Hebert Apthekers book; American Negro Slave Revolts gives a documented history of the negro slaves in America. The book provides an in-depth analysis of how the Negroes slaves reacted and acted on their precarious situation over a period of two centuries. Using well chronologies events the author can give an analysis of how the slaves were able to insurrect against the establishment. The author tries to illustrate that the Negroes were actively involved in slavery and had not accepted the system of slavery as insinuated in certain quarters. As the author asserts, the slaves used various forms of disapproval to show their discontentment with the system. The slaves revolted, insurrected, demonstrated and rebelled against their masters. The author also illustrates how the slaves masters reacted to the slaves discontentment. The slaves were beaten up, incarcerated, sometimes seduced into submission while other slaves ended up losing their lives. Through the book, Herbert can give the genesis of slave abolition that is a fundamental aspect of the American history. The negroes themselves were crucial in initiating the fight against slavery; the author gives a chronology of various ways the negroes rose up against slavery in different regions and states in America before it become an essential synonymous rallying call that defined the Federation of America.
The author gives a detailed description of the rise of slavery in various regions in America and how the slaves reacted to it. The negro slaves greatly helped shape the foundation of America as through their resistance the basis of the foundations and values that made America were restored. The double standard of the slave owners was also brought forward. The slave owners most of whom had fought in the Republican war that called for the accordance of equality of every American were against the abolishment of the slavery system that was deeply entrenched in their system. The author is able to bring out how slavery was deeply entrenched in the American society including the religious foundations of America. The author is able to illustrate how the church was able to use the bible to justify the incarceration of the slaves. The negroes were taught in church to accept to be beaten up by their masters and not do anything as they will be awarded in heaven.
The book gives critical information on how rebellions and resistance rocked the American slave society persistently for over two centuries. The resistances and rebellions by the slaves as illustrated by the author were initiated by the slaves themselves sometimes on a small scale while in other times done on a relatively large scale involving many slaves who not only joined and participated in the rebellion, but many times formed groups that would have made their resistance more powerful. The negroes involvement in the fight against slavery was not therefore of docility and passiveness but rather that of activeness as they did not enjoy being at the service and mercy of their master.
Key chapters in the book were essential in establishing the predicament of the slaves in America. The chapters; The Fear of Rebellion, The Machinery of Control and Exaggeration, Distortion, Censorship contained the predicament that the slaves were facing that made it necessary for them to do something about the situation in order for them to be respected as human beings who are equal to their masters; and also deserve the human respect as others. The ill treatment of the slaves is well illustrated in the chapters and the way the whites did not want the status quo disrupted the need to protect the institution of slavery hence. Though the slave owners who were the whites had actively participated in the Revolutionary war where they fought for the Republicans principles to be recognized. After winning the war, the same champions for the Republican principles that promoted the need for respect for individual human rights were neglected for the slaves due to the color of their skin. The whites were so motivated by the slave ownership in that it curtailed any form of freedom for the slaves hence limit their rights to assemble, free press, free speech and fair and free access to jury trials. The slave owners instilled fear among those supporting the freedom of the slaves especially the groups that were well known to be pro anti-slavery movement. The atmosphere of fear that was created as a result did affect not only the slaves but also the white slave owners who increasingly felt threatened and moved to curtail the civil liberties of the slave, and this was contrary to the principles of the revolution that they had actively fought for. In some states in America, though we had free slaves their movement was curtailed as they were to lose their freedom upon leaving the states that granted them freedom. Furthermore free slaves were not allowed to own arms and their access to the arms were limited. Though negroes and free slaves were part of the American armed force, their participation in the fight against slaves revolts was limited as the number of those participating had to be reduced.
The author seems to be biased towards sanitizing and justifying every action that the slaves did not matter how inconsequential or illogical it appeared. Aptheker reference to fugitive slaves who had rebelled against slavery and stayed in a remote swamp that was inaccessible, and who periodically preyed on the locals tried to put the slaves in a positive light. The slaves act of staying away from the general population though they were significant in numbers and showed some form of discontentment was not entirely justifiable or a brilliant strategy that could have a large impact on the general movement of Negroes against slavery.
The many slaves actions that Aptheker cites, almost 250 slaves actions are vital in ensuring that the role of slaves in defining the aspect of slavery in American history is well recognized. The negroes were key stakeholders in slave movements that were staged in different parts of America, both as slaves and slave abolitionists. The various strategies they used to go against the establishment of slavery is well demonstrated using chronological examples that are well illustrated by the author. The fight for the abolishing slavery in America indeed started with the simple rebellion of the slaves against the inhumane nature of the jobs they were subjected to by their white slave owners. The ability of the movement to be a defining cause for the foundation of the Federation was thus defined by the slaves who were discontented with the inhumane conditions they were being exposed to.
Aptheker, H. (1964). American Negro slave revolts. New York: International publishers.
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