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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Modern Effects of Slavery in America

Student Name

Final Draft

History 1700

2/25/19

Modern Effects of Slavery in America

There is a great importance in understanding the effects the American slave trade has had and still has on people of color and the culture of America, because of the humanity that our communities need to posses for those treated so inhumanely that the hardships they faced can still be seen today. The effects of slavery can be seen not only in America, but across the world throughout areas of slave trade from hundreds of years ago to modern day, but what exactly are these effects? Many events and their effects caused by slavery that have seemed to be long past, still linger around through concentration of poverty in African American communities, segregation in schools, cultural suppression, views on race such as stereotyping, broken genealogy, the economic development of America, the hugely impactful effects of the Civil War, inequalities in our justice systems, and the transmittance of fear and racist actions on other people of color alongside African Americans. All of these facts lead to a very hard mix that continue to affect young and old slave descendants and other minorities in mostly negative ways, while the whole of America has benefited from the profit gained from economic growth through the use of free labor, also known as slaves. Although many of the wounds from that time have now been healed, the inequality we face between minorities in the United States is still too great to be acceptable in the twenty-first century. Continuing on, I will begin to discuss the ways that all the issues listed above affect American society and people of color.

A very large way the African American communities, Native American communities, and even immigrated Asian communities have been affected in the United States is by having their native cultures stripped away. The stripping of their native cultures was usually done by force where it was then replaced by the religion and culture of the individuals’ slave-owner. Although many of the slaves in America were expected to adopt their enslaver’s culture willingly, many still practiced their own culture in silence. Today this phenomenon can be seen through the uniformity of culture among African Americans raised in America and the Spanish, British, and Irish descendants of immigrants and slave owners.(1) Culture to citizens, especially minorities, is extremely important as it helps keep a sense of pride in who you are and helps to realize where you came from and what that means personally to you. The native cultures in America, Africa, and Asia are very rich and almost completely different from the western culture that now resides in the United States. Many young minorities grow up confused, not realizing who they really are in a country full of caucasian Christians. This has a huge effect on identity, and the confusion that comes along with having thousands of years of heritage and culture stripped away through separation and moving of families around through slave trading, and the forcing of slaves to renounce their native cultures in lieu of the acceptable religions, clothing, languages, and even art, dance, and music of the area the slave resides in.

Racial Stereotyping, or in more severe cases, racism, effects many Americans of color every day. Although we know the effects of racism are overall detrimental to the mental health and wellbeing of any person, it is hard to pinpoint where the origins of racism come from. Representative John L. Dawson who was a member of congress after the civil war, stated that racial prejudices were “implanted by Providence for wise purposes,” which we now know that many of these prejudices, such as people with darker skin having lower intelligence, a more violent nature, diseases, and lower value overall to be completely and grossly incorrect. Although most people understand these mistaken prejudices aren’t true, many people are still affected by the opinions, strong statements, and power of white Americans, slave owners, and propaganda of hundreds of years ago. Whether learned through parents example of racism or through one’s own research on the subject, the racist view of African Americans and other people of color to be less than those of their own race, has survived to this day. One reason that racism was not completely eradicated during the civil war is that although the North ended up winning the war between the United States, many southerners still held their views after the war. Many Northerners didn’t care about the moral aspect of slavery, but were concerned about the economic impact of the succession of southern states. The North was concerned that if the south succeeded that their high tariff communities would begin to suffer at the hand of the low to no tariff South and that the United States and the Eastern continents would begin to bring imports and exports through the Southern states to maximize available profits. The war was being fought over money while many African Americans were held against their will in terrible and abusive conditions. Just as racism had been created to control slaves, after the civil war the ideologies of racism were recreated to, instead of justifying enslavement of African Americans, to justify African Americans as second class citizens.(2) These ideologies created from slavery have stayed alive from and in some cases even been reinforced by news coverage, comics, articles, the media and anything viewed by the masses ruled primarily by the ruling class in the United States, caucasians. Many medias still use the inciting of fear to strengthen feelings of racism among communities. This just shows how a majority of people truly viewed slaves in the 19th and 20th century and how these views are still relevant in the 21st century through acts of classism and racism in the United States.(3) Slavery bore the seeds of racism that are present in today’s American society.

One of the largest effects of slavery that we see everyday as Americans, is the impact of the slave trade in the United States on the economic power that has developed. When the United States was first being colonized, England’s economy was far stronger than the few colonies that had settled, and they even controlled many of the settlements such as The Roanoke Colony, Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, and Charleston. Slaves started to be brought from Africa into the America’s in 1619 into Jamestown from Dutch traders. Although, North America didn’t begin to rise in power until the formation of the United States of America and the American Revolution. By 1860 America had the largest economy in the world. The British armies even tried freeing slaves in order to debase the American economy during the Revolution. After the United States gained their independence, the use of slaves, whether they were African, Chinese, or Native American, greatly improved the economic growth of the States. The use of cheap labor boosted business profits and many merchants in New York, Boston and elsewhere lined up to help organize the trade of slave-grown goods. Many people gained plenty of profits from these types of businesses, boosting the economy in The United States. These types of profits also helped fuel the start of the industrial revolution, pushing it further into the U.S. Many bankers, profiting off the local businesses and trades, also invested in the growth of slave-run plantations. Some businesses that profited off slaves were cotton plantations, railway companies, dispensable troops, and other agricultural farms.(4) The book,  Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development, by Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, perfectly sums up these connections. In the introduction to the book, they write, “In the decades between the American Revolution and the Civil War, slavery—as a source of the cotton that fed Rhode Island’s mills, as a source of the wealth that filled New York’s banks, as a source of the markets that inspired Massachusetts manufacturers—proved indispensable to national economic development… Cotton offered a reason for entrepreneurs and inventors to build manufactories in such places as Lowell, Pawtucket, and Paterson, thereby connecting New England’s Industrial Revolution to the advancing plantation frontier of the Deep South. And financing cotton growing, as well as marketing and transporting the crop, was a source of great wealth for the nation’s merchants and banks.”  This huge increase in the American economy from slave labor early on has kept the country, for the most part, strong in terms of its economy. While slavery was abolished in 1865, the impacts it has left has helped the United States stay ahead even into the 21st century.

One of the most well known effects of slavery in America is the American Civil War. Many people think that the civil war was fought over the inhumane conditions slaves were forced to endure and that it was more of a moral war than anything else, but it actually had nothing to do with morals. When the South succeeded from the North in 1860 and 1861 to protect the institution of slavery, many people in the North were worried about their economic safety with a separate country with low taxation in the same location with most of the same trading partners. They were worried that the countries to the east would rather put imports and exports through the South without high tariffs like the North. Along with low taxation, the Confederacy would actually have free laborers, also known as slaves, boosting their profits and agricultural products. So in reality the Union wouldn’t let the South succeed in peace due to the economics of slavery and its political control. During the war for the first time, black men could fight for the United States army according to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, stating, “such persons [that is, African-American men] of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States.” Many freed and enslaved people of color fought against each other on opposite sides. Abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass argued that the enlistment of black soldiers would help the North to win the war. “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S.; let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket,” Douglass said, “and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.” Many former slaves interpreted this as a call to form their own infantry. Some African Americans from New Orleans formed three national guard units; The first, second, and third Louisiana Native Guard, which in turn became the 73rd, 74th, and 75th United States Colored Infantry. The first Kansas Colored Infantry fought at the October 1862 skirmish at Island Mound, Missouri. By the end of the war, more than 186,000 freed slaves had joined the Union army. Arguably, freed slaves were a part of the victory of the North as one of the main problems of the south was the lack of available soldiers.(5) Without slavery in America preventing peaceful succession, and the possible victory of the Confederate States, the United States would be very different from the country we live in today, and people of color may not have been so readily accepted into the United States Army and elsewhere in the country. Without the Union winning over the Confederacy, many of the states from both sides would probably begin to succeed as well due to opposing opinions without consideration of location, creating a large amount of smaller republics within the United States. This would have split America’s thriving economy into multiple parts diminishing the overall power of the United States. Along with this is the possibility that slavery in the United States could have survived even well into the 20th century and would have been a labor, social, and political structure of more than just the United States. Brazil and other nations that emancipated slaves after the American Civil War, probably would not have done so and in turn would have held more power in the Western Hemisphere, changing the look of political and social power distribution that we are all accustomed to in the 21st century, possibly even changing outcomes of both of the World Wars as the United States would have most likely not entered into World War I.(6)

Today, America’s incarcerated population of 2.3 million people are disproportionately black. 38% of African Americans versus 13% of the overall population are imprisoned. Many researchers argue that the prison systems in the United States are actually a new foundation for sources of free labor, in turn creating a platform for modern day slavery. After Emancipation took place in 1865 many Confederate states created systems called “convict leasing”. This system was created to fill the labor gap created by the abolishment of slavery and included state governments “leasing” out prisoners to a plethora of businesses. Without the institution of slavery being incorporated into the roots of American society there would not have been room to build on such inhumane beliefs and practices. Racism is integrated into America and many of it’s systems due to the views ingrained into much of society by the treatment and use of slaves. Prisons are one of the United States Institutions that have been clearly affected by these beliefs. Ethnic stereotyping of African Americans that stems from pre-abolition in the United States is the cause of many people of color being targeted directly, while police officers may turn an eye to white males and females committing similar crimes. The belief that black males are inherently more criminal come from the stereotype created in times of slavery to be a form of discipline for slaves.(7) Amii Barnard’s article The Application of Critical Race Feminism to the Anti-Lynching movement: Black Women’s Fight Against Race and Gender Ideology, is a great example. In the article Amii states that slave owners, out of fear for a rebellion of freed slaves, spread the stereotype that African American males were dangerous criminals who would harm or rape white women who were portrayed as ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’ if given the chance in order to keep any uprisings or unwanted behaviors in check. This criminal stereotyping of African American males contributed to the rise of lynchings committed in the United States. A well known activist of anti-lynching, Ida B. Wells, wrote a pamphlet entitled, Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws in all its Phases. In this pamphlet she states that reports from the late 1800s to the early 1900s showing that lynchings that had occurred were the result of African American males abusing or attacking white women were untrue. Fewer than 30% of committed lynchings in this time were actually concerning rape cases. She also stated that most interactions between African American men and white women were consensual. Melissa Hickman Barlow argued that this stereotype had been so ingrained in American culture and society that “talking about crime is talking about race.”(8) Black incarceration remains more than 5 times higher than incarceration of whites.

One of the most direct impacts of the emancipation of American slaves was concentration of African Americans in areas of poverty. This also ties into the false idealism’s of racism, and real estate hierarchies believing that African Americans in caucasian neighborhoods would bring the home market values down in that area. This is known as racially restrictive covenants, which were a common tools of discrimination utilized by many white landowners in the beginning of the 20th century.  Racially restrictive covenants began in California and Massachusetts at the end of the 19th century. It was only in 1968 that the Federal Fair Housing Act made racially restrictive covenants illegal, but it wasn’t put in place in time to prevent concentrated African American communities and greatly segregated neighbourhoods. Although, sixty years after the Fair Housing Act, racially restrictive covenants will still remain in many housing deeds. The beginning of the 20th century was also marked with the emergence of “sundown towns” in which people of African American descent were threatened with violence and harassment if out after sunset. Along with these towns, racial zoning ordinances were also popular before being ruled unconstitutional in 1917. The mayor of Baltimore, Barry Mahool perfectly captured the racist tone of the early 20th century by stating, “Blacks should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidents of civil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into the nearby White neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the White majority.” The hardships African Americans had been subsequently put through after emancipation made it very difficult for their communities to gain wealth, thus creating a cycle of poverty within them. Even now, in the 21st century, the United States remains deeply segregated due to the ideations created of keeping white communities exclusive from other races. The effects of this ordinance not only affected African Americans’ and other minorities’ abilities to escape areas of poverty but it also still greatly affects the segregation of schools.(9) Due to the areas of poverty created through racially restrictive covenants in housing areas, many minority children who would attend school in their school zone, would be attending a school in poverty as well. Schools built in school zones inside of low income areas were more likely to have less opportunities for quality afterschool activities, in school programs, sports, teachers, curriculum, and supplies such as pens, pencils, paper, books, gym equipment, toiletries, and later in the 19th century, computers and internet connection.(10) Although school segregation mandated by law was ruled unconstitutional in 1954 in the Brown v. Board case, the damage the real estate companies had done was irreparable. Many areas resorted to bussing children back and forth through different school districts to create a racially diverse school system and end segregation, but segregation only evolved into areas that are still affecting minorities and people in poverty in the 21st century. Many all white neighbourhoods began creating their own school districts in order to prevent their children from being mixed in with poor African American children. These small city based districts gave the areas they were created in the ability to make hyperlocal decisions. This is something that Brown v. Board never covered thus allowing the use of artificial school borders to segregate areas of peers they found less desirable. An example of this is in Jefferson County School District, Alabama, where many people living in the school district stated that they did not want to spend resources and tax dollars on children who weren’t part of their community. They proposed to create a new school district within the old one named Gardendale School District. An organizer stated, “A look around at our community sporting events, our churches are great snapshots of our community. A look into our schools, and you’ll see something totally different,” basically creating a covertly racist argument to why they should be allowed the power of creating a new school district that has people from their community exclusively. Examining the old school district versus the proposed school district, the poverty rate of Gardendale is only seven percent along with only 22 percent non-white students compared to Jefferson County with 22 percent poverty rate and 55 percent non-white students. Although the proposed school district will not be accepted, this is a great example of the racist ideologies that have stemmed from slavery that are still relevant in the 21st century.(11) Although the main issue has now become unintentional school segregation due to the communities that have already been created with near clear seperation between people of color and caucasians. The desegregation orders created in the 60’s and 70’s  have only gone so far, and in the majority of places they are no longer in effect, continuing to create not only a cycle of poverty among minority communities, but diminishing their chances to get quality educations as well and vastly affecting more people of color over caucasians due to the corruption of the real estate agencies in the early 20th century.

Out of slavery came racism and fear of African Americans created by false ideologies fabricated by the majorities due to their need to dislike and control freed slaves. These standards have persisted in American culture throughout decades and have even been transferred to other people of color. The best example being people of the religion of Islam and other Arab countries. As the terrible act of 9/11 ended, the American government began creating fear propaganda to change the majority of public opinion against Middle Easterners, choosing to stereotype a whole country of people out of gross intolerance other than choosing to condemn only the organization responsible, the Islamic State of Iraq. This is the same thing that the states had done to black slaves, creating the stereotype that African Americans were criminals rather than accepting the reality that every race has good citizens and criminals. Many small groups of conservative organizations had begun to mischaracterize the dangers Middle Easterners pose on the United States. Some of the people that are primarily responsible for the spread of fear are Frank Gaffney, David Yerushalmi, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, and Steven Emmerson whom have all used their positions of power to spread false stereotypes to incite fear to fulfill their covert racist agendas. They have portrayed Islam as an inherently violent religion seeking domination over the United States and non-Muslims. These fear tactics created against Muslims creating prejudice has been coined as the term Islamophobia, or the fear of the religion Islam. Although, Islamic worshippers vary greatly in their practices and beliefs and only Islam extremists condone the violent nature of ISIS, similar to how White Supremacists are the extremists of western culture.(12) The fear propaganda fueled by the media has began to grossly warp the views many people have on Muslims, so much so that people have taken to acts of violence against those who practice the religion. On March 15, 2019, two consecutive gun attacks were made on Muslim mosques, Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. This was done by a White Supremacist claiming his motives came from alt-right ideology possibly created by islamophobia. Our current President, Donald Trump, has begun to include people of Mexican heritage in fear propaganda, arguing false statements that Mexicans are murderers and thieves and subsequently come to steal American jobs, making it harder for U.S. citizens to find employment. These are real modern examples showing the effects that ideologies of slavery such as the aversion to and hostility of anyone non-white has in 21st century United States.

For many people of color, the end of slavery was the beginning of a new pursuit of democratic equality. Even in the 21st century many powerful individuals have tried to push minorities into the shadows.  Although hidden, the effects of American slavery affect us directly and indirectly through family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. The significance of these effects can be seen in the American economy, racism built into our justice systems and culture, broken family lines, suppression of minority cultures, people of color being kept in areas of poverty, and segregation between people of color and caucasians in schools. The civil war, caused by economic and power issues, largely shaped the United States society and cultural differences from the outcome of the Union victory. The ideologies that came out of slavery are still persisting in American society, and have even begun to impact many different people of color alongside African Americans due to the fear incited by propaganda towards anyone different than the white majority. The importance of acknowledging the effects of slavery that are still impacting many people of color are just as important as understanding the history of slavery. Many people don’t realize that the aftermath of slavery carries similar impacts from the late 1800s to present day America and still affects millions of people from all different social classes, races, religions, and orientations.

 

 

Notes

 

  1. Hellie, Richard. “Slave Culture.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 Jan. 2019, www.britannica.com/topic/slavery-sociology/Slave-culture.
  2. Selfa, Lance. “Slavery and the Origins of Racism.” International Socialist Review, Dec. 2002, www.isreview.org/issues/26/roots_of_racism.shtml.
  3. Li, Haoran. “What Slavery Left to the Modern Society?” Medium.com, Medium, 2 Mar. 2017, medium.com/applied-intersectionality/the-reality-about-slavery-69fc58cb8076.
  4. Gerdeman, Dina. “The Clear Connection Between Slavery And American Capitalism.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 3 May 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2017/05/03/the-clear-connection-between-slavery-and-american-capitalism/#1555280f7bd3.
  5. Editors, History.com. “Black Civil War Soldiers.” History, A&E Television Networks, 14 Apr. 2010, www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/black-civil-war-soldiers.
  6. O’Callaghan, Jonathan. “If the South Had Won the Civil War, Slavery Could Have Lasted Until the 20th Century.” All About History, History Answers, 5 Mar. 2018, www.historyanswers.co.uk/people-politics/if-the-south-had-won-the-civil-war-slavery-could-have-lasted-until-the-20th-century/.
  7. Barlow, Melissa H. “Race and the Problem of Crime in ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’ Cover Stories, 1946 to 1995.” Social Justice, vol. 25, pp. 1–35. Jstore.org, www.jstor.org/stable/29767075?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.
  8. “Plantation to Prison.” The New York Times, Netflix, 10 Feb. 2017, www.nytimes.com/paidpost/netflix-13th/plantation-to-prison.html.
  9. Welsh, Nancy H. “Racially Restrictive Covenants in the United States: A Call to Action.” Deep Blue, University of Michigan Library, deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/143831/A_12 Racially Restrictive Covenants in the US.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.
  10. Rothstein, Richard. “Modern Segregation.” Economic Policy Institute, 6 Mar. 2014, www.epi.org/publication/modern-segregation/.
  11. Chang, Alvin. “School Segregation Didn’t Go Away. It Just Evolved.” Vox, Vox, 27 July 2017, www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/7/27/16004084/school-segregation-evolution.
  12. Ali, Wajahat, et al. “Fear, Inc.” Center for American Progress, www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/reports/2011/08/26/10165/fear-inc/.

 

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