thumbnail of Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Eric Foner, Professor of History, Columbia University
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bye bye at thirty four the golden age of jackson slavery was really entrenched in many ways in the economy and politics and all social life of the american nation we often don't quite realize how powerful an institution it was and how its ramifications affected the north as well as the south by the time the north that will abolish slavery but it was deeply the northern states were deeply imbedded in the slave system just to give you a couple of examples come was by far the major export crop of the united states a dwarf anything else produced by the united states and sold abroad in other words it was them major earner of foreign exchange of foreign money for this developing country and the cotton was shipped by northern ships and was financed by normal insurance companies the cotton trade was the basis of shipbuilding of shipping maritime enterprise banking insurance all these enterprise in the north as well as the early factories which would be developing this period transforming cotton into textiles so there were
many thousands or hundreds of thousands of northerners whose livelihoods depended directly on slavery by virtue of the power of the economic importance of cotton politically because of the three fifths court clause of the constitution which gave the south tremendous edited political power as a result of slavery really the southern states had an iron grip on the federal government during this whole period if you take the first president to the united states from george washington down to let's say eighteen fifty virtually all of them were southern slave owners aren't yet yeah ok and slavery was an immense political power in the country as well as an economic power the three fifths clause of the constitution gave the slave south far
greater representation in congress and a far larger number of electoral votes than their white population really would've been entitled to one indication of this is that of the first president you take the presidents from washington seventeen eighty eight down to this at fifty i think only three of those presidents were actually no other non slave owners john adams john quincy adams and then martin van buren all the rest were slave owners from the south so the south really had an iron grip on the federal government down to the middle of the nineteenth century it's also point to remember to remember that the major trends that we associate with american history and the first for the nineteenth century were all intimately tied up with slavery westward expansion and to think of the spirit the front here the westward movement the tremendous territorial growth of the country until by the eighteen forties it reaches the pacific ocean westward expansion carried with that the expansion of slavery
frederick jackson turner great historian of the late nineteenth century said that it was the front here were american democracy was born an american ideas of equality was born there has been but that slavery was intimately related to the major trends developments that we associate with american history in the first half of the nineteenth century for example territorial expansion westward movement the front here the country grew tremendously in this period until by the eighteen ford is reached the pacific ocean frederick jackson turner the greatest are in the late nineteenth century said it was on the front here that the markets he was born an american ideas of equality were born individualism but the front here also carried with the expansion of slavery the westward expansion of slavery was one of most dynamic economic can social process he's going on in this country the westward expansion carried slavery down into the south west into mississippi alabama crossing the
mississippi river into louisiana finally by the eighteen forties it was pouring into texas so the expansion of slavery which became the major political question of the eighteen fifties was not just a political issue it was a fact of life that every american had experienced during this week during this period when jesus the va americans in the nineteenth century thought of or spoke of their country as in jefferson phrase an empire of liberty and the history of united states was conceived of as part of the progress of mankind and the spread of liberty throughout the world you can see this in graphic illustrations in the
period of liberty leading people westward in progress was the essence of the american story now in the south southern slave owners insisted that slavery was absolutely essential to that story of progress without slavery you could not have civilization they said slavery freed the upper class from the knee to do manual labor to worry about economic data day realities and therefore gave them the time and the intellectual ability to devote themselves to the arts and literature and mechanical advantages and inventions of war crimes so that it was it was slavery itself which made the progress of civilizations possible number one is why this period would have put it exactly that way because they would in a non slave an area but i think in the north the connection of slavery and american growth was really sort of ignored in other words people would talk about the expansion of the empire of liberty and never quite mention that millions of people in this empire of liberty were slaves
when jefferson spoke about the farmer of the yeoman the it being the backbone of the society he never mentioned that large numbers of these farmers owned slaves and that their independence which gave them the ability to dissipate in democratic process is rested on owning other human beings but that was sort of invisible in a sense in much of the political debate and discourse of this period as always eli whitney of course a northerner invented the cotton gin some people say we lie when they first invented the cotton gin which caused the civil war and that invented dr interchangeable parts which made it possible for the north to win the civil war duty of modern technology of arms manufacturing on the invention of that of the cotton gin is a very simple device it's amazing was invented earlier on
simply to separate a series of rollers to separate the seat of the cotton from the dr kropp itself but it made possible the vast expansion of cotton production in the early part of the nineteenth century that was that expansion is based upon demand the early industrial revolution in england and then in the northern united states created an insatiable demand for cotton and with the cotton gin it was possible to produce the cotton and ben for preparing very easily from market comes a very easy crop to they'll together and shipped off it does require a lot of technical skill it's well suited if you wanna put it that way for slave labor among people whose skill level has been intentionally suppressed so that it made possible the opening up of the vast lands of this of the cotton kingdom the set of the the old southwest that is alabama mississippi louisiana for cotton before cotton cultivation and the vast expansion of the private production of this crop by the mid nineteenth century
the american south was sitting on m and virtually a monopoly of the most important products in the world there was sort of like saudi arabia and kuwait with oil at certain points in this century they had it all and everyone else wanted and this gave them a tremendous amount of economic power in the world that no one else was growing cotton this period really later on other places will begin to cultivate it and all this recipe on slave labor of course it is khan was you might say the oil of the mid nineteenth century it was by far the most important crop in or product in international commerce and the south was sitting on a virtual monopoly of cotton and you might make an analogy between the south and then let's say saudi arabia and kuwait in some parts of the twentieth century where oil was so important to
the world economy and they had most of it on this gave the lead nobody else was growing cotton really bonded later on other countries begin to develop it but the vast majority of the world's gotten was being produced and exploited in the south and this gave him a tremendous advantage economically in terms of world commerce and of course all this rested on slave labor ms bee
right right the period from about eighteen twenty up to really the eve of the civil war was one of the massive migration of forced migration of african american slaves from the old south states like virginia south carolina cedric into the new cotton kingdom of the deep south mississippi alabama louisiana texas and some people call this the second middle passage the slave trade from africa was outlawed in at no wait although some surreptitious importation continued but after that you had hundreds of thousands of of black people forcibly moved from being their homes from the old south into the newer areas and this of course meant the disruption of people's lives separation of families and just considerable pain for for many many pit we don't tend to think of that migration nearly as much as the african slave trade which is well known and very dramatic and it's obviously unjust features of well
known but there was the second middle passage which was equally disruptive to the lives of of black people who had created communities in the old states and now suddenly found themselves scattered into new areas very often separated from members of their families and put into very difficult from tear conditions you know the download the early peer slavery in the southwest that was a very harsh difficult environment and was the slaves were to clear the land and cut down the forests and build the buildings and get the cotton production going and down so it was very difficult and very disruptive for them sales people there are two basic ways african americans moved from the old sas to the new south one was that plant slant some planted just picked up wholesale and moved to the new fertile land this land in the old areas was becoming exhausted
virginia some of the areas of south carolina and so they would buy new land literally pick up the hall plantation and just move out to mississippi and just set up a new new enterprise there this was disruptive but perhaps not quite as disruptive says slaves and that their families would be all largely transported although sometimes slaves were married to people on different plantation so they would be separated but also very very poem was just the rise of the internal slave trade slave trading became a major business in the south island now southern defenders of slavery said very little about the slave trade they tended to enslave traders were not considered quite is reputable in southern life as owners of slaves but the fact is that the slave trade was indispensable to the functioning of the system on hundreds of thousands of slaves somebody estimated two million slaves were sold in the peer in the united states in the period from eighteen twenty eighteen sixty and this was an organized business it was widely advertised the newspapers there were established slave markets in all the major cities of the
south from richmond to savannah down to new orleans it was a regular rise process of getting an abortion a new transportation of slaves on ships or by land and he went and of course a comfort a popular opinion very rarely work efforts made to keep families together the slaves were sold as individuals and buyers couldn't care less whether mothers and children or husbands wives or cousins were separated and done so in the slave trade itself was a fundamental way of moving the slave population but down a highly i obviously highly and disruptive to the lives of african americans marshall a place where it is i am that i owned i really says but i really much comfort as a question because i
believe that image of handguns i should go there one day when i heard it the history of the slave trade from africa or from also the caribbean to the united states is a complicated and it doesn't develop ways not even throughout the history of slavery the vast majority of the slaves brought into what became the united states were brought in in the mid eighteenth century from that let's say seventeen thirty to seventy and seventy that's the height of the slave trade in to the american colonies both from africa and some being transported from british islands slave islands in the caribbean them during the period american revolution was later was cut off most as part of the non importation agreements with a college that we're not buying anything from britain they also cut off the importation of slaves in the seventeen eighties a couple of states like south carolina reopen the slave trade this was now this point a state matter individual states either did or didn't allow slaves to be brought in
at the cost social convention that says one of the big debates was sure the slave trade be from africa or the international slave trade be prohibited or not that by this time enlightened opinion in the world in the western world of modest you people like that or writers in britain you mr burkett sector and in the united states many the founding fathers even if they defended slavery condemned the african slave traders in you made an immoral but the deep south slave states south carolina and georgia were actually insisted that they insisted they needed new slaves the reason for this was that so many of the slaves that runoff to british during the american revolution tens of thousands of slaves in south carolina particularly just fled to the british lines when the british occupied charleston during the war and gained their freedom and so there was and we need more slaves and then also in the seventeen nineties in those incentives and the very quickly the rise of cotton production in the up country of south carolina led to a vote for the demand for slaves so
across social convention that was a compromise as the one on many issues which said basically congress cannot prohibit the slave trade for twenty more years till joan rivers dating a way it was up to the states and only two states really south carolina and georgia began to import slaves again and particularly after the spread of caught between eighteen oh three in eating away the south carolina imported i think some like for thirty to forty thousand slaves legally amin which was a very sinuous that ten percent of all the slaves ever brought into the united states or the american colonies came in right in that little window they're donating a way as the constitution permitted it didn't require berta permitted congress and congress did activated away too abolish the international slave trade to the united states and britain did it at the same time so at that point it was illegal to transport slaves across the ocean to the british colonies or to the american nation the spanish was still about the slave trade to places like uber puerto rico it's a treat cedric
so the slave trade ended now we know that there were slave smuggled into the united states before the civil war many of them came from spanish possessions like cuba are there was a slave trade from cuba to let's say new orleans after louisiana became part of the united states smugglers don't tend to leave records it's not nobody can tell you how many slaves were actually brought in and they do it wasn't really that many i mean there were there was enforcement on the high seas by both the british and american navies of this band the great increase in the slave population came from natural increase the slave population grew and grew and gruber was not because of the importation of slaves really after edging away but just the growth of the population from natural causes on so editor at no way the slave trade really diminishes as a significant feature of the history of slavery in this country and it's replaced by the internal slave trade the shifting of slaves within the country from one point to another so there's a thriving trade of slaves but that's within the united states not from
outside it's better to pay i'm at because social convention the slavery issue is debated in many different forms and one of them was should slaves be counted when the population has added up to determine how many congressmen and representatives each state has the south won it all in and audit reversal the south and elisa people and therefore they should all be counted that would give them many more congressmen the north said no he's a property and therefore we don't count our property and representation so slaves should not be counted or in the end the compromise on three fifths this is the famous three fifths clause it does not say as popular lore has it a black person as three fifths of a man or something like that what it says is that apportioning representation in congress the free population and then three fifths of other person's id doesn't say slaves was as other persons we know those of the slaves
would be counted in determining how many members of congress and therefore how many electoral votes for president each state would have as a result of the three fifths clause is that it gave the south a tremendous increase in political power far more than their white free population would entitle them to obviously the slaves have no voice in politics they couldn't vote the people elected one representing them but nonetheless sixty percent of them were counted in determining how many congressmen the south that's of the south the senate the apportionment of two senators to each state gave the south basically a veto power over the senate as the population grew in the north that stripped the south and population still they balance the state's free and slaves of the south i was and have the senate but in the house of representatives based on population as the north through they outstripped the south but the south that for more members of congress than they really were entitled to because the three fifths clause and then in electing the president they had all those electoral votes which they would based on the slave population
so if you look at the president's from the first george washington down to the middle of the nineteenth century down to eighteen fifty you'll find that everyone bought three john adams john quincy adams and martin van buren was a southern slave owner and that's because the three fifths clause gave the south so much extra power in electing members of congress and president so it was a ball walk of southern political power throughout this period his story is traditionally date the beginning of the modern abolitionist movement the movement for the immediate abolition of slavery from eighteen thirty one when william lloyd garrison began publication of the liberated great abolitionist newspaper in boston but i think it's a good argument to be made that it really eighteen twenty nine should be the beginning of this movement and that was with the publication of david walker's appeal walker wasn't a free black living in boston also at that time it already published in some fairly obscure places condemnations of slavery but walker's appeal a pamphlet
are calling for the abolition of slavery really articulated some of the main themes that the larger abolitionist movement would pick up and develop in the eighteen thirties at that time anti slavery sentiment was very moderate and cautious those who are against slavery tended to be associated with the colonization movement that is advocating freeing the slaves and then deporting them to africa or the caribbean in other words they couldn't really envision an interracial society a free people and there they were also called for gradual emancipation which was how slavery had been abolished in the north most of the northern states and abolish slavery over a very long period of time through gradual laws in fact a new york state it was little eighteen twenty seven that the last male was driven into the coffin of slavery on walker broke with that tradition walker said we need immediate abolition he condemned the idea of colonization he said no black people are americans and they deserve to be not only freed but
treated as citizens of this country he he'd utilize the rhetoric of the nation the the rhetoric of liberty of equality the declaration of independence and threw it back in the face of white america charging the nation to being hypocrites with violating their own a professed ideals he drew upon christianity and talking about how this was a sin against god and the nation would suffer would be punished by god for the sin of slavery so walker are in a very radical language on compromising not gorgeous of all on condemn these dishes slavery wholeheartedly condemned the complicity of the entire institutional structure united states in slavery and called for immediate abolition and this was really set the tone for the new abolitionist movement that would emerge in the eighteen thirties
what did you was alive tremendously widely circulated in fact war became well known later on when the abolitionists movement really developed but still there's a lot of evidence that free black sailors being a sailor was one of few livelihoods open to free blacks at this time circulated the pamphlet in the south they were black salem's arrested in the south are having walker's appeal on that person's arm i think the main impact of walker was really in galvanizing the black community and wendy white dominated abolitionists movement develops in the eighteen theories it's real initial base of support is in the free black community in cities like boston and philadelphia and new york and i think walker's initial impact was on mobilizing free negroes to demand the immediate abolition of slavery had to say this is something for us where he says you know black person is free in this country until slavery is abolished the freedom of a free negro is a very very minimal freedom
and it's not to be rejected but it certainly is not sufficient in in america so on i think as i say in this gal that is asian of free black opinion creates a basis upon which the larger abolitionist movement will build in the eighteen thirties what he liked to be a free black person at the time workers writing at twenty nine at thirty it varied from place to place in the south the rights of free blacks were very constricted with the exception of a couple places new orleans charleston where a substantial group of wealthy free negroes orphan the relatives of prominent white people are ahead and developed but in my mother the south the same laws relating to most of the same laws relating to slavery also applied to free blacks they could congregate without a white person being present at a cary pass the assumption was a black person as a slave and you approve the word slave if you were a free negro of course they couldn't
vote that didn't have political writer could testify in court against a white person so they have freedom in the south was quite limited in the north are it varied from state to stay in some states blacks could vote in new england and at this time in pennsylvania pennsylvania took the right to vote away from free negroes and at thirty seven how they could vote if they could meet property or other qualifications the same as whites but they were subjected to a very severe discrimination in education and housing and employment opportunities on and as the country moved west all the western states from ohio onward prohibited free blacks from voting from taking part in politics and indeed out for states i think by the eve of the civil war for northern states actually have laws prohibiting the free negro from entering their territory or so there was objected to many many different levels of discrimination and inequality are so they certainly were not treated as full citizens the way whites were
conspiracies one might say that the greatest obstacle facing the abolitionists movement as it develops meeting thirties was not so much the heated hostility of the white south and everybody would understand that the white south lee bailey opposed to a movement demanding the abolition of slavery but lee odden the indifference you might say in the north there was a conspiracy of silence about the issue of slavery both major political parties ways and democrats basically agreed to keep this out of politics you just will not allow to raise this question in a public forum and white abolitionists did begin to talk about slavery publicly in the north mobs would break up their meetings their printing presses were destroyed elijah lovejoy an editor illinois was murdered by a mob would try to defend his printing press why was this i think is because so many northerners were deeply
implicated in the institution of slavery itself the trade of cotton the financing of cotton then there were racist fear is that the abolition of slavery would unleash a flood of black migrants into the north competing for jobs and things like this and there were those who felt well if we raise the slavery question is to destroy the american union for those another reasons as i say there was this conspiracy of silence and the first thing abolitionists had to do was put the issue on the table in a way that couldn't be ignored or as wendell phillips the great abolitionist order said we must provide public opinion our enemy is not the slave owner only it's also the person of good will who simply doesn't want to talk about slavery or wants to keep it off the national agenda and this was really there i think the greatest achievement of the abolitionist movement in its first decade was to make slavery a public issue to destroy the conspiracy of silence on slavery what my
position is the amistad was this ship are transported slaves from cuba op which are on which the the slaves were mutinied and took over the ship and sailed it not knowing and still packed africa sailed in a zigzagging course eventually it made landfall on one island their new york state and the question arose what is going to the status of these slaves or on the ship because the ams that was in violation of the band on the international slave trade on southerners some many southerners said no they should be slaves are to be sold as slaves many northerners said abolitionist we know they are free they should be freed because they were held in violation of a ban on the battle slave trade and sent to africa the us that case became a major publication the abolitionist used it to raise consciousness on the question of slavery the case went all the way to the supreme court where a john quincy adams the ex
president was deeply involved in preserving these slaves or former slaves case and eventually the court ruled that they were free and they could go back to africa because it will the court was deeply pro slavery the ban on the international slave trade was part of federal law and was enforced but the ads that case and the mutiny of the amistad slaves sort of focused attention for a while in the early eighteen forties on not only the way in which some southerners were violating the law by trying to import slaves from africa but also on the desire of slaves from freedom the amistad reinforced abolitionist arguments the slaves were not content southerners said no they're happy to be slaves what's the problem but the mutiny on the amistad suggested that slaves did desire freedom is as much as any other people thank you the
fb he's been through the amistad case was a very famous case involving a shipload of slaves who were being transported from a port in cuba to another port in cuba but had recently been brought from africa in violation of the international ban on the air after the atlantic slave trade and the slaves rebelled and took over the ship they wanted to sail back to africa but they weren't knowledgeable enough to navigation to do that in the ship followed a
zigzagging course and eventually have made landfall on long island in new york state and then the slave the question became what is going to be the legal status of these people of a slave salve a free who's determined that the issue of fugitive slaves was in a sense became one of the most powerful weapons in the hands of the abolitionist movement the constitution has a clause stating that fugitives must be stooges from labor slaves must be sent back too to the south they've captured in the north and this gave slavery what we call extra territory our big that isn't made slavery and national institutions even though the northern states could abolish slavery as they did they still could not avoid their constitutional obligation to enforce the slave laws of the southern states a fugitive slave carried within the legal status of slavery even into a territory which didn't have slavery in england there was a famous
principal in the law that lord psalm what mansfield had announced in the somerset case in the eighteenth century the air of england is too pure he said for a slave to breathe that as a slave from the west indies and came to england became free because there was no legal status of slavery in england but the air of america was not to pew of for a slave to breach even the air of massachusetts or new york or or ohio if a fugitive escaped he carried with him in the status of slavery and those states were obligated under the constitution to send the slave back the many slaves in the states didn't do much about this and that's why the fugitive slave law of at fifty was enacted which gave made the federal government responsible oh for tracking down in apprehending fugitive slaves in the north and sending them back to the south the fugitive slave law of eighteen fifty was what was you might say was the most powerful exercise of federal authority within the united states in the whole era before the civil
war and it's a very odd thing that a region the south which supposedly believe in states' rights and local autonomy press for this law which allowed the federal government a completely over ride the legal process season the north to send marshals him to avoid the local court and he just sees people they like the free born and just dragged him into the south aren't as slaves it shows is out didn't believe in states' rights who believe in slavery states' rights was a defense of slavery but when fat active federal power was needed to defend slavery they were perfectly happy to utilize that also and also for the world the fugitive slave law or had many features which seemed to violate the liberties of free white northerners are it in a lab that for them to deputize citizens even against their will enforce them to take part in posses are other groups too
receive fugitive slaves it also said that local courts could not educate whether a person was a slave or not it was federal commissioners who would would come in and hear testimony on the slave was not allowed to testify it was the testimony of these owner of the opera's who claim to be the owner of this alleged fugitive and the commissioner would judge whether the owners testimony was unbelievable a nod and then sanda says they usually did send the prison back to slavery so the fugitive slave law it was a very powerful instrument it was utilized to gather up quite a few slaves escaped slaves or perhaps people weren't slaves or roof reborn and send them back to the south another thing is that it inspired quite a few thousand free negroes the north to flee to canada we usually think of the united states as an asylum for liberty of people fleeing oppression elsewhere in the world to come to the united states it's a little jarring to remember that there were thousands of free
born americans who fled to canada because their freedom could no longer be taken for granted within the united states this is one of those the fugitive slaves had a tremendous impact on the development of the anti slavery movement first of all a number of fugitives became very prominent abolitionist leaders and speaker is the most famous is frederick douglass who escaped from maryland but there are quite a few others henry highland garnet others they were living embodiment of the reality of slavery when douglas got up and talked about his life as a slave it was hard to dismiss him as just a do gooding northern liberal really good now instead the situation the south as many southerners would climb these people would experience slavery firsthand but then the whole process of under the fugitive slave law the federal government seizing people
galvanized opinion in the north in a way that the abstract questions slavery made out of dung you can think what you want about slavery hundreds of miles away but when a individual comes to your community a black individual fleeing marshals were going to try to grab him and sent him back to slavery it puts slavery on a human level it made it made people have to choose a miner will abide by the law or am i going to help his fellow human beings in trouble and many people were not abolitionists and all felt they could not cooperate with the fugitive slave law and often it was violently resisted by people who were otherwise law abiding citizens and the spectacle as in boston and at fifty four of federal troops actually marching a man anthony burns through the streets of boston a black man to put him on a ship and send it back to slavery i'm transformed public opinion and turn many people as one man wrote afterwards i went to sleep or conservative way i woke up the next morning a fanatical abolitionists because of the rendition of fugitive
slave it is the site of this person and shames me walk down the streets of boston surrounded by federal troops oh sure or the case of anthony burns in boston was so the showdown between the pro slavery federal government and the city which was the center of anti slavery sentiment in the north pole of many abortion were not anti slavery as well this was a moment when there's sexual prices had reached a peak of of antagonism because of the kansas nebraska bill which is being debated in congress at that very moment opening up parts of the west the expansion of slavery and i think the federal government the president pierce at that time i felt that if you could show that you could see as a fugitive slave in boston and bring him back to the south you could do it anywhere this was the home of the radical abolitionist movement and so on the other
hand it was a challenge to the traditional new england liberty the tradition of anti slavery new england that they want to stop this will cause they were unable to which showed the power the federal government defending slavery that despite the strong anti slavery sentiment in boston burns was in fact return to the south and it was a message it was a message to the south that their right to get back fugitive would be enforced and it was a message to the wrestler nor tsang don't try to obstruct the operation of the fugitive slave law it was also says this the birds case was a challenge to the abolitionists movement because previous to this there had been a couple of very pretty well publicized cases where abolitionists had actually succeeded in obstructing the operation of the fugitive slave law thomas sims was a fugitive was actually rescued from the people apprehended him by a mob and spirited off to canada aren't they were other
cases the christianity riot in pennsylvania where armed groups are citizens and actually prevented a rendition of a fugitive slave on the south perhaps understandably said look this is our constitutional right it's in the constitution that we have a writing about fugitive slaves back how can it legal groups of northerners prevent this so the birds case was a sort of a showdown between the abolitionists sense that they can obstruct the fugitive slave law and the federal government's are intentional or insistence that it was going to enforce this law and in this showdown the federal government certainly one or possible the whole issue of fugitive slaves had a tremendous impact on the abolitionist movement both black and white updating fifty most abolitionist novel the most publishers believed in what they call moral suasion that we're pacifists
they did not they can that most of which has condemned the nat turner uprising of eighty thirty one because they said slavery is a system of violence but you cannot overthrow it by using violence you have to overthrow it by persuading people to change their ways to see them are also in the evil of slavery and to persuade the north have nothing to do with slavery for twenty years the abolitionists movement operate on this basis of moral suasion but with the fugitive slave law the number of abolitionists we're pacifists began to say well this is a law which justifies armed resistance but you can't just let this be enforced people like frederick douglass said the way to prevent the rendition of fugitives is to make a few dead fugitive captures it always will be justifiable to kill someone was trying to apprehend fugitive slaves on so the fugitive slave law played an important role in this shift in the abolitionist movement toward a growing acceptance of violence as a legitimate means for attacking musicians slavery this
would reach you might say it's final pointed at fifty nine with john brown's raid on harper's ferry most devilish as a nothing to john brown's but very few would condemn him they would accept the fact that ok violence is a possible means for attacking the decision slavery the abolitionists movement was concerned not only with a specific issue of abolishing slavery as an institution but the even broader issue of what kind of a country america was going to be and you might say that the abolitionists invented an idea which in the twentieth century of course became very prominent that this is a multi racial society in which all americans or to enjoy equal rights equal treatment before the law the abolitionists you might say invented a new and different constitution a different reading of the constitution very much informed by the declaration of independence and it's of affirmation of human equality and i'm positive as an
alternative to the dominant vision of america as a white society which was so prominent in this period you know the first naturalization was seventy nine the congress stated that any person from abroad could migrate and become an american citizen as long as they wore white the vast majority of the world's population africans asians were ineligible to become naturalized citizens in the united states for much of the nineteenth century free blacks were not considered citizens even though they were born here the dred scott decision of eighteen fifty seven makes that the law of the land but long before it was widely debated whether free blacks could be citizens of all the abolitionist but for this definition of birthright citizenship anybody born in america is a citizen black or white doesn't matter and their intent they are citizens of the nation not just in the state and our title to the same equal rights as all other citizens of the nation frederick douglass were the greatest exponents of this if you
extend it also to asians in a wonderful speech right after the civil war called a composite nation he said discrimination against asian immigrants also violates the essence of what america ought to be so that the abolitionists you might say reinvigorated the rhetoric of the american revolution which stated that this was an asylum for liberty for mankind but that rhetoric had not been put into reality by the founding fathers they had created a society of white entitlement and the abolitionist challenge this and call for a different vision of what america or to be in kansas and then they didn't bleeding kansas the struggle over kansas became you might say the focal point the cockpit of the sexual rivalry in the mid eighteen fifties and on one level what was at stake was should slavery be allowed into this territory of kansas didn't bark thereby missouri compromise than the kansas nebraska act of at fifty four open the door to the possibility of
slavery expanding into kansas but in a certain sense what was also at stake was the whole future of the united states would slave maria or freedom be the rule and which would be the exception it's slavery expanded into kansas and then further into the western territories free labor the free system would be blocked it would be surrounded by a ring of slave states and territories and the south of course felt the other way if slavery is barton that great western territory that it will be cut off its expansion will be stopped and it will be the exception in a free society so what's at stake on the plains of kansas is not just a status of that one territory but a whole vision of the future on the role of slavery within it is slavery an aberration which is going to report as lincoln said in the course of ultimate extinction or slavery going to be the predominant institution in the nation with the free areas being sort of the exception to that rule now kansas leads up to the dred
scott decision of eighteen fifty seven in which chief justice tani made the southern definition the law of the land at least as far as the supreme court and force it slavery said was a national institution individual states could abolish if they wanted but they have no right to interfere in the slavery of other states no black person could be a citizen of the united states said tony this is a country the family of america as he called it was white and no state could make a black person a citizen in a way that any other state had to recognize and the south had a perfect right he said on the constitution to expand slavery until all the territories of the united states so dred scott made the southern definition of the role of slavery the official definition of the law of the land and of course that further exacerbated the political section of conflict this is hard i think chief justice tani
was that was under they were proved to be mistaken belief that the supreme court could settle this issue once of rule really at fifty seven months of when the dred scott decision comes down you've had several years now of intense political battle at fifty four fifty five years ago the senate over the future of slavery one major political party the way says disintegrated on the impact the democrats have suffered severe strain is a new party the republican has risen almost the power and at fifty six on the basis of the north and the rights of the north and stopping the expansion of slavery tony feared as many did that the country was falling apart he believed that the supreme that the politicians were unable to settle this question maybe the supreme court could do so but the problem was that each settled it in such a partisan and pro southern way that it that his decision had no legitimacy in the north people like lincoln who served as a lawyer who believed in legal process he said this is an incorrect decision is invalid
is a misreading of the constitution and we in the north have no obligation to abide by it so certainly it didn't know civil slavery question by by any means because both the issue of the extension of slavery and to the west which was the main political question the eighty fifties revolved around this territory of kansas nebraska and the missouri compromise of eighteen twenty so the slavery had been prohibited in that whole vast areas of the louisiana purchase which is really the heartland the middle of the united states but in at fifty four the kansas nebraska act steered through the cameras by stephen a douglas of illinois open up that area to the possibility of slavery entering it gets substituted for the prohibition of the old law what douglas said was popular sovereignty that is the local people to decide whether they wanted slavery or not armed now
this made the expansion of slavery of direct concern to millions of people in the east previously they've been debating whether slager should go into utah new mexico but there were a lot of people want to migrate before air conditioning out to those areas the population is very small the kansas nebraska were right in the middle of the country in a very rich fertile agricultural region and there were large numbers of northerners and southerners still felt that this was the next logical place for westward movement to be so what developed in kansas that the issue of popular sovereignty takes the issue out of congress and put it into kansas the people will decide what the questions were the people sent was flawed in from the north and the south that they set up a rival legislatures that have rival governors rival votes the south's seizes control of the official government of kansas they ran through a constitution and forcing slavery kansas northern settlers say we don't record we don't recognize this
it's b the purpose of popular sovereignty the principle of see the senator stephen a douglas was the transfer the issue of slavery out of congress were was so pervasive and let it be decided by the people of the territory of themselves or be kansans debating about but the result was civil war in kansas settlers flooded in from both north and south missourians from a slave state crossed over the border and dominated the early elections pro slavery people seize control of the government of kansas rival legislatures were established rival governors northern settlers didn't recognize the legitimacy of the pro southern government of kansas a a cause social convention a rump cause the convention adopted a constitution guaranteeing slavery kansas which northerners repudiated but then the buchanan administration in washington tried to admit kansas is a state under that pro slavery constitution so you got literally civil war on the plains of kansas at fifty five fifty six fifty seven popular
sovereignty had transfer the issue chances but there erupted into this battle which then made it a national issue again right right the battle in kansas was between what they call the free state of the free soil settlers and the pro slavery settlers the pro slavery won in slavery are coming to kansas the free state settlers wanted to be a free state debate very few of them are actual abolitionists they didn't have much interest in the rights of black people they wanted to be a white state with no blacks whatsoever free or slave in fact the proposed constitution that the free state people develop prohibited lot free blacks from entering kansas as indiana illinois and oregon also did in that period so it was a battle among whites a bachelor's over which of those two groups would control kansas
but the rights of blacks as americans were not really a major feature in the in the equation as bell john brown was a dedicated abolitionist but rather unusual compared to most of the others it had been involved an abolitionist activities in the eighteen forties he attended free black conventions it helped out of his own money to pay for the publication of henry highland on its famous speech calling on the slaves to rise up and rebel army he had been involved in groups fighting the fugitive slave law it was also a sincere egalitarian fb is bringing
kids back john brown was a dedicated abolitionists for much of his life in the eighteen forties he had been involved in free black conventions he'd been a member of a group that opposes at fort riley to serving as the fugitive slave law had been out in kansas fighting for free state settlers but of course what made him most famous was his attack on harpers ferry virginia the federal arsenal they're trying to somehow like a spark which would set off a slave insurrection in at fifty nine i'm brown was unusual among abolitionists partly because he believed the violence he believed that he was an old test is religion was an old testament kind of a vengeful god meeting injustice with violence also he was a dedicated egalitarian he dealt with most of alicia's believe in equal rights for brown really lived that principle richard henry davis says the drought on his farm in upstate new york i noted in his diary that he that
brown had introduced good farm hands were black working for a mini introduce them as mr so and so mr sorensen they said as a first time and introduced a black man as mr to me that there is from boston abolitionist sen brown went up to canada to try to gain recruits among the free black population there who is he didn't think that abolitionism was a white crusade on the part of black she tried to involve blacks and indeed actually among the twenty twenty one man who went with him to harpers ferry was several a black fighters as well so brownlow set a live this principle of interracial activism which was one of the central premises of the abolitionist movement and i think it's important to remember that whatever one thinks of the logic of his tactics one could easily precise seizing an awesome only just sitting there doing nothing until the troops come along it is violent streak one can certainly have raised questions about but on this principle that the abolition of slavery required the cooperative
action both black and white americans brown hadn't had developed a very profound insight what was it john brown's intentions when he sees the federal arsenal at harpers ferry in october at fifty nine are somewhat mysterious are open to question some would say well it he thought they would seize it was impossible full of arms they would seize the arms make their way into the hills this is the mountainous portion of west virginia and certified gorilla battle right running down raids on some plantations etc but from what that is they didn't do it they stayed there they seized the osceola was a surprise attack and then they just waited some people thought he expected just the news of it that would inspire slaves to rise up and sparkle for rebellion some people say no he was a potential mortar that what he wanted to do was galvanized northern opinion about slavery and that he thought that his own death would actually somehow divide north and south even
more bitterly than they had been before if that was his intention he was successful he did spar over slave insurrection but he did debating not only because of his attack on harpers ferry was very dignified bearing at his trial and before he was executed on it he gained tremendous respect among many people and author did not agree with his violent tactics and southerners are on the other hand became hysterical because this was something they had long charge without any evidence that abolitionists were plotting to invade the south and inspire a slave insurrection in the south and now here it happened a white out alicia's actually came into a slave state tried to spark a slave insurrection what would happen if the republicans won the election at sixty and an anti slavery man was in the white house when they have been many john brown's in the future so that brown's action actually i think was important catalyst a contributor to the movement for secession of the southern states in the inspiring the sentiment that they really weren't safe anymore in a united nation with anti
slavery northerners ms bishop you know the civil war isn't that long ago in terms of the broad sweep of history or even american history history moves in human life times not just in generations there are people alive today whose parents grandparents their grandparents probably forty in the civil war there are people alive today who have living memories within their family traditions of the experience of slavery but maybe even more portland that is the fact that this experience of slavery shaped the race relations of the united states we're still living with so many of the consequences of that couple of hundred years of slavery in this country more than half of the existence of this country it coincided with slavery as an institution even though slavery was abolished the question raised by slavery and race by the abolitionists movement can we exist as a multi racial
society can this be a society of equality between people of different backgrounds and different colors different races that question is still not really answered as long as that question still remains true to agitate our country as long as there are people feel aggrieved because they are the descendants of slaves and they have not fully shared in the blessings of liberty that our constitution promises to everybody the history of slavery will be relevant to the present society not because we want to relive that history but because if we don't understand that we will never really know how the country got to recondition it is in now on the eve of the twenty first century he says slavery was a complete institution it was an economic it was a system of labor it was a system of political power it was a system of race relations social relations it shapes the entire history of the south and much of the history of the rest of the country
and so the abolition of slavery through open all of these questions it wasn't just a matter of profit and loss it was just a matter of investment going down the drain people can lose their investments and not worry about as they can invest their money somewhere else it was a total social system and we have never yet still a hundred and thirty years and in forty years since the abolition of slavery quite figured out what social system is going to replace the shattered social system of slavery it's well known that the minnesota the term the middle passage is a well known term for describing the shipment of millions of africans to the new world across the atlantic but we tend not to think of the second middle passage which was the internal migration the internal slave trade within the united states which shipped hundreds of thousands of slaves from the old statesman virginia north carolina south carolina into the rising cotton kingdom of alabama
mississippi louisiana but that second middle passage was also a very unjust and very disruptive aspect of the lives of black americans in the first half of the nineteenth century scientists are warily the existence of slavery in a country devoted to equality and liberty and democracy this was what america stood for in the world according to our founding fathers and according to the ideology of the country in the eighteen thirties and forties how could people explain the dichotomy between liberty of slavery the way to explain it is that this is a natural law this is naturally capacity it's not human beings being unjust to other human beings it's the natural incapacity of blacks to exist in freedom that explains why slavery is necessary in a land of freedom
and as the money it's almost as a symbolic relationship as liberty and democracy grow more powerful among the free population the line of division between them and slaves grows more and more intense and the n a racist a fully grown racist ideology develops based on pseudoscience on measurements of skulls on a whole theory of human development where certain races are at the top like the so called anglo saxon race and then blacks away at the bottom so that science is brought in the eighteen thirties and forties to bolster this idea that blacks have been iran have been indicated by nature as being fit only to be slaves on you needed any allergy like that in a democratic society because you try to explain to yourself and to the rest of the world why this apparent contradiction why this apparent contradiction exists
Africans in America
Episode Number
Judgment Day
Raw Footage
Interview with Eric Foner, Professor of History, Columbia University
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Eric Foner is interviewed about the Age of Jackson, slavery as political power, slavery and American progress, economic power of cotton, thousands of black people sold south to cotton plantations, end of the Atlantic slave trade, Constitutional Convention and three fifths clause, David Walker's Appeal and the abolitionist movement in the 1830s, northern opposition to abolition, the Amistad case, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Anthony Burns, moral suasion, Bleeding Kansas, the Dred Scott Decision, John Brown, Legacy of slavery.
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
(c) 1998-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
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Duration: 1:05:20
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Chicago: “Africans in America; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Eric Foner, Professor of History, Columbia University,” 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; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Eric Foner, Professor of History, Columbia University.” 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; 104; Judgment Day; Interview with Eric Foner, Professor of History, Columbia University. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from