Slavery in America African-American Slavery in America Essay

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Slavery in America

African-American Slavery in America

Introduction and Historical Foundation

The first African-Americans were brought bound and chained to the United States of America to Jamestown, Virginia then a colony, in 1619 under the auspices of working as free labor in the production of tobacco and cotton, sugar, rice and other agricultural endeavors (Segal, 1995). These were considered to be lucrative crops for the early settlers in the United States. Those that were deceitfully taken from their homes were the descendants of nearly 14 million African forbearers that were forcefully snatched and torn from everything they knew and transported like cattle during the massive slave trade that began as early as the 1400's according to some historical records (Davis, 2006). If the encaptured survived the Middle Passage on slave ships named Jesus and other noble and biblical titles, they were then traded amongst the Whites to work for nothing. Over the course of the 400 years of chattel slavery nearly 12 generations of Blacks were able to survive with nearly 1.2 million direct descendants of those who had been enslaved in the United States.

Part of the process of enslavement was to deny the Blacks their native language, names, culture, religion and tradition and being forced to adopt Christianity, White slave master names and westernized practices. Those who fought to maintain their faith, traditions and practices, were often beat unmercifully until they would submit, or were killed outright for being stubborn and rebellious. African-Americans were sold on auction blocks to the highest bidder. There was no acknowledgment of family ties and more times than not, families were separated at auction with fathers and children being sold to various plantations throughout the United States (Schneider & Schneider, 2007).

Although Whites perceived Blacks to be equivalent with animals, many of the slave masters raped and pilfered the Black slave women, creating a group of children of mixed race. However, unlike other English laws, those children born as a result of rape by white slave masters were to maintain the status of their mother instead of their rapist White fathers (Behrendt, Richardson & Eltis, 1999). The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 set nearly 4 million slaves free over time. Although then President Abraham Lincoln is credited with freeing the slaves as some kind of moral or humanistic act, the Emancipation Proclamation was a strategic military move to advance the agenda of the war as evidenced by the fact that only those Confederacy was most affected. Then the very same blacks who were considered animals were now able to fight in a war for a country they had been exploited in (Oates, 1994). The historical end to slavery in the United States is said to have taken place in 1865. Even after chattel slavery reportedly ended by legislative action, for nearly 50 years following, African-Americans were still being traded and illegally brought into the country (Oates, 1994).

Society's Perception

Society's perception of Black slavery in the United States depends upon what side of the proverbial fence one is on. Many within the White community maintain that slavery ended more than 100 years ago so 'lets just move on'; while others in the Black community still feel the effects of slavery and the slave mentality still held by many whites today. As noted by James Lowewen in his book "Lies My Teacher Told Me" as cited in Olwell (2001), textbooks and class discussion in grades kindergarten through 12th do not provide a full, honest and clear view of what slavery was in American and the implications for current societal interactions. The views written in textbooks are by Whites for the most part and are written from the White perspective; frequently down-playing the apocalyptic impact slavery had on generations of Blacks in America. Many of the textbook accounts of slavery justify the slave trade and considered it a 'necessary evil' and "a positive reflection of conservative values" (Wasburn, 1992). But what else truly can be expected? Many Whites do not want to take ownership for the atrocities that have been committed in the name of building the United States and lining their familial pockets.

Social Categories

Again the question of change that has transpired over time since chattel slavery in America depends on what side of the fence one finds him or herself. For many Blacks in America who do not ascribe to 'minority status' as attributed by Whites or being referred to as African-Americans as they choose not to alter who they are contingent upon the latest politically correct terminology, little has changed in the way American society is attitudinally, economically, politically, religiously and culturally. Although many who think bygones should be bygones and let the past stay in the past, the suggestion of 'let's just all hold hands and sing Kumbaya' is an insult and an affront to the plethora of atrocities that transpired then and continue to manifest today. For many, racism is alive and well, and the superior attitudes of Whites based solely on skin color are a reality they must face every day. Many broaden their historical borders to embrace their true origins, their true faith, and understand that as a culture of global Black people, there is no minority status.

Others take on a very different view regarding the impact and implications of slavery in America and have accepted westernized culture and tradition on many fronts. One such example is the acceptance of the categorization as African-Americans; the latest in the politically correct way of addressing Blacks in America. Some feel that because there have been a few Blacks allowed to flourish in the national and international spotlight and achieve economic status equivalent to many White Americans, then the effects of slavery are over, right? This view, however, fails to look at the long standing systematic disenfranchisement of a people in total and applauds the few who have been allowed to be set out as examples of 'pulling oneself up by his or her own bootstraps' to achieve an Americanized definition of success.

Conclusion: Recommendations and Methodologies

Recommendations for ways to improve the current social situation in America regarding the impact and implications of slavery is a difficult one to address. For the most part, historical and contemporary theories have been articulated by White researchers and scholars and as such, in many ways, offer limited viability for honest discourse regarding the implications of and for Blacks in America. More times than not, because of the minority status ascribed to Blacks, other minorities including now white women, homosexuals, and other disenfranchised groups are addressed collectively which serves to summarily take the focus from the issue of Blacks in America; a status built on skin color, not gender or sexual preference.

As such, the recommendations that would be made would first include a separation of the status level of addressing the issue of the impact and implications of slavery in the United States. Bring it back to its original focus without it being deflated by other issues that deserve to be addressed singularly as well. Secondly, the recommendation would be for open, honest and clear discourse that does not minimize nor categorize the sentiments of Blacks who choose not to simply assimilate and 'get over it'. It, then, would be necessary for those who regard themselves as Black to not be considered rebellious but recognized for choosing to link worldwide with people of their own race vs. being limited to the borders of North America.

Many continue to ascribe to assimilation theories and melting pot methodologies as the answer to ethnic majority minority relations (Kemper, 2006 ). With assimilation as a methodology, all groups compete for resources regardless of the disadvantaged starting points that have been created by slavery and racism in the United States. With this methodology, the impetus to change…[continue]

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