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     Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies,
    Amherst College. 3 of 4
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that's the question in the immediate wake of the revolution the americans are aware of those would support of the revolution that they're aware that they have experienced a few like the glorious revolution they have repudiated monarchy they have created a republic that they've created something new and truly unique in the world it's based on these creeds the city's first principles of the declaration of independence and there's a great and spreading awareness of that there's also a wide awareness of the problem of slavery that certainly a wide awareness of that in the north because immediately in the wake of the revolution and of the northern states begin to plan in most cases the gradual emancipation and emancipation programs are such that by eighteen or for all of the northern states will have put in place an emancipation plan
so that there's an awareness also a broader awareness to them they're part of a story now that americans see themselves as active as it is part of the story of an enemy nation that has some kind of special destiny as a broad belief that that this is now a republican as some kind of mission in the world some sort of purpose in the world and and that's of course part of as well a kind of religious visions a lot of americans at this time whether they had personally express revivals are not come to see history in families cause i really just turns and an engine they believe that somehow this new american republic was somehow part of a specially designed history a history with a mission that's right witnesses
well and it's also a moment in the immediate wake of the revolution americans can begin to look outward they can begin to look west that get enormous internal problems that get enormous bronze just holding this republic together they've got a design a constitution that will hold a republic together but they now see the opportunities to spread west to expand into the possibilities of the american continent without interference again in the wake of the revolution and one of the deepest contradiction it's the americans now had become aware were not aware of at some point is about is that on the one hand in the northern states slavery has been abolished but on the other hand in the south
slavery as god is about to experience an enormous expansion in the states of the deep south who have between the end of the revolution and the beginning of the early nineteenth century are going to be in the real import slaves external slave trade had fallen off nearly died during the revolutionary war but after seventeen eighty nine and up to eighteen away when the forms later was abolished the state's of the deep south and once again engaged heavily informed slave trade so in a in a real sense the american revolution launches this rich but deeply contradictory history of on the one hand advancing the cause of human liberty and on the other hand giving a kind of new life and rebirth to the system of slavery
and in the wake of the revolution there is there is a sense in which americans begin to see them so the new people parra new republic but they're part of a new history now they're part of a new creation actually in america that they are also aware certainly the intellectuals are aware that they're they're living out now an experiment that is part of this thing called a lichen and part of what the enlightenment gay people facing was this this notion of a doctrine of progress that that history itself could be progressive that human beings and the human character and human nature could be improved maybe i'm perfect and in america now and thomas jefferson was certainly a believer in theirs and then there was the spreading believe that our republic our liberty would expand and the contradictions to the liberty of the problems that the liberty would face would somehow be dissolved or absorbed
into an expanding and spreading nation of small farmers living out his dream and terrible no good i made a list of them the idea that that sometimes were part of the providence as a word will use a morbidly is that ultimately it is that it's been in the wake of the revolution one of the things americans could now with some comfortable even was this notion that there that their history was happening by as they used to say providential design and says the idea that the province itself was to something almond garden to some people it is meant the engine of history had a kind of special interest in america that america had
created a new beginning for european man in the new world a wooden new prospects now as rational there isn't something that is being used but the seventy nine is americans engaging in nation building that they're engaging in the creation of the nation in some ways one can argue that through the course of the eighteenth century as religion may have begun to decline and the brothers lovell
nationalism innocence began to replace it and this idea of an american nation with a special history in a special destiny itself becomes in the wake of the american revolution out of this newfound out of repudiating great britain and throwing off moderates and creating a republic this american nationalism becomes a new kind of secular religion or feel it becomes a kind of civil religion in america rooted in the story of this newfound and it is true to for black americans and white americans to the extent that blacks claim out of the american revolution their own kind of the declaration of independence but they claim their own place now in this republic that they had that they refused to let america say that the decoration in the town's only applies to white people in all of the ways the black star running petitions to state legislatures the way is that they appropriate the very language of the declaration of independence to their own
uses data it quite clear that they saw themselves as as vessels of the legacy of this revolution we see that indeed among the leaders for example of gabriel prices rebellion in richmond than eighteen hundred mccain's abolition reform slave trade by law any team away is an important turning point is an important moment but i would make too much of one thing that it represents i think is an awareness on the part american slave auction part of southerners themselves that they know they have a system now of slavery that is naturally reproducing itself american slaves were naturally reproduce and this is also also still before the great boom in
cotton production and spread of current production across the south as nine times normal after the war of eighteen twelve i think to many northerners white northerners it represented the fulfillment of a constitutional promise that had been made twenty years earlier and sent to blacks who paid attention to that as i did it it would be important although we gotta remember them at no wait that there wasn't much of an organized black anti slavery movement to speak of nose or much of an organized white anti slavery movement at that moment in time is one of those interesting legal turning points in american history that passes with that comment in part because the historical circumstances of the moment were such that it wasn't perceived as a crisis have had this was somehow been a forty year promise that but this letter would it would've been abolished the same eighteen twenty you can imagine had that kind of factual that there would have been a very intense political debate if this it occurred twenty years later because the historical circumstances of the spread of
the prosperity of slavery were very different and i think it you know well there is a link between the domestic slave trade the trade within the south high and the band aid you know i because training within the south now has become fairly prominent it's still early in the process it's a bit later before you get professional slave traders who you actually devote their lives to go into the business the plan is to have to lose well in at no way to know that the slave population still exists largely on the eastern seaboard has won the westward expansion of slavery and still critical in the wake of the war of eighteen twelve
the the numbers of that slave population extent of the slave population becomes an increasingly important thing to white southerners to slave holders now they could they could absorb or or accept the ban on foreign slave trade to wait fifteen and twenty years later it would be an interesting question to test it will never know but would they have accepted twenty years later perhaps not because the expansion of slavery and was so important to the mississippi valley and into the west well american slavery was a system by the nineteenth century that necessitated violence the most lives on a daily basis to not experienced violence in their daily lives increasingly in the nineteenth
century slavery in the american south county sustained by some kind of state level police violence that we see this of course and reactions to all of the major slave rebellions that the three or four that we know about and in those cases whenever those defiant slaves decided to organize and rebel whenever there was some kind of rebellion the character of american slavery was in some ways thrown into relief it was a racial system it was racial slavery it was a system where there's a bomb laborers the slaves themselves were people set apart someone that people set apart became rebellious they were no threat to the entire social order and enhance it necessitated to put down any slave insurrection some use of state power and in some ways what's interesting is in the story of any of the slave rebellions what we
find is the leaders of the slave rebellions are in many ways eventually attacking or dealing with the governors of the very states in which you're going to go in whether it's virginia or whether it's south carolina and the violence in the aftermath of slave insurrection as the violence committed against the rebels or indeed the hangings that occurred after a slave insurrection few as they were in america compared to the caribbean and other places were nevertheless evidence that for slaves to truly strike for freedom to gain their freedom overnight within the south was to risk that kind of strike for freedom through death our trip to rebel against slave in virginia and south carolina or georgia and some kind of organized way was to take on state police power and it meant in most cases it meant a kind of destin
death and depending on the perspective of a slave and rabble depending on a slave rebels religious out depending on what we can do what we can ever know about nat turner's own aspirations are down market is he's real aspirations what they were in many ways experiencing was a kind of freedom through death so you know i think there's been more and a boy well before at thirty one abolition movement truly became organized either many warring notions or conflicting ideas about where slavery was going in america nobody really knew it was heading towards civil war there were people who had in some ways kind of predictability and jefferson himself there was still by the
eighteen twenties a widespread since then in america somehow slavery would gradually you when a way you would wear itself out it does could live in the same and the same land with what does this republic based on accordion liberty on the other hand the eighteen twenties this is especially a transitional decades in these ideas is it is by the eighteen twenty years the abolitionists in the north this first generation of abolitionists began to realize just what they're up against they began to realize the intransigence the commitment the defiance of the white south in their defense of slavery it's for the first time in eighteen twenties that undid that abolitionists began to hear reid and realize that southerners are defending slavery as a positive good not just something is a necessary evil and tailed upon them by history that that would one day have to get rid of by eighteen twenties there are
countless untreated says appearing from the south defending slavery as hazardous as nunley good institution but it but in an organic way of organizing society in a proper way of organizing labor mm hmm or mistress a black face minstrel stage became a popular theatrical art form in the eighteen twenty so it really begins in the twenties and depleting thirties and largely northern cities sometimes the audiences were mixed audiences are often integrated audience is that these performances bullet minstrels <unk> seem to be all about incentives early years was a kind of a racial ization of humor in america was a commonly use of blackness as a form of entertainment as a form of humor and in that sense it was it was a degradation of
blackness as something that was for americans a subject of humor so the subject of lampooning cut their character i'm not sure well but at tony's americans are still living in a time when the when the idea of race is caught up in this notion of a chain of being the races had certain special characteristics and traits and capacities in some ways menstrual sea probably set off from that set of ideas and fed into it in the sense that by lampooning black people by lampooning the way of speaking by using but dial it by using black faces now two to produce this very popular form of american humor it was in some way at least on subliminal levels saying that oppressed black people are not really fit for freedom in the normal sense
you know be a self fulfilling prophecy or to save time minstrel city explodes it's popular art form across the north it is the very time that free black communities begin to form in northern cities on a large scale in these free black images of course are concerned it probably as much with anything but they are concerned with creating their own sense of dignity their own sense of place their own sense of belonging that they're they're trying the same institutions they believe that there people like everybody else we need to build schools need certain meaning real jobs need to live normal lives what anyone else and not the lions in which they're being detected mistresses stages this is a period where
i'm going but nearly eighteen thirties do we have the beginning of an organized militia movement will who also got now this burgeoning thing we call jacksonian democracy which is on the one hand the spread of the right to vote among white people there is now a bass westward movement moving west america now has this seemingly limitless boundless western future immigration is beginning from europe this whole idea of the american dream of a small free farmer in the free mechanical can take his family and moved to america and get a new beginning is now going to run squarely into the problem of expansion of racial slavery across the same continent out what the eighteenth thirties is in some ways is a kind of a launching moment in american history of of the problem of slavery now on a national level as never before
prisons but innovating twenties so we're the most americans are fully aware of it or not america is now a kind of contradictory course of its history what's what's blooming now is is in many ways a golden age of american optimism and this is the age of american renaissance in literature that but especially for a final home here in new england it it's a remarkably optimistic asia could give birth and emerson or whitman and even to the slave narratives themselves which are in their own way very optimistic narratives of ascension of coming from slavery to freedom but at the same time as all of this optimism this faith and progress in america there is beginning to be a real fear that that that was also spreading across this continent as a promise someday the country is going to face some there has to be a solution to this contradiction of
Africans in America
Episode Number
Brotherly Love
Raw Footage
Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 3 of 4
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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David Blight is interviewed about the aftermath of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, expansion of slavery in the south, American nationalism, slave rebellions and threat to social order, minstrelsy, Jacksonian democracy.
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
(c) 1998-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
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Moving Image
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Identifier: Blight_David_03_merged_SALES_ASP_h264.mp4 (unknown)
Duration: 0:22:30
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Chicago: “Africans in America; 103; Brotherly Love; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 3 of 4 ,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020,
MLA: “Africans in America; 103; Brotherly Love; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 3 of 4 .” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <>.
APA: Africans in America; 103; Brotherly Love; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 3 of 4 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from