manumission post Revolution allowed many African Americans to gain freedom. However, slavery nonetheless expanded in the South through agricultural and economic advancements. As a result, many northern free slaves responded to their challenges by seeking adaptation to society through increased rights and church activities. In addition, enslaved African Americans responded to the challenges of their bondage through various forms of resistance. Therefore, while gradual manumission between 1775 and 1830 opened opportunities to many African Americans to gain freedom through emancipation, fighting for the British, purchasing their freedom, or relocating to Africa, slavery as an institution expanded in the South as a result of extensive economic growth. Consequently, free African Americans reacted to the challenges in the North through more passive attempts of adaptation and improvement, while enslaved African Americans in the South favored forms of resistance.
Initially, African Americans were granted the prospect of freedom by agreeing to fight for the British during the Revolution; however, after the Revolution, other paths to liberation arose such as gradual manumission, purchasing freedom, or recolonizing in Africa. For example, at the onset of the Revolutionary War, Lord Dunmore, the Royal appointed Governor of Virginia, proposed that African Americans could gain freedom by fighting for British restoration of royal authority (Doc A). Moreover, by enlisting African Americans, Dunmore intended to undermine a planter-dominated society and take advantage of slaves desire for freedom. Similarly, the colonists enlisted many slaves into their militias and Continental unites in an effort to raise formidable fighting forces rather then to display a true commitment of equal justice. In addition, although the Revolution ignited some northern whites to recognize that the ideals of liberty and equality were inconsistent with slavery, the gradual manumission in the North took on more of an economic than humanitarian motive. Modeled by the Northwest Territory, which set a precedent for banning slavery in 1785, the institution of slavery began to weaken in the North allowing some slave owners who were not as hostile toward free slaves to consent slaves to purchase their freedom once their terms of service were completed (Doc F). Lastly, as the North...

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