Introduction to the Revolutionary Era
After the Revolutionary War there was a deliberation over slavery in America. The
Revolutionary War was fought so there would be freedom for all, therefore there should be
freedom for all no matter what race or color. However, many Southerners thought
differently, they needed the slaves to work for them and without them they would have to
do the work themselves or pay someone to do it. The southerners fought for the
legalization of slavery to the very end.
Before the Revolution slavery was a way of life and the
population of slaves start to grow after 1700. However, after the Revolution there were
efforts here and there to reduce slave trade. Legislatures in the north abolished slavery
over an extended period then in 1787 the Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery. As a result
there was thousands of free slaves in the south, but it did not stop the southerners from
having slaves. The tie slaveholders once had with nonslaveholders, such as the Patriots
and Liberalists, ended. The nonslaveholders got together with slaves to fight the
War was only the beginning of the slaveholders
problems. The Declaration of Independence gave the slaves more strength than before. Many
of the slaveholders armed their slaves with weapons so they could defend themselves
against the nonslaveholders. In 1775 Thomas Paine said, How can Americans complain
so loudly of attempts to enslave them while they hold so many hundred in slavery
(Berlin 220). Many Americans stood behind Paine and were firmly against slavery.
In 1789, the France's Revolutionary Assembly publicized the
Declaration of the Rights of Man. Three years later in 1794 the General Assembly
abolished slavery. Saint Domingue was affected seriously. The black people in Saint
Domingue got liberty, equality, and full citizenship. This eventually lead to a dispute
between white and black people. The incidents in Saint Domingue spread throughout the
Eastern Hemisphere. In the United States, slaves in Louisiana and Florida won their
freedom and they demanded full equality as well.
The growing number of freed slaves increased, which gave
hope to many slaves that were still in bondage. Many free blacks were examples for those
that were still enslaved. They showed that freedom was possible and that there will one
day be a chance that they too will be free. Most free blacks wanted universal freedom for
all people enslaved. The Age of Revolution witnessed the liberation of only a small
fraction of the slaves in mainland North America (Berlin 223). At the end of the
revolutionary era more black people were slaves than in the beginning. This was because of
the reopening of the slave trade. The slaveowners thought that if all men were created
equal then those that are slaves are not men. If they were created equal then they would
not be slaves. This had a major influence on both white and black Americans.
The same slaveowners that freed their slaves bought more
and most of the same slaves that were freed ended up as slaves once again. Slaveholders
were then given new weapons to beat their slaves. As in earlier eras, the transit
between slavery and freedom was neither direct nor linear (Berlin 224).
African American lifestyle changed drastically during the
revolutionary era. African American men and women created new lives for themselves. Their
population grew quickly between 1775 and 1810. However, the number of slaves that were
held captive grew even larger. Many slaves made sure nobody would take their freedom from
them by making new names, keeping their masters name, changing around their
lifestyle, finding new homes and jobs. They also created new communities and new
identities as free men and women. Many slaves moved to the city others stayed in the
countryside. Many adopted Christianity as their religion and many others fought for
freedom for all. Election Day was a day black people could show that they were truly a
citizen, a day they enjoyed. Ritual role reversal might be celebrated by those whose
aspirations encompassed only the faint hope for some future liberation; it held little
attraction for those who believed equality to be their birth right.
Many white Americans were not happy with having freed
slaves among them. They were happy that the slaves were free from enslavement, but they
didnt like the fact they had equal rights (to some extent). However, that did not
stop the slaves from claiming their place in society. Many moved back to the motherland,
Africa for a new fresh start at life. Black men and woman that gained their freedom during
the revolutionary era were extremely different from the older generations of slaves. The
older generation of slaves was those from Africa and the current generation was born here
therefore, they dont have the same customs and values like the older generation.
The Revolutionary era also changed the relationship between
the different groups of black people. There were major differences between African born
man and women and American born men and women, but this mattered less as many more
Africans were bought to the United States. The American Revolution showed the differences
among black people but also showed they were fighting for one common reason, freedom. In
the black community the difference between the slaves and free blacks which created new
divisions in the community.
Freeing slaves was a big issue across the world because
slaves cut the job you have to do by half and you dont have to pay them. After the
American Revolution letting the slaves free came up as an issue. The Americans were
fighting for freedom for all and black people should be given freedom. Many places gave
their slaves freedom but slaveowners in the south were very stubborn. They went as far as
to say that slaves were not men and they werent created equal like every white man.
In the end many people including free blacks fought for their freedom and got it. God did
create all people equal and it took a revolutionary war for people to see it the way God
Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone. New York:
Vincent, Stephen A. United States Social History 1865. March 18, 1997.
Online. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Internet. 13,Jan.1999.Available