In the early 19th century, slavery was a major component of the American Lifestyles. During this period, America was rapidly evolving from a largely agriculture dependant region to a world industrial power. This major shift required an immense amount of labor that was to be provided by the blacks through slavery. However, despite the thirst for laborers to work in the plantations and other sectors of the economy, the Northern states had already abolished slavery by the year 1820. Many people were of the thought that slavery was to gradually fade away of its own accord. This had happened in the North; however, with the innovation of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney, slavery in the south soon grew to unimaginable heights. The cotton gin was a piece of equipment which was designed to remove the cotton from its seeds. This cotton machine made the cotton and textile business to explode in the south since the previous invention was much of labor-intensive type and therefore unprofitable. It is also during this period that both the black and white women assumed different roles that led to the adoption of the modern rights of women. In this paper, I will discuss the first half of the 19th century Blacks and white societies, role of women during this period, the abolitionist movements and also touch on the resistance and rebellion that occurred during this period in history.
Extremists against slavery in the South, also called abolitionists, incited the general populace to reform movements in the hopes of completely abolishing slavery in America by following in the footsteps of the Northern states who were by then opposed to subjecting fellow human beings into slavery. Among the notable figures who were in the Frontline to fighting slavery was the prominent American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. He was an influential abolitionist who mostly used his position as an editor in the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator to fight slavery and to encourage feminist to be allowed to participate fully in society activities(Thompson,2003,p41). He was a radical extremist who used non-violence and passive resistance as a method of liberating slaves. In addition to the abolitionist movements, the slave family in the South also instituted resistance and rebellion against the white class structures of authorities. These resistances and rebellions happened in various active and passive ways. The most common form of resistance was the Day-to-Day resistance style. It involved staging slowdowns, breaking tools, sabotage, committing acts of arson or even feigning illness.
Rebellions and revolts were mostly instituted when the slaves outnumbered the whites, when pushed to hard social and economic situations, if the masters happened to be absent and also when a split in the ruling class had occurred. In the South, violent resistance and rebellions were very rare because of the large number of the whites as compared to the slaves. However, when revolts occurred, they led to mass executions of the blacks, in the case of a slave conspiracy being uncovered; the authorities in the south would execute the slaves mostly through hanging. For instance, in 1831, a slave leader by the name Nat Turner led a revolt that led to the killing of 60 whites (Greenberg, 2004p143). After the white authority ultimately subdued this rebellion, Nat Turner was sentenced to death through hanging alongside 100 more slaves who had participated in the insurrection. It is worth noting that there existed very unfavorable preconditions in the South to allow for successful rebellions, therefore they solely depended on the efforts and dedication of Abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison to secure their freedom.
There have been an array of of accounts aimed at defining the context of black slavery and the role that the black woman played in the early 19th century. During this era, paternalism was largely exercised on both black men and women who were by then being perceived as inferior beings.For most slave owners , paternalism was the ideology that they used to allow themselves as benevolent and to justify how they used to treat the slaves. The chief role of the black woman during slavery was that of motherhood. In addition, they were also laborers in the white’s plantations, breeders and concubines in the American society. The Slave family was the basic unit and component of the slave life in the early 19th century. An ideal slave family included a father, mother and their children. It is worth noting that that slave marriages were not legally recognized. However, after the advent of industrialization, the black woman's realization took place and they started to welcome wage labor. Similarly, the white woman was also perceived as inferior by her community and was only expected to be married off and tend to her family needs and undertake all the chores of a married woman. However, by mid-19th century, with the expansion of the school system, many white women became teachers after attending training colleges. In addition, the nursing profession that was being looked down upon now became a respectable career for the white woman after the tireless efforts of Florence Nightgale in transforming nursing during the civil war.
In conclusion, the most conspicuous difference between the north and the South during the first half of the 19h century was in regard to slavery. The North was not in support of slavery while the south was the reason the Second Middle Passage existed, which led to millions of slaves being sold from their homes to work in the vast cotton plantations in the upper parts of the South especially in Virginia and Maryland. The term ‘Middle passage’ was being used to refer to the transportation of slaves across the Atlantic. But due to the length of the new journey that the slave traders used in the early 19th century; through the south, people started to refer to this journey as the second ’middle passage’,/The black slaves were tortured especially through whipping, subjected to inhumane conditions and at times killed. Nonetheless, the mid and late 19th century reform movements for the abolition of slave trade illustrated a strong sense of democracy and respect for women's rights by the people of America in the period under study.
Greenberg, K. S. (Ed.). (2003). Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory: A Slave
Rebellion in History and Memory. Oxford University Press, USA.
Thompson, C. B. (2003). Antislavery Political Writings, 1833-1860: A Reader. ME Sharpe.