Equality for All?: Slavery and Race in the New Republic

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Equality for All?: Slavery and Race in the New Republic Leila K. Blackbird lkbla[email protected]

Race Relations in Early to Revolutionary America:

Race Relations in Early to Revolutionary America White settler colonialism, by definition, functions through violence, and the replacement of Indigenous populations with an invasive settler  society . Slavery, the theft of labor, and land-theft are inherently intertwined. This leads to the codification of white supremacy into law in the New Republic. So, how did early Americans reconcile Enlightenment ideals such as equality with slaveholding ? Racial separation was a “benevolent” rallying point, even for slavery’s opponents. Many founders supported the idea of forced deportation or resettlement. There is no confusion that the development of the United States into a nation-state w as made possible with the creation of policies that institutionalized racism. Main Themes:


Timeline: 1492 : Slavery of Natives in the New World was extreme and brutal, resulting in more deaths than smallpox, influenza, and malaria combined. Spanish slave raids traveled across modern Caribbean, U.S. mainland, Gulf region, and Florida. 1562 : Britain joins the slave trade. Africans are shipped to Hispaniola. Natives are still being captured and transported, especially by the Spanish, from across the modern Gulf Coast, Eastern coast of Mexico, and Central America. 1581 : First African slaves were brought to the mainland United States, to what was then Spanish Florida at St. Augustine. 1619 : First African slaves were brought to the New England colonies, to Jamestown. The enslavement of Natives did not go away but, rather, it coexisted with an ever-growing African slavery through the development of the Triangular Trade. 1636 : The colonies entered the slave trade. Built and launched first American slave carrier, the Desire, in Massachusetts. 1641 : Massachusetts is first colony to “legalize” Native and Black slavery. All of New England Confederation follows suit. 1663 : Maryland is first colony to pass a law creating the precedent of Black slavery in perpetuity for life. 1691 : Virginia makes manumission illegal, passes first anti-miscegenation laws. South Carolina passes slave codes. 1705 : Virginia Slave Code codifies into law slave status, defining slaves as real estate. Other states follow example. 1706 : Connecticut requires that all Natives, Blacks, and “mulattos” gain permission to engage in trade. 1708 : Rhode Island requires that slaves must be accompanied by their masters when among free persons. 1710 : New York forbids all Natives, Blacks, and “mulattos” from walking at night without lighted lanterns. 1712 : New York makes it illegal for freed Natives, Blacks, and “mulattos” to own real estate or hold any property. Contact, Colonization, and Capture


Timeline: 1735 : Georgia petitions Britain for the legalization of slavery in its colony . 1740 : South Carolina passes the Comprehensive Negro Act making it illegal for Black slaves to assemble in groups, raise their own food, earn money, and learn to read or write. Legalizes white slave-owners ability to kill rebellious slaves. 1756 : The Seven Years’ War / The French and Indian War began. Resulted in the French losing their posts in Canada. Louisiana went to Spain. Florida went to England. It also created the massive debt that was the cause of the Stamp and Sugar Acts. Ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris, which begins struggle for Indian lands West of the Appalachians – a major precursor to war. 1767 : Virginia’s House of Burgess boycotts the British slave trade in protest of the Townsend Acts. 1774 : The First Continental Congress promises to discontinue British slave trade as tactic to increase domestic slave trade . Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Georgia prohibit the importation of slaves from abroad. 1775 : T he world’s first abolitionist society in founded in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin becomes its president in 1787. George Washington announces a ban on the enlistment of Black people in the army . Lord Dunmore, issues a proclamation announcing that any slave fighting on the side of the British will be liberated. 1776 : In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, members of the Continental Congress sign the Declaration of Independence. 1790 : Franklin petitions Congress to abolish slavery, but this petition is ridiculed and tabled. One month later, the Naturalization Act of 1790 limits citizenship to white people. 1819 : Congress passes Civilization Act of 1819 to “assimilate” free Native Americans. This law provided U.S. government funds to subsidize Protestant missionary educators in order to forcibly convert Natives to Christianity . 1830 : Congress passes Indian Removal Act, which legalized the forced removal of all Natives East of Mississippi to prisoner of war camps in the West. This was done to open lands up for plantations, beginning the “Golden Age” era of the Antebellum South. Contact, Colonization, and Capture

The Declaration of Independence :

The Declaration of Independence In June 1776, the colonists talked about submitting a statement of principles. These principles were influenced by Enlightenment thinkers such as Thomas Paine and his pamphlet , Common Sense . Many point to Thomas Paine as the intellectual godfather of the Revolution . Free them! But I’m great! Benjamin Franklin had been a convert to the cause for emancipation. Jefferson, on the other hand, suggested that his slaves would benefit more from his kindly mastership than from actual liberation. In this way, Enlightenment thinkers impacted the ideological development of the United States. What is often overlooked is how scientific racism also developed during this time.

Thomas Paine also wrote…:

Thomas Paine also wrote… “With what consistency, or decency they [Americans] complain so loudly of attempts to enslave them, while they hold so many hundred thousands in slavery; and annually enslave many thousands more, without any pretence of authority, or claim upon them ?” — From “African Slavery in America” ( Written in 1774 , published in 1775 ) Paine tried to expose the incongruity of slavery in the age of Revolution.

The War Itself: Main Themes:

The War Itself: Main T hemes The fighting in the war ran from April 1775 to November 1782. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 . The Revolution presented a difficult problem to the colonists: race and enlistment. Both individual Natives and Native nations, as well as free and enslaved Black people, fought on both sides of the Revolution depending on which provided the better opportunity for freedom and/or survival at the time. The War for Independence should be viewed as the largest Black slave revolt in U.S. history.

Black People in the Revolutionary War :

Black People in the Revolutionary War “Varied and superficially contradictory activities had one common origin, one set purpose – the achievement of liberty .” – Gary B. Nash, The Forgotten Fifth "The role of African Americans in the Revolution can be best understood by realizing that the major loyalty was not to a place nor to a people, but to a principle."


“Loyalists” In November 1775, Lord Dunmore, promised to free all slaves as a strategy to win the war against the American rebels. B etween 1775 to 1783: Massive defection from slavery! Ultimately resulted in service with both forces. D evelopment of British all-Black “Loyalist” divisions such as the Ethiopian Regiment and the elite Black Brigade, which served in guerrilla combat units. Black soldiers from the North served in twice the proportion to their relative population. After, many were evacuated to Nova Scotia and London where they were later resettled in the colony of Sierra Leone in West Africa. Sierra Leone now has a significant minority of “Krio” people, the descendants of freed Black Americans and West Indians. “Liberty to the Slave”


“Patriots” Early in the War, Black ”Patriots” first had to fight for the right to serve for the American side. Pressure from white Southern leaders led Gen. Washington to purge all African Americans with an order issued November 12, 1775. Washington partially reversed this order 6 weeks later, because he was afraid he wouldn’t have a large enough force. Congress compromised and approved opening the Army to free men only. This expanded after Valley Forge in the winter of 1778-79, leading to the development of all-Black regiments “inspired by stark necessity.”

Famous Black Patriots:

Famous Black Patriots James Forten was born free in Philadelphia and enlisted as a sailor in the Battle of Chesapeake. Prince Whipple and Oliver Cromwell crossed the Delaware with Washington. Agrippa Hull enlisted in the Continental Army and served for six years, becoming a “living legend.”

Neither Loyalist:

Neither Loyalist The War as Rebellion! At least 100,000 Black slaves escaped, most from the Chesapeake region and the Lower South. Where did they go? All over: U.S., Canada, Indian lands, the Caribbean , West Africa, and Spanish Florida & Louisiana. N or Patriot

Some say that the Revolutionary War …:

Some say that the Revolutionary War … …was the First American Civil War. Specifically, it was the first time the North & South split over slavery. o r …that it affirmed the status of African Americans as so-called “inferiors” in need of bondage. (This is the ideology behind white Southern paternalism.) Historian Ira Berlin writes about this extensively. Supplemental reading: Berlin , Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2002).

Native Americans in the Revolutionary War:

Native Americans in the Revolutionary War Native erasure and the “Origin Myth” – how settler colonialism is reflected in American History. Westward expansion as a catalyst. Nations and individuals had different alliances, goals, and needs.

The Aftermath of the War:

The Aftermath of the War An organized anti-slavery movement. Emancipation in PA, MA, VT, and NH. Gradual emancipation in CT, RI, NY, and NJ. A growing population of free people of color. No abolition in the South & the creation of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793. Northwest Ordinance of 1787 prohibited Black slavery in OH, IN, IL, WI, and MI. This led to a poorly-documented revitalization of Native enslavement in the so-called “free-soil” West. Relocation of Natives East of the Mississippi opened up lands West of Appalachia. This led to the development of a new plantation economy and the Antebellum South.