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Therefore, they had to work within this system to develop ways to identify with their group and their way of life that recognized the realities of their enslavement.
One of the chief means of identification that slaves utilized was through music and language (Morgan, 1998). Having a shared cultural heritage which emphasized wordplay, story-telling, and narrative expressions, black slaves developed an ability to communicate communal identification and inculcate communal lessons through song, ritual, and other expressive displays. Field songs were used to tell the news to other slaves and to entertain, even as they served to regulate work through rhythmic repetition. Physical culture generally was used to promote health, cultivate values, and maintain identity. Linguistic devices were developed to allow the slaves to communicate with their fellow slaves even in the face of white oppression and suspicion, even given the fact that slave communities were often made up of different language groups. Through such of language and music, the slave community developed a form of identification that carried on throughout American history, even after slavery ended, with African influences in language, and music being felt in such developments as jazz, popular culture, literature, and form of physical and emotional expression.
Similarly, the development and expression of African "soul" was seen in slave communities, as the Christian religion was imposed on the slaves, eventually taking its own form, with an emotional and community component that led to the development of such forces as religion being a central force for the advancement of civil rights in later generations. The black communities accepted Christianity but put their own spin on it (Genovese, 1976). The quiet, contemplative meditation of much European religion was replaced with an active religion that expressed suffering in the slave spirituals and called for redemption in the call-and-response work songs. This movement led to later protest movements driven by the same spiritual force.
The Civil War
When the Civil War began, the North simply wanted to preserve the union. However, it became clear as the war progressed that the institution of slavery was so infused with potential conflict that it would have to be ended if such a preservation was to be achieved,. Lincoln realized that he needed a moral cause to rally his people around, and he cloaked the ending of slavery in religious terms and offered it as a central reason for the north's drive (Johnson, 2000). In his Second Inaugural address, he drew comparisons to biblical themes and the ending of slavery in ways that made it clear that the ending of the institution was now reason that the north fought on. This allowed the North to impose its will on the south with a moral justification that did away with the South claim to states' rights. If the North was fighting to end slavery, rather than to force the South to go along with its interpretation of the constitution, that seemed a more justifiable reason to fight.
The abolition movement had provided moral arguments for ending slavery without ever really moving the North to a principled stance to end slavery. When the war began, economics and political power were largely at the foundation of the conflict (Manning, 2008). However, the addition of an abolitionist causes into the administration of the war gave the North a moral cause to add to its political and economic motivations. This was a powerful force, as it brought on a religious fervor to the progress of the war. It made the war and north's victory seem inevitable, and just. It was as if God had blessed the North's cause in a new interpretation of Christianity as a means for ending slavery rather than -- as it had originally been found -- a reason for instituting slavery.
Davis, D. (1999). The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 (Oxford UK: Oxford University Press).
Genovese, E. (1976). Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York: Vintage).
Horton, J., and Horton, L. (2005). Slavery and the Making of America (Oxford UK: Oxford University Press).
Johnson, C., and Smith, P. (1999). Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
Johnson, M. (2000). Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War (London: Bedford/St. Martin's).
Kelley, R., and Lewis, E. (2005). To Make Our World Anew: Volume I: A History of African-Americans to 1880 (Oxford UK: Oxford University Press).
Manning, C. (2008). What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War (New York: Vintage)
MacLeod, D. (1975). Slavery, Race and the American Revolution (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press).
Morgan, P. (1998). Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake…[continue]
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