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The court case of Ableman v. Booth stemmed from the capture of a fugitive slave named Joshua Glover just outside of Racine, Wisconsin, on 10 March 1854. Federal marshals accompanying Glover's owner, a Missourian named Bennami Garland, broke into the shack Glover was occupying and forcibly detained him after a spirited resistance. Glover was taken overnight by wagon to the county jail in Milwaukee, thirty miles north. Garland and the federal marshals intended to take Glover before the U.S. district court judge the next morning to authorize his return to Missouri.

Sherman Booth, Milwaukee's most prominent abolitionist and the publisher of the Milwaukee Free Democrat was alerted to Glover s incarceration by early morning and spread the news quickly throughout the abolitionist community While lawyers obtained a writ of habeas corpus from a county court on Glover s behalf to protect him against illegal imprisonment Booth and ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

Article

Richard S. Newman, Paul Finkelman, and Carl E. Prince

[This entry contains three subentries dealing with abolitionism from the late seventeenth century through the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in1865. The first article discusses the definition of abolitionism as differentiated from antislavery activism and its forms including Garrisonian and non Garrisonian abolition The second article describes ...

Article

During the three decades that preceded the Civil War, abolitionism was a major factor in electoral politics. Most historians use the term abolitionism to refer to antislavery activism between the early 1830s, when William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator, and the American Civil War (1861–1865). The term also refers to the antislavery crusade that mobilized many African Americans and a small minority of whites, who saw their goal realized during the Civil War. Historians also commonly distinguish abolitionism, a morally grounded and uncompromising social reform movement, from political antislavery—represented, for example, by the Free Soil or Republican parties—which advocated more limited political solutions, such as keeping slavery out of the western territories of the United States, and was more amenable to compromise.

Abolitionists played a key role in setting the terms of the debate over slavery and in making it a compelling moral issue Yet abolitionists ...

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One of the most important Supreme Court decisions in the history of the United States, Dred Scott v. Sandford had tremendous political ramifications during the turbulent period just prior to the Civil War. Dred Scott (born Sam Blow) sued his master John Sanford (Sanford's name was misspelled “Sandford” by the court) for his freedom on the grounds that he had previously resided on free soil. Scott's former master, an army surgeon named John Emerson, had taken him to the state of Illinois, where slavery was outlawed by the state constitution of 1818, and later to Fort Snelling in the Wisconsin Territory (present-day Minnesota), where Congress had prohibited slavery under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. There was precedent for Scott's case; in Rachael v. Walker (1837), the slave of an army officer was freed upon returning to Missouri from Fort Snelling.

The case was argued twice before the Supreme Court in ...

Article

Rob Fink

As African Americans fought racial prejudice in the United States following the Civil War, some black leaders proposed a strategy of accommodation. The idea of accommodation called for African Americans to work with whites and accept some discrimination in an effort to achieve economic success and physical security. The idea proved controversial: many black leaders opposed accommodation as counterproductive.

Booker T. Washington served as the champion of accommodation. Born a slave in 1856 Washington received a degree from the Hampton Institute before being invited to head up the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama At Tuskegee Washington used industrial education to promote accommodation by African Americans Because of his background Washington recognized the difficulties faced by southern blacks in their quest for civil rights He knew firsthand that during the 1860s and 1870s whites in the South found it hard to accept African Americans as free No one argued against the ...

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On the evening of 8 December 1811 thirty one year old Charles Deslondes led a group of slaves along the Louisiana coast in what would become the largest protracted slave uprising in American history Also known as the German Coast Uprising the rebel force burned plantations and freed other slaves as it marched toward New Orleans In January 1812 Deslondes s soldiers battled a militia led by General Wade Hampton 1752 1835 at Francois Bernard Bernoudi s plantation which is briefly summarized in the newspaper article below After two days of fighting which included cavalry and pikes the militia defeated the slaves and captured Deslondes A tribunal held soon thereafter sentenced Deslondes and over a dozen other leaders of the revolt to death The bodies were dismembered and Deslondes s head was placed on a pike as a warning against future uprisings In the context of the Haitian Revolution and ...

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Although the colony of Maryland imported indentured servants to work in the burgeoning tobacco industry the law initially allowed for a process of manumission as well as some basic legal rights for workers Moreover blacks were among several ethnic groups who worked as indentured servants In September 1664 however a session of Maryland s General Assembly passed a new law focused specifically on African Americans declaring that all black servants were to now be labeled as slaves on a permanent basis In addition freeborn women who married slaves would also serve their husband s master and their children would also become the master s property for the term of their lives a provision designed to prevent shameful interracial relationships The act demonstrates that slavery was not a practice inherited by the colony but was instead imposed well over a generation after Maryland was founded It would take until 1864 for ...

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The Deslondes Uprising of 1811—in which several hundred Louisiana slaves rose up and launched attacks along the Mississippi River—provoked an especially brutal response from the local militias and state government. In a pitched battle that lasted several days, slave forces under rebel leader Charles Deslandes (Deslondes) (1780–1811) engaged an armed militia assembled under the order of Governor William C. Claiborne. The slaveholders eventually subdued the rebels and sentenced the ringleaders to death. Deslandes and his comrades were executed, mutilated, and displayed as a warning to other slaves. In the act signed by Claiborne below, a bounty is placed on the remaining fugitives.

Article

Karen Backstein

dancer and arts administrator, was born in New York City, the daughter of Julius J. Adams, a journalist who rose to managing editor of the New York Amsterdam News, and Olive A. Adams, an accomplished pianist. Her parents cultivated in her a deep appreciation of the arts, as well as a legacy of social activism that stayed with Adams throughout her life—both during her career as a dancer and after her retirement from the stage, when she helped found community-based arts centers for children in Harlem. The dance writer Muriel Topaz described the Adamses' home as a “center of social and political activity,” and noted that the Global News Syndicate, an organization of black newspapers, was founded in their small apartment (Topaz, 30).

When she was eight years old Adams entered New York s progressive Ethical Culture School an institution dedicated to the moral as well ...

Article

Toward the end of his long life, the congressman John Quincy Adams (1767–1848), son of John and Abigail Adams, was notorious for his militant stands against slavery and its expansion in the Republic that his parents had helped found. It is possible to argue that he absorbed many of his views from his mother, who told her husband that she had doubts about southerners and their commitment to liberty. On 31 March 1776 Abigail Adams wrote in a letter to her husband,

I have sometimes been ready to think that passion for liberty cannot be equally strong in the breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain, that it is not founded upon that generous and Christian principle of doing unto others as we would that others do unto us.

(Withey, p. 81)

In fact ...

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In the long tradition of American social activism the influence of the sisters Grimké looms large Natives of South Carolina Sarah Grimké and the younger Angelina Grimké Weld were among their country s earliest proponents of equal rights for all Americans as well as for that most cherished of liberal institutions the universal adult franchise They were also fierce abolitionists a position that frequently earned them the derision of male observers not a few of whom were their fellows in the fight against the institution of slavery who reckoned such political posturing unfit for women of good breeding The sisters also dared to shine a light on the rape of female slaves and had the temerity to suggest a sisterhood among women of all colors again to the outraged brays of Southern slaveholders and Northern abolitionists alike Too early for their time the convictions and beliefs of the sisters Grimké ...

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Ella Josephine Baker (1903–1986) was a grassroots activist who helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), after having already worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for several years. Among the SNCC’s major accomplishments were the 1961 Freedom Rides and numerous initiatives to register African Americans to vote. The speech below is taken from a voter registration drive in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where Baker was introduced by fellow activist Dr. Aaron Henry (1922–1997). Her message in this excerpt demonstrates her commitment to making the civil rights movement more democratic—specifically, Baker often criticized civil rights organizations for being dominated by men. In this address, she playfully chastises Henry for suggesting that her involvement in the movement is a mere “fling,” and later calls out another leader who prematurely declares the movement to be nearing its completion.

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The Baptist minister and abolitionist Nathaniel Paul c 1793 1839 delivered the speech excerpted below on 5 July 1827 following the abolition of slavery in the state of New York The state had gradually worked toward emancipation starting with a 1799 law allowing for slaves born after that year to be freed after a long period of service twenty eight years for men twenty five for women Though it represented progress it was not bold enough for the increasingly popular Methodist church which pushed for a more comprehensive emancipation statute In 1817 Governor Daniel D Tompkins signed a law mandating freedom for slaves within ten years Paul s speech is memorable for its hopeful yet cautious tone and for its biting critique of the hypocrisy of a supposedly free country that still practices slavery This contradiction he says stain s the national character and renders the American republic a by ...

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In March 2010 Shirley Sherrod b 1948 the Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture USDA delivered a speech before the state chapter of the NAACP What was supposed to be an inspirational address detailing Sherrod s rise to prominence and years of service instead became the fodder for a racially charged partisan debate that played out in the national news media In the speech reproduced below Sherrod frankly discusses her painful childhood in Georgia When Sherrod was a teenager her father was murdered by a white man who was never prosecuted for his crime The event compelled Sherrod to commit herself to combating the racial inequalities in the Jim Crow South At the same time she admitts to harboring a deep distrust of white people When I made that commitment she states I was making that commitment to black people and to black ...

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Following the Civil War, Mississippi was the first state to enact a so-called Black Code, a set of laws designed to control the behavior, movement, and opportunities of the newly freed slaves. In effect, the laws codified the vigilante system of justice used to control minor offenses such as vagrancy, shifting it to the courts and the state bureaucracy. Blacks had to carry identification proving that they were employed and remained subject to humiliating and violent corporal punishments. The system was designed to make it nearly impossible for freed slaves to leave the homes of their former masters. Even when Congress attempted to repeal the Black Codes with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, southern states continued to implement statutes that gave local law enforcement agencies increased discretion with little oversight.

South Carolina s version of the Black Codes was even more extensive and within a generation helped to wipe ...

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The day-to-day trade of human beings involved the brutal practice of separating mothers from their children. Though there were some laws to protect the rights of slave women, the usual practice was to sell mothers with their infants together. However, as the advertisement below indicates, a child who had reached the age of six was already regarded as old enough to be bought separately. This post, it should be noted, is found in the Pennsylvania Gazette, a Philadelphia-based newspaper cofounded by Benjamin Franklin.

Article

Jeffrey A. Fortin

The idea of Africa changed dramatically from antiquity to the era of European exploration and colonization; European and African views of each other continually transformed as a result of the evolving nature of their interaction. The Atlantic slave trade, perhaps the most significant event in the history of Africa, forever changed the manner in which Africans and Europeans intermingled. Perceptions of Africa were fluid, shifting according to geographic, economic, political, racial, and religious factors stemming from within as well as outside the continent. By 1830 the most broadly held notion of Africa had transformed from one of reverence, by the peoples of antiquity, to one of contempt and apprehension, by early modern Europeans. For Africans in the diaspora, the land of their ancestors' birth remained a symbol of guidance, hope, and spirituality.

Article

Frank A. Salamone

Africa has meant many different things to many different people. The word “Africa” may have come from a Greek word meaning “without cold” or from a Latin reference to the “land of the Afri,” probably a Berber tribe. There is also a similar Latin word meaning “warm.” Whatever the origin of the word itself, “Africa” has certain meanings for African Americans and other meanings for white Americans. Within each of these groups, of course, there are many subdivisions, ranging along the entire spectrum of political and cultural opinions.

For some time, it was common for Europeans and white Americans to refer to Africa as the Dark Continent, with a derogatory connotation. The word “Africa” carried with it the meaning of lack of civilization, intellect, and sophistication. As Dorothy Hammond and Alta Jablow observe in The Myth of Africa the West defined Africa as that which the West was not ...

Article

The urban uprisings of the late 1960s in the United States brought together black intellectuals and the urban masses, producing a new generation of militant organizations. The 1970s witnessed a resurgence of Pan-Africanism in the Black Power movement. A key group dedicated to the civil rights movement in the United States and the liberation struggle in Africa, the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), was a united front of black nationalist, Pan-Africanist, and Marxist groups.

At a 1963 meeting, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) declared 25 May African Liberation Day (ALD). In 1971, the African American educator Owusu Saduakai Howard Fuller led a delegation of black nationalists to Africa They met with leaders of the fight against Portuguese colonialism in Angola Guinea Bissau and Mozambique Upon the group s return Saduakai announced the establishment of the African Liberation Day Coordinating Committee whose purpose was to generate support among ...