Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Slavery's Impact on America

Slavery is Entrenched

Slavery undoubtedly was a problem in society and always will be. But what exactly did slavery do to the American society? We started this unit talking about slavery and how it gradually became entrenched in society, both economically and politically. The first essential question I will focus on is "How did slavery become economically entrenched in American society by the early 19th century?". To start off, we read parts of The Founder's Constitution that mentioned slavery. The clauses from different articles basically stated what slaves can and cannot do, and what to do if they break any rules. A quote that stands out from the Constitution is from Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3. "No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due." This is saying that if a slave leaves the state they are working in, even if they go to a state that prohibits slavery, they are not freed, but will be returned to their owner. This really shows how strict things got if a slave dared to escape their assigned state. We also read an article titled "Cotton is King: Slavery is Entrenched in American Society". In the article I learned that people thought that slavery was declining. Slaves were revolting and escaping, people were beginning to get new revolutionary ideas to free their slaves and it seemed like slavery was about to be gone. Also, Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin really had an impact on slavery. The article says "Between 1792, when Whitney invented the cotton gin, and 1794, the price of slaves doubled. By 1825, field hands, who had brought $500 apiece in 1794, were worth $1,500. As the price of slaves grew, so, too, did their numbers. During the first decade of the nineteenth century, the number of slaves in the United States rose by 33 percent; during the following decade, the slave population grew another 29 percent”. This quote explains how just a simple invention that made it easier to get seeds out of cotton increased the number of slaves. We also used an interactive map  to help us get a better understanding on the dramatic growth of cotton production from 1790 to 1860, and also the spread of slavery across the northern and southern US during that 70 year period. By 1860, the South grew a startling amount of 2.28 billion pounds of cotton, up from about 1.5 million pounds in just 70 years. Also, the total slave population of the United States was estimated to be approximately 3,954,000. There were about 690,000 slaves in 1790. The maps below show how different the maps look in 1790 and 1860. Both maps are representing number of slaves. 

The maps also show how in 1790, most slaves were located in the Chesapeake and Carolina areas, and in 1860 the slave population was more spread out across the south. This is another way slavery was entrenched in society. It certainly sped up cotton production, which was obviously the major crop in these times. Northerners and southerners both depended on slaves for cotton. 

Morality of Slavery

In the next lesson on slavery, we focused on the morality of slavery. The two major parts and essential questions are "How does a system of slavery based on race affect human dignity?" and "What human characteristics does such a system tend to ignore?". To start off, we were put into groups and assigned a pro or anti slavery activist. We did this to find out what they were saying about the Antebellum Period (the period before the Civil War).  All the primary source documents we looked up are here. As one can tell, these people had different reactions to the Antebellum Period and different ways of approaching things. My group's activist was Frederick Douglass. In a speech the day after the fourth of July, he called Americans hypocrites for celebrating freedom and liberty for all when they are the nation that abuses slaves like no other. Douglass made the most sense to me and I agreed with his speech. A photo of him with important concepts from his speech is on the right. John Brown, a militant abolitionist, claimed that he was willing to murder for the sake of abolition movement. His goal was to cease weapons from the arsenal and give them to slaves to use against owners. He wanted them to start a revolt. Most people agreed with his cause, just not his violent ways of standing up against slavery. Another advocate, George Fitzhugh, a Virginian lawyer, was pro slavery. He believed that all labor should be enslaved. Fitzhugh also said that free people had more worries and responsibilities than slaves. Slaves were in a 'better position' because they were being taken care of and didn't have to worry about money, clothes, food, or finding a job. What's wrong with his theory is that most slaves were very mistreated, not treated better than free people, and he ignores the idea of them having relationships or a family. We then read an article comparing slavery in Futa Jallon, Africa to slavery in Natchez, Mississippi. This article taught me a lot, like how in Futa Jallon only non-muslims could be enslaved and the sale of Muslims was strictly prohibited. Also, children born of a free father and an enslaved mother were free and could reach the highest echelon of political power. The slaves could hold property and worked in their fields and gardens two days a week to feed themselves. Natchez, MS was a different story. All slaves "lacked full control over their lives". Slaveholders tried to dehumanize them, and the slaves that chopped out old plants completed between four and seven miles of cotton rows each day. After that, we watched Prince Among Slaves, a PBS docu­-drama that depicts the true story of Abdul Rahman. My classmates talked about the film on TodaysMeet.com and the transcript of that can be found here. Rahman was the son of the king of Futa Jallon. He was given command of two thousand men to fight their enemies. He ended up getting ambushed and captured by another African group on his way home from the battle. After being forced to walk 100 miles to the coast, he was sold to white slave traders for rum, guns, and gun powder. He had to go on a cramped and dirty slave ship to go to Natchez, Mississippi. He tells his slaveowner Thomas Foster that he was a prince at home and nobody believes him, and he earns the nickname Prince. Prince ran away, but realized he couldn't get his old life back. He returns back to Natchez and Foster does not punish him. Prince ends up making his plantation one of the best producing plantations, due to his knowledge on cotton. Politicians ended up freeing Prince due to newspaper articles being printed about him that were written by Marshalk. Prince wanted to raise enough money to buy his wife and children's freedom. People start to realize he is not Moorish and withdraw their support. This partly answers the essential question, it proves everything was based on race. He ended up leaving America without his children and finally arrives back in Africa on March 18, 1829. He died at the age of 67. This film and all of our resources proved to us that race affected everything, and slaves were not really treated like the human beings that they were.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reacting Differently Because of Gender

Women's Roles in the 19th Century

In the 19th century, women were not treated equally to men. They were expected to cook, clean, take care of the kids, and basically do everything at home while their husbands were working. The photo to the right is an illustration of what a typical household would in the 19th century during the day. What is rather inaccurate about this picture is the calmness and cleanliness of the house. With 2 little kids, an infant, and a dog to take care of, the woman would probably be more stressed out and running around like a crazy person. The picture also shows toys and books, showing that it was the mother's job to educate and entertain them. Things like food and cleaning supplies would probably make the illustration more realistic. The picture most likely shows an upper class family. The furniture and curtains were very elegant and the toys looked new. Also, the children has access to books which was rare. This sends the message that if you don't live in this lifestyle, you kind of are a failure. Because of all their responsibilities, they were not really taken seriously when asking for equal rights. There were many different reactions to their demands.

Equality Demands + The Seneca Falls Convention

Something needed to change in terms of women's rights. The Laws and Practices included some of the laws and conditions for women in the US in 1848. Some surprising ones included the fact that it was considered improper for a woman to speak in public, and that it was legal in most states for a man to beat his wife. The Seneca Falls Convention played a huge role in getting women what they deserved. At the convention in upstate New York, the idea of women voting was publicly demanded for the first time. In the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, there were resolutions that addressed the concerns from the Laws and Practices. One line from the Declaration said "He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her." The Laws and Practices stated that no college in the US accepted women as regular students until 1837. 

Mixed Reactions to Equality Demands

The first essential question we needed to learn was; how did mid-19th century society react to women's demands for equality? Many people reacted differently to women's demands for equality. First off, let's talk about the reactions that different newspapers had. The Oneida Whig newspaper had a negative reaction to the demands. In their article published August 1, 1848, they wrote "They should recollect however, the illustrious member of their bolting sisterhood who had not long worn the nether garments before she found it in her heart to disgrace her man's apparel and to cry like a woman." This tells us that this newspaper really didn't take the women reformers seriously, and thought they would just end up 'crying like a woman' instead of getting anything to change. Another newspaper that had a negative attitude towards it was The Recorder, published on August 3, 1848. They called the reform movement silly in this quote; "We need not say that we think the movement excessively silly..". Of course there were positive reactions in the media, like in the National Reformer, published August 10, 1848. It included; “We think it the duty of every candid person to hear every proposal for the elevation of our race, and if they fall, l....”. This newspaper was very supportive, and responded to these women in seriousness. The overall idea is that people were starting to now notice that women are not treated equally to men, whereas before, the whole idea of equality was ignored. 

Reacting Different to Men and Women Today

The next essential question is; does 21st Century society still react differently to men and women? I do believe that the general public reacts differently based on a person's gender. Not every single person still does, but it seems like the media still takes gender into consideration before anything. For example, when a man makes a speech publicly or does basically anything on TV, the media reacts by discussing what he talked about and his ideas, which is normal. However, if a woman makes a public statement, I notice that the media focuses more on what she looked like while doing it, what she was wearing, how old she looked, how revealing her clothes were, or how bad her hair looked. Even though many people don't care about that, the general public seems to love it. A good example of how men and women are portrayed differently is a Pantene commercial shown above. It shows men and women doing the same things, but has different words and judgements for each one. For example, when a man is in charge and is telling people to do things, he is the boss. But when women do it, they are bossy. I agree with the commercial and I think that different labels are put on people due to their gender. Overall, men and women are portrayed very differently in today's society, just not as much as they used to be.