FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM – THE STORY OF AMERICAN BLACKS
In the early years of the American republic, Blacks were quite optimistic for the end of their slavery. Many legislative, judicial and constitutional initiatives helped Blacks overcome their inferior mindset and thus they started thinking themselves to be as free and equal as whites. They drew their inspiration from American and French revolutions. They believed in self help and self determinations. They also worked side by side with whites whenever got the chance.Approximately 91 % of the Blacks were slaves and approximately only 9% were free. Virginia had approximately 13000 free Black men but even that was also just 4% of their total population.
Between 1790-1800, they started to spread their communities by migrating to port cities like Boston, and engaging themselves in easy going jobs. They worked endlessly to help other Blacks to migrate and build their population. Laws were made to stop this migration but failed.Likewise they grew in Philadelphia and New York City where the percentages of slaves declined from 65% to merely 6% from 1790-1800 and by the end of the next decade approximately all Blacks were free. They established themselves in various skilled jobs like carpenters, sail-makers, bakers butchers barbers and other skilled workers.In the late 18th and early 19th Century, Blacks started to grow their own communities and associations like that of mutual-aid societies, schools and churches. Few famous preachers appeared from this group like Richard Allen, John Marrant and Absalom Jones.
Initially Black’s churches were controlled by white men, but later on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled their independence from white men’s influence. Though, white philanthropists contributed a lot towards helping and improving Black societies, but Black did not only rely on white donors and they also established themselves independently. Blacks were not allowed to vote in elections, but later Black who owned property, with minimum worth $250, was allowed to vote. After the Haitian and French revolution, Black from France were allowed to to establish trade relations with America as it was conceived to be in the best American interest, by the then American President.
Blacks also realized the importance of literature to support their cause and adopted many literacy forms to show their position in white dominated societies. Many famous writers like Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, James Forten and Prince Hall etc. wrote for Blacks and were very popular. They always highlighted black’s efforts in each of their writings. In the early 19th century Prince Hall made pamphlets, as it was the only available means of print media before the advent of newspaper, on the Masonry literatures and the Blacks role in it.Later many writers adopted different ways to attain the attention of white people along with black readers. Absalom Jones and Richard Allen defended their race with their pamphlets very tactfully when different other writers tried to create interracial conflicts. Spiritual autobiographies by Jupiter Hammon and Banneker’s almanacs helped blacks flourish as they became very popular within no time.
During the 1812 war between the US and Great Britain, black offered their services and later on proved themselves worthy of defending their motherland by performing various gallantry actions. Whether in the Navy or on the battlefield of Orleans, they proved themselves to be the best.After the 1812 war, despite the above mentioned efforts, the many of the American blacks started feeling that all hopes of true freedom in America are hollow and thus movement started growing about migrating to different places like Canada, the Caribbean, and Great Britain itself or even back to Africa, a place from where they were forcefully brought during slavery. Few whites also encouraged their migration as they thought it to be good if numbers of slaves are kept within limits.
However, most of the blacks were never in favor of forced colonization and the option of going out of America. Slowly all the men who were advocating the movement of blacks in other places outside America were termed to be “Men of mistaken views” and slowly great opposition stated growing among blacks towards forced colonization.Black men preferred to stay and fight for their rights in America than to go back to Africa. Gabriel’s rebellion was one such planned and coordinated mutiny but all efforts went in vain because of bad weather. All other rebellions and conspiracies by blacks were ruthlessly crushed; they got nothing except almost 500 blacks lost their lives in these acts, allegedly involved in conspiracies and revolt planning.
In America till then there was freedom of expression for slaves in south as was available to the inhabitants of North. Unlike the success of the slaves of Haiti, the blacks in America were there for many more years of the fight against the oppression to finally get their victory and so sought after ‘FREEDOM” to live their life on their own terms.