Table of Contents
Gary B Nash was born and brought up in Philadelphia. This is a state in north eastern part of United States of America. He seeks to give an explicit account of the slavery era, the American Revolution that was aimed at abolishing slavery and the end of slavery in the USA. He describes the real account of event as he states that the real account was and is not given and he also explain the hypocrisy of those purporting to end slave trade and slavery yet they still retained slaves in their premises as their properties. The author is conversant with the events happening in this aura since he lived in a state that was involved in the intrigues around the slavery and slave trade thus I find his account reliable and trustworthy, (Warwick, 2006).
Summary of the contents
The issues of slave trade were and remain a very vital aspect of American history. The slavery and slave trade was highly condemned by many people in the world. America gained her independence and sovereignty from Great Britain in the year 1790. She wanted to emancipate herself from any oppression torture and exploitation by her colonialist. It is thus very ironical that the same America supported and retained slave trade. Explicitly slave trade furthered and promoted torture, exploitation of human and torture of humanity. Slavery is deeply entrenched in southern part of America where there huge tracts of land put under cultivation and thus much labor was needed by the plantation owners.
Evidently, that is why southern region was sluggish and opposed and antagonized efforts to stop slavery. The masters viewed slaves as their own personal properties and they were talking of being compensated for the loss of their properties as one of the conditions for abolishing slavery. There was no slavery in the northern America due to the absence of the large scale crop cultivation as the slaves were mostly utilized in providing labor in cotton, pyrethrum and maize plantations especially in Virginia region. Due to lack of slavery activities in the region, the northern region was not proactive and active in the endeavors to abolish slave trade and slavery. The historians blame it for not taking opportunities that availed themselves in the fight against slavery. The events explained above gives the premises unto why the struggle for the abolition of slave trade and slavery was a nightmare to many revolutionalists and human rights crusaders and Nash gives the account of the frustrations in the fight against slavery in his second part of his book. It is in this part whereby he discusses the whole hypocrisy of the anti slavery that in the public limelight condemned the slavery yet on the ground they maintained slaves to work for them. The example he named was Rush who belonged to an abolition society yet he had bought a slave.
In the last account he describes about the success registered by the anti slavery champions and the how part of that success. They organized their fellow black slaves and started worship places and they eventually organized even the rebellions in a bid to quell the vice that ironically existed in a democratic nation with a stable constitution that recognized the freedom and liberty of all mankind from any act of oppression.
The review of the book
The analysis of this book cannot be complete without explaining the role of the struggle for independence of America from its colonial master Britain. This war is generally referred to as the American Revolution where more than ten northern American states joined to oppose the British rule. They were against a system of rule whereby they were governed from Britain directly and to worsen the situation the Americans were not represented in the policy making organs. They revolted so that they could achieve self rule and decide on their destiny. This war was a major source of inspiration to slaves and the sympathizers to the slavery and slave trade. This is because the way they rejected the oppression from Britain the slaves also felt that they were much down trodden and that their rights were infringed on. By virtue of being human kind one is naturally entitled to freedom and personal liberty. They also felt the need to liberate themselves from the yokes of slavery and become free men just as their fellow whites broke up from their former colonialist. The American war thus added impetus to the glamour for freedom from slavery.
The abolition of slave trade is said to have been initiated by the northern region in America. Majority of the states in the region deliberately proscribed the slave trade or slavery within their jurisdiction. Granted this was a cornerstone in this fight because apparently there is no way that abolition could have taken place if there trade was still rife in the region. They passed legislations in their state government to stop the vice with immediate effect because they argued that the constitution being the supreme law of the land recognized the rights of people of all diversity regardless of color, race or religion and they therefore endeared to further the spirit of the constitution. The institutions that opposed the slavery were active in the northern region and they strongly articulated their agenda. Such organizations included the Pennsylvania abolition society. However, many of the people affiliated to these organizations were mere hypocrites as they fought slavery only in the technically but in reality they supported it in total. One such person described was Benjamin Rush who was a major participant in the activities of the organization but in his home yard he maintained a slave for more than six years. It is such hypocrisy that acted as a stumbling block to the anti slavery endeavors in the northern region but generally the mood in the area was much against the vice and its ambassadors.
The southern part of America was a hot spot in the slave activities. This region was famous for large scale crop growing; crops such as cotton, pyrethrum, wheat and corn among others were grown in plantations in the region. Such huge plantations required much labor to support their activities. Apparently, the main source of labor was the slaves. The regions that were notorious for the slave trade were the Virginia and Georgia. Many plantation owners had purchased these slaves and consequently they treated them as their own properties with full rights and control over them. By selling the slaves they argued that they stood to lose much productivity since there will be no manpower to oversee their plantations. They argued that if the government wanted them to release the slaves then it must come up with compensation schemes to cushion them from the losses that they would sustain owing to loss of labor and also to refund them the amount they spent to buy the slaves as their properties. The two states of Carolina and Georgia vowed to pull out of the union of the United States of America should the government force them to abolish the slave trade and slavery.
In the late seventeen century pushed by the human right activist the American congress granted the states in the north, who were opposed to slave trade and slavery, an chance to quell the slavery and slave trade and the civil activists and civil organizations pushed the parliament to end the slavery because by its very nature slavery infringed on human rights and compromised the freedom and liberty of the man regardless of their race or color as everybody is naturally entitled to freedom of action. However, there were conscious and deliberate moves by their fellow southerners to sabotage the abolition process as they argued that it would have been a blow to national cohesion and peaceful co-existence between people of divergent races. This was purely a political gimmick and trickery and did not have any basis as far as human rights are concerned. Abolition of slave trade could only have facilitated and furthered harmony rather than fuel discord, war and anarchy in America. This clearly demonstrated the unwillingness of the southern region to abolish the slavery in their jurisdictions. The organizations in the north that spoke aloud against the slaver included the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and the Society of Friends; they were very aggressive and outspoken on the vice. Since they were on the northern side this further demonstrates that indeed the northern society was more humane and sensitive to fundamental human rights. There was even an attempt to have all slaves that escaped during the American revolution to be repatriated back to their work areas but this was strongly refuted and resisted by many northerners who called for the deletion of such an act from the laws of the land as this contravened the basic provisions of the American constitution that identified the rights of class of people in America to enjoy freedom and liberty.
The book also brings out a struggle by individual people in their individual efforts to resist the slavery. In any society there exist people who make things happen. These are the people who are ready to incur any cost to achieve what they want in life. In the fight against slavery in America, there arose people who stood to say no to this retrogressive activity and were ready to pay whatever costs that were associated with this struggle. These individuals rallied masses in order to achieve to further a legitimate course and achieve legitimate and fair results. For instance, one Prosser rallied thousands of slaves in southern region to oppose and antagonize the activities of slave owners in the region and though they failed in their course owing to the technicalities it was very good demonstration that indeed they felt oppressed by the vice. The resistance spoke volumes to slave masters, the sympathizers of slavery and slave trade and to the government. Various such attempts by the oppressed individuals continued to be witnessed across the country and it was very apparent that black people and slaves in general were aggrieved and it only sent a clear message to the slave masters that indeed they were sitting on a social-cultural time bomb that was bound to tear through the air any time. These resistance occasioned to death and injury of many people and consequently the governments of the states where slavery was rampant enacted some measures to contain the situation. They discouraged mental empowerment of slaves through denial of education as it acted as an eye opener. They also prohibited gathering of people with an unknown agenda in order to stop mobilization of masses by individuals, (Thomassen, 2006).
As is well known the freedom is very costly and more often than not the liberators are usually on the receiving end and they bear the cost of the struggle. Nevertheless, it is a fair thing to suffer when fighting for the freedom and the liberty of millions of people in the bondage of slavery far away from their ancestral land and was taken away inhumanly and their human rights were grossly violated when uprooted from their homes and subjected to suffering in hard and forced labor in the America. It is worth noting that some of the individuals who organized resistance against the slavery were arrested, taken to court and convicted and a death sentence handed over to them. One such individual was Denmark Vesey who together with other blacks organized a slave opposition resistance in southern part of America in a bid to send a message to the relevant authorities to stop slavery with immediate effect across America. Slave rebellions were very rampant in America and this led to the creation of a nation that was and is still sensitive to the rights of its citizens and people within its boundaries. The activities of such civil activitists as the late Martin lurther king junior were very instrumental to the abolition of slavery and abolition of racism.
The full abolition of slavery and slave trade was achieved in the reign of President Lincoln. He declared that slavery was illegal, retrogressive and uncultured. This was however achieved through parliamentary amendment acts that banned slavery in America. By the fifth year of his presidency slavery was totally abolished in America. Lincoln ordered that the free slaves in the United States be employed in the army and this further demonstrated governments commitments and efforts to abolish slave trade and restore human dignity of the free slaves in line with the American constitution and the universal rights. Abraham Lincoln was unpopular however to many slave masters and their sympathizers. Abraham had a black descendants and owing to this it is clear that he was a sympathizer of the slaves and their plight at the hands of their employers and/or their masters, (Charles, 1995).
In conclusion it is very clear that it took significantly long time for the American society to undertake the abolition of slavery and racism in general. It is the economic and political interests that derailed the struggle against this vice. Economic in the sense that the slave owners were not willing to let the slaves go without full compensation for the loss they would sustain upon release of the slaves. They also anticipated the loss of labor in their plantations and as such this would exaggerate their losses. Politically, it was very sensitive because it involved regions pitted against each other. One region was against the abolition whereas the other region, northern region, proposed the abolition of the slavery. Regions in the south that supported slavery threatened to pull out of the union once the government effects the abolition of slavery and slave trade. The book also did indulge itself in the hypocrisy that was observed amongst the people who feigned to advocate for the rights of slaves to freedom of movement and action and also right to personal liberty which is a natural right endowed to each and every person and is contained in the universal declaration of human rights.
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The book gives the due credit to the northern region for having been vocal against the slavery in American soil and also takes note of the sluggish and unwillingness to end slavery by the southern areas especially in the states of Virginia and Carolina which are on record as being notorious for promotion of slavery. It does look at the economic, political and social cultural factors that offered friction to the quest of the freedom by the slaves in America. Racism and any discrimination on the basis of one’s skin color cannot and could not have been tolerated at any time in human history since it is retrogressive and inhuman and for a progressive society like the American society to tolerate slavery and racism it was very unfortunate and a bad precedent to the developing democracies. Nash has also focused on the role of education as an eye opener to majority of the black Americans and slaves in particular since after the various rebellions witnessed across America the state governments opted to deny education opportunity to slaves in order to contain them. This shows that formal education was vital guiding ray to the slaves, (Roger, 2006).