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     Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies,
    Amherst College. 2 of 4
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it's a really really good what was seventeen times a nineteen thirties the importation of africans in the north america increased greatly as the british became the largest slave trader who in the eighteen century and in a real sense that the gross instability of the prosperity particular the american south now dependent directly african slavery in a sense though the freedom and prosperity of white planters in the south depended directly on the bondage of black people and then sends as scholars have argued freedom and prosperity began to grow in tandem with slavery so i'm trying to you know let's you from the europeans want is that says freeman says this
opportunity exist chance of prosperity given that no one has made its slave or communists in the idea that these are all doing all these things combined to make america is now well in a real sense american history as its contradictions america's its contradictions it's it's a grape or what's what makes us interesting to go elsewhere in the world as people were what interests them about american history it's the ways in which we we have created a country out of creed is the way mostly we've created a republican out of these principles of that the principles that are in the declaration of independence and yet our history is still so fraught with contradictions took those creates this is already true one could say in the early and mid eighteenth century for the american revolution has ever occurred
because what's being created particularly in virginia is a society of white planters were building a civilization increasingly prosperous and stable civilization based upon black bondage based upon slavery and eventually they are gonna be many of the leaders that virginians indeed were founding fathers and real sense that become leaders of a kind and south at least of a kind of slave holders rebellion for liberty and hence we have this most american of contradictions of how you could have a revolution to find a republican revolution ended indeed repudiate monarchy create a representative democracy build itself up on the principles of the doctrine of consent the right of revolution the doctrine of equality at the same time the very people creating that republicans are themselves slave holder that always seems to be such a paradox the first look at it but in reality
many of these men in virginia were were self conscious about the fact that to build a republic too to preserve the prosperity an economy that they had created they knew they needed a deep end and poor a deep end and labor force an independent labor force by the seventeen seventies was now racial slavery the system that they had built and had been practicing for some eighty or ninety years so in the minds of the more no american identity is looms over athens and knew how how how that justifies moving toward the original content isn't me out this contradiction in the
mind of southern slave holders in the eighteenth century was self conscious and many cases are so conscious for thomas jefferson wrote about it in his book notes on the state of virginia expressed his very real fears about having created a republican of those holdings lays it out here they're fully aware that what they've created is a system of racial slang that fully aware that they have created a system that says these people probably by nature as judges themselves are good these people these black people these africans by nature are are made are meant to destined for labor that destined to be in effect a dependent labor force it is their function their purpose in the world so in the minds of the southern slave holder during the age of the american revolution and i know we should make no mistake that that there was little in the way of a sense of guilt about doing
this but they were i think by more self conscious of an apparent contradiction on the other hand it was probably less of a contradiction to them because they're very very much imbued with the notion of racial inferiority of the idea that that some races we were imbued with certain capacity isn't certain propensities and others were not so the fact that slavery in america was racial and we've had now been practiced for a century and make business was the contradiction to swing voters themselves this is supposed to be in the emerging well in many ways the american revolution brought together true greats at a logical forces if you like on the one hand there's the natural rights tradition of based on the writings of the great english for answers of the seventeenth century most
directly this the secular tradition of human rights the rights of man before god and the other hand there's also in the eighteenth century a deeply religious conception of history a kind of millennial conception of history that says god has a special interest in certain people in certain places in certain nations that some nation some people's are actually chosen in some way to live out a certain kind of destiny these two forces once secular one religious came together now in this revolution against british monarchy out of which comes this frankly quite unique american republic driven out by both secular traditions and religious traditions i have a great way to really ending people's thoughts calls for me one hour course it then use the word consumer so what happened
really is that the way people talk so on one of the reasons the great awakening was significant is because it was a great social experience it was something unlike anything else people had experienced before many of the revivals were attended by thousands of people these were gatherings and these were meetings that revivals that in that in a real sense we're social political gatherings as nothing else had ever been and then in in a sense you can link that experience of the seventeen forties towards crime occurred to him three decades later when the american revolution because in the great awakening you wanna make too much of this but in the great awakening in the south and in the north you had these happenings <unk> mass meetings of people are interested in their own personal salvation but also interested in the way these preachers were not challenging some of the norms in their lives challenging them to rise of
silence ailes challenging them to attempt to put their lives missiles on the line before god so so it was it was a it was an important historical moment as a kind of piece of social history as much as political history wolford for many slaves in the south and reawaken was a very important moment because they got to attend these revivals that they're george woodfield preach there are a whole lot of the revival as preach there were welcome at me of the survivors now and to an extent the process of christian conversion christianization that broad vague very important process that occurs in black america in the eighteenth century especially by the late eighteenth century really begins with the seventeen forties and the mass revivals and the great awakenings blacks attended these events have never been unlike that there is a meaning of three thousand people out in the fields blacks and whites together listening to a preacher who says here in my messaging here in
my story isn't the life for you isn't a chance for you and hears a god who is your interest at heart is a god who made deliveries maybe they stood in a field in georgia heard the psalms read to them all of which are in some ways prayers of deliverance maybe they heard about a new testament god who who took such a personal interest in his flock maybe they are but i'm old testament god who was entering history and causing big wars overturning societies that in that have gone astray they heard stories and messages in which they may have begun to find themselves apart from the whole idea of conversion which is very difficult for us to understand but de christianization process of blacks and seventy four his men would still been born in africa although increasingly american born now is a very important process on the way a to the eventual the eventual creation of probably you can safely say a nuisance
self and a new sense of a collective people blacks in the eighteenth century in america are buying large exclusively slaves but increasingly they're known medium born americans in the eighteenth century they are becoming some kind of new people in a new land in a new place and their experience of the revivals of the seventeen forties is we're probably begin for a lot of people like that fb down to around seventeen sixty years so from what we know about it most africans in america than in the eighteenth century would still believes the majority were still been believers in some kind of african traditional religions and that
probably went to their graves still believers in an african tradition in african religious tradition but after seventeen sixty by the seventeen seventies in the latter part of the eighteenth century discretion ization process is taking hold and among blacks in the south is such that by the turn of the nineteenth century we don't organize black churches the organized african methodist church and now a new generation of africans with america other grains with police in some kind of christian cosmologist as believers in a new kind of face to face that they would have a combined probably win over traditions and beliefs but it's one of those one was very important process sees that the blacks in america an eighteen century are undergoing and in becoming whether they were fully self conscious of or listen i'm becoming a kind of new people in place with
a lot of really just a statistical point i think that that that's kind of turning point demographically it so this was a shift in the city's declaration challenge as important it dawned on i am well even before the declaration of independence in many ways and there hadn't been an official challenge to slavery and american audience question it's questionable whether whether the draft is the degree and ten is it to be an official chancellor rhee after all tarzan was and so the slow but what the declaration of independence comes to mean really from its very inception but especially in the wake of the revolution to blacks
isn't it means its first principles it means none to some founding document of the revolution the founding document of its revenue but in republic but what blacks will always look to as a people all over the world and people are a sense in this in this document ios photos for a first principles in the preamble the right of revolution the doctrine of the quality of the doctrine of consent and good the doctrine of love popular sovereignty it's almost as if the first principles of the declaration of independence were not only natural rights but they were like natural resources they were like precious or they were like they were likely near you couldn't breathe and now they were written up an informal vacuum that said these belong to all men that they're he neatly in the book they belong to everybody that the drafters of the document contend include black people are explicitly in the back and probably not but that doesn't mean the black swan insist that they did in many ways as benjamin corals a wonderful
historian once wrote said it would eventually be black abolitionist by using the declaration of independence who would refuse to allow america to the revolution as revolution and what it was was that that those that precious ore those natural resources in that direction would forever be etiology that people could use to oppose any kind of system of human bondage because in any kind of system of human bondage was an obvious contradiction to something called inalienable rights if given the label rights really exist in slavery cannot ultimately co exist next to it or you have to give up those principles he was busy it was a problem
it's certainly true to american revolution a great deal to do it is it is a planters rebellion in the south to preserve an economy and a civilization that they've built it is in many ways an effort by some northern merchants to preserve the economy and relationship to atlantic trade as they had established and understood but in many ways a pretty clear sign to point ah the revolution would always be its ideas it would always be an ideological turning point in american history where in the world history for that matter it would always be about the ideas in which it was based which were which were that mike it was no longer the kind of government that that that man who believed in reason that men who believe in human rights should live with that it was that it was a turning point in the history of man that that now governments could be based upon ideas and
writes that all people could share a character and being an attorney general fb the revolution will certainly add a logical the blocks in the sense that they acted upon those ideas in the petitions that they wrote to state legislatures and tissues that there are demanding their own freedom and there was certainly at a logical in the sense that over time the way in which black abolitionist whether it's a david walker in his appeal at twenty nine ports and frederick douglass his famous speech on the fourth of july in nineteen fifty two in all of the hundreds abuses in appropriations of the declaration of independence of the abolition movement would make for the next eighty years they were
always saying that the american revolution whatever else was about was about the creation of these new ideas these new principles of the declaration of independence and that they're really belong to everybody how did he influence the way many in the statehouse can assure one attack against him to laugh well it said the willows by no means the complete reputation of the constitutional convention there's no question that the that the drafting of the constitution forced into the air a sense of how sexualized the country really was as press everyone knows e you couldn't have achieved the constitution and seventeen are compromises over slavery in compromises about representation between north and south against this thing the three fifths compromise and so
forth the kind of the drafting of the us constitution this attempt to create a much stronger centralized government anatoly that my states now this whole idea of federalism local isn't our only forced into realization that this was a sexualized cut through his sexual interest and some ways it is the genius of the constitution that they were able to reach those compromises on the other hand of course is only yet again more evidence of how this contradiction over slavery and freedom was imbedded in the constitution itself and here we see i think the point that the united states was a government a nation founded upon some credence and then put under the umbrella of the us constitution which will hold it together for a long time that nevertheless in his own founding had kind of sewed the seeds at least of the bitter conflict if not of a genuine ultimate destruction what role in slavery
you hear a lot of different things in the new league what will was the recession was it more as a concussion up well the most important immediate legacies of the revolution is that it leads to emancipation of the northern states are biting or for every northern state had put in place some kind of either immediate although in most cases gradual emancipation plant in the wake of the revolution given the etiology of the american role lucia the founding of this republic the northern states found they simply could no longer justify any kind of slavery within their borders now of course granted slavery was not that significant economically and most of the mountains this follows quite significant in rhode island and new york but that that's one of the most important media legacies of the revolutionary war and it isn't about that into a long term and
again within ten to fifteen years after the american revolution we now have the creation of something called the free states and slave states we've got mount interest tried to free states and slave states we've got a republican now been asked to decide whether the northwest territory was going to be freed territory or slave territory course northwest ordinance they did manage to agree that enough land up there in what we now call the middle was slavery was was not was never supposed to exist but but now we begin to see that period of american history of state building and anna's every every time a new state was was brought into the union that test was was there a slave state to bring in with a free state so we've got a nation now growing with the interest of free states and slave states counted trying to grow in tandem and eventually of course didn't grow into real conflict the biggest
conflict came with the emission of missouri mating twenty and the compromise necessitated in order to bring missourian is a slave state why broad level of india is fascinating to think about what is the american revolution and the last word in a lot of the british ones ward the british and stay in control of north america or that a man for slavery in that but what would've known for black life the good that it could've been many results of that some have argued that had great britain held under north america's jewel of its empire and hell are you into the early nineteenth century when slavery really be an expanded become even more prosperous that britain would never have freed slaves rose empire which eventually does been eating thirties slavery declined and prosperity in the caribbean island's implicitly jamaica and barbados it was closing in on it so they're nowhere to expand to at brick managed to hold it in north america
there has traditionally been very different is it for him as americans are not one this revolutionary war fifth revolution had not been successful had not been as new founding of a republic based on the screens we've been talking but then eventually an anti slavery movement it may have come out of the age of the american revolution and in the much more moderate much less military because what would it have appealed to it could have appeal to religious traditions certainly could've appealed to go to a kind of tradition of rights that can be drawn from the bible and how could have it appealed to a successful revolutionary spirit or age one could still argue that the rights of man we're still out there in the french revolution occurred anyway but the beginning it's it's a reason why the american revolution is so significant to the later history of slavery because the revolutionary age itself is a kind of a template it's a kind of a it's a kind of a founding time for a
whole human polls against human bondage or or other forms of human depression anytime after the american revolution when american reformers organize against anything and especially when they organize against slavery they will always in one way or another say that they're using an appropriate name the doctrines of the founding fathers without those doctrines and a successful revolution we would've had an abolition movement as we know it it's been stated and yet as the transit is that the largest group and by the same token in the south in the wake of the revolution after the british were driven out after some stability returns in the deep south southerners especially in south carolina north carolina and in georgia be an import slaves again that that
baby and open the four slave trade and that they opened the gates wide slater didn't cut off largely during the revolutionary war war and slavery itself undergoes an enormous expansion in the deep south between seventeen eighties and the first decades of the nineteenth century and there again we see this kind of contradictory history if you like on the one hand a republic is founded on the principles of freedom and liberty at the same time the founding of the very republican nomination of the british it's possible that further expansion of labor system of this the further expansion of slavery where policy is in new hampshire because certainly sent a message it's b well the immediate impact for blacks of the american revolution is that eventually is that especially if the war goes on long enough which it did
it brought ample opportunities of escape to freedom whether that escape was to the british forces or of that escape was an inside of american wines it was a time of a kind of politics of disorder and a wartime of disorder was great social dislocation in the south once the revolutionary war moved into the south in the middle of a war and has offered all kinds of opportunities of mobility and escape to see to north even to west of the west so we have an american revolution is is is a tremendous blow really in the immediate sense to slavery itself in that it produces it's it's the first great producer of a free black population in the eighteenth century and not only because in the north you get emancipation programs in all the northern states which creates a real free black population in the north but even in the south but the seventy nine days in the wake of the american revolution theres a significant number of free blacks would gain their freedom by one means or
another during the revolutionary or such that was seventy nine is that free black population in the south is a distinct group of people with which white southerners in the legislatures and how to figure out a way to do worries among those people to be defined didn't have any kinds of rights all kinds of rights and have to be denied the revolution produces a free black population it also should be said produced part of a free black population because some slave owners in the south do indeed because of revolutionary ideology decide the men he met there slaves to the host of reasons are always by which time blacks could become free in the midst of the revolution most important of which was simply the dislocation that the war itself corps and the opportunities of flight and skip paris
but like many other moments in american history the revolutionary war and its immediate aftermath is a time of great hope and possibility is also a tie i'm a lover of crushed toes for for many blacks in the south because just as there is this increasing free black population of the war there's also an increasing interest on the part of white southerners to import more slaves and expand the system of slavery so in the immediate aftermath of the american right lucian what the revolution had come to mean to many southern blacks was that they were riveted into and even an even more stern our regime of slavery but in seventy nine in the turn of the eighteenth century as slavery continued to expand in the deep south fb
well mr history as a process of contradictions allows is developed to develop a sense of irony to it to begin to understand that history is not linear history itself is not going anywhere in particular history does not have a particular in place that is going to is not happening and some kind of line of progress or some kind of an escalator up throughout time history is what human beings naked and it is therefore history is the contradictions within human nature itself and there's no better example of american history than this founding event this this revolution that is rooted in his glorious doctrines of the declaration of independence in a country that nevertheless as this hideous and growing system of slavery seeing history in terms of contradictions reminds is the to that we may have found ourselves on either side of those contradictions depending on accidents of birds
singing history is a process of contradictions reminds us a precaution ourselves against the kind of righteousness of one cause or another cut their eight the one mystery want that particular singing history is a process of contradictions that prepares us to understand the conflicts in history as well as just the continuity it allows the soil understanding how slavery could be actually re and four created and reinforced in the interest of liberty how white man's liberty could be at stake in the denial of a of black people's liberty of how the freedom of some can be built upon literally formed out of the denial that freedom to others we often learn most about something one we when we were work it
in terms of an antithesis we often understand perhaps what this idea of freedom means in america for example one we understand is denied us women understand more about those first principles of the declaration of independence we understand how they were being denied but at the same time they were being denied to a vast number of people in american society those very people were saying to the country that the spurs will belong to them too but they were their principles as well that they would clean their place in those inalienable rights whatever the drafters of that backing the man said this book fb
it's b or during the revolution among blacks it was not clear distractions of revolutionary ideology that they were concern was that what they were concerned with his perhaps would later black abolitionist would actually call practical abolition they were end soon and that their own liberty their own security a safe haven a place they could go and perhaps take their family iowa where they'd be free whether to make a new start now step placement the british army if that mic placement the american continental army of the placement simply escaping westward into the appalachian mountains they might go their greatest concern from blab during the american revolution was in many ways their own security and their own freedom and again they saw no doubt saw him in the revolutionary war itself the possibilities for this because of the degree of political and social
disorder that the war brought about the disorder of american society during the revolution is possible the freedom and so forth freeway in the ambulances one important things about the great awakening and seventeen forties was was what one might call the spread of the evangelical mine among whites and blacks and what that perhaps meant was the people now believe in the single religious conversion and now in an hour that could also come a growing if vague face but you could also begin to change the society more broadly that you could begin to convert the larger society
to real change part of the evangelical spirit was this idea that you could take out of a religious message out to people and changing them almost overnight perhaps overnight it eventually would follow a kind of evangelical world view that said you could also begin to change society and changed perhaps rapidly so i think you can say at least in general terms that the great awakening and there's this great flowering of evangelicalism the middle of the eighteenth century gave people some kind of faith and historical change well it has been i mean on a great awakening of christian evangelicalism blacks may have taken the idea particularly that now there was a god if
you like who was on their side or god they could convert to their side in a sense a god when their interests at heart i gotta was a deliver a god who have a kind of personal interest in this flock is was not a distant faraway god and some kind of institutional church but it was a godsend evangelicals involved in the daily lives of people involved in every thought and every deed of your life and it's kind of personal relationship with god with the supernatural seems to be one of the things that that drew black people to christianity in the eighteenth century and what we now again about evangelicalism is is that and it also gave people of faith that real change could occur in the world because change is supposed to knock her in your own heart and if you come to believe that you may believe also the change could occur in the world that god can come into your own life and change you
Africans in America
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Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 2 of 4
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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David Blight is interviewed about the contradictions of freedom and prosperity, The Great Awakening of the 1740s, Christianity spreads among black Americans, the Declaration of Independence and the challenge to slavery, The Constitution, free states vs. slave states, free blacks resulting from the Revolutionary War, expansion of southern slavery after the Revolution.
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
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Chicago: “Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 2 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; 102; Revolution; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 2 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; 102; Revolution; Interview with David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies, Amherst College. 2 of 4 . Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from