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Brief Overview of Important Slave Trade Background
Transcript of Brief Overview of Important Slave Trade Background
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"Notes on the State of Virginia" was written by Jefferson in 1785 and included a section discussing the emancipation of slaves and the complications that would arise.
Jefferson wrote, "It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expense of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race."
Jefferson proposed that free slaves be sent to Africa, even if they had been born in the United States in order to avoid such uprisings and potential violence.
Jefferson did believe that slavery was "demoralizing" for every part of society. However, he also asserted that African Americans were inferior in both appearance and intelligence. So, you have a mixed bag there, at best.
Thomas Jefferson and Slavery
Uncle Tom's Cabin
was written by Harriett Beecher Stowe, a white woman, and was released in serial format in a newspaper in 1852, nine years before the start of the Civil War. Stowe was a firm believer that slavery violated the Biblical rule that we must love our neighbors as ourselves and even helped her servant, whom she discovered was a runaway slave, flee to Canada rather than be returned.
The main character, Uncle Tom, is an abused slave, and the novel attempts to show the reality of slavery, while asserting that the practice is immoral. It was a best seller.
Five years later, unfortunately, in 1857, the Dred Scott Decision (made by the Supreme Court) asserted that African Americans could not be citizens of the United States. This decision was spurred by Scott's attempt to sue for his freedom when his masters brought him into a free state. Because he was found to not be a citizen, Scott therefore could not sue. This is widely regarded as the worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court. Even Chief Justice C. E. Hughes (serving from 1930-1941) called the decision "the Court's greatest self-inflicted wound."
Uncle Tom's Cabin
and the Dred Scott Decision
Nat Turner, a highly intelligent slave, believed that a solar eclipse was a sign from God to free slaves Southampton County, Virginia. He and other slaves went door to door, freeing slaves and killing any white people they encountered. Ultimately, they killed roughly 60 white men, women, and children.
In retaliation, the militia executed 56 slaves and killed more than a hundred more, many of whom had no part in the rebellion.
News of this rebellion spread and was embellished, causing fear and attacks across the South.
Once Turner was caught and found guilty, sentenced to die, he was asked if he regretted it. His response: "Was Christ not crucified?" Turner was hanged; then his corpse was flayed, beheaded, and quartered.
Nat Turner's Rebellion - 1831
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, passed by Congress (48 yes, 7 no, 14 abstain), guaranteed the return of an escaped slave to his or her master, citing the U.S. Constitution (Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3).
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (part of The Compromise of 1850 between the North and South) sounds very similar on the surface. For the best explanation of what changed, read more here:
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Fugitive Slave Act and Compromise
British Slave Trade Abolition
The Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation
The push to abolish slavery in England began in
1772, when the judgement in Sommersett's Case
freed a slave. Progress toward abolition was steadily made until 1808, when the slave trade (though not slavery) was outlawed. So, new slaves could not be purchased, but that is small consolation to those already enslaved or born into slavery.
Slavery was abolished across the British Empire (with a few exceptions) in 1833. The exceptions were repealed in 1843, making slavery illegal in the entirety of the British Empire, 18 years before the start of the Civil War in America.
The American Civil War lasted from April 12, 1861 to May 9, 1865, killing more than 620,000 men in a country with a population of about 31 million (roughly 2% of the population).
You should be familiar with this war, but if you need a few refreshers, visit: http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/10-facts-about-the-civil-war/
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order, on January 1, 1863, two years before the fighting stopped. This act officially freed all slaves in the United States.
Slave ships, thankfully, became a horror of the past.