All Men Are Born Free
Since the beginning of slavery in the 1500’s to the emancipation of the slaves in the 1860’s, violent and nonviolent tactics were used to fight against the tight clutches of their masters. According to Nonviolent Social Movements, violent tactics and strategies rely on polarization and dualistic thinking that require people, like the slaves and the masters, to divide into the good versus bad. They have to assume neat, rigid little categories that are easily answered from the barrel of a gun. Nonviolent tactics on the other hand, allows for complexity that is inherent in the struggles and requires a reasonable acceptance of diversity and appreciation from common ground (Zunes, 1999). In this paper, I will start by looking at the history of slavery, why it came about, and how it led to the slave’s resistance. Then I will look at violent tactics as well as nonviolent tactics to see how the tactics helped the slaves or hurt the slaves. I question if there is a role for violence in social change, if violence should be a last resort, and when violence is necessary. I will also look to see if power concedes anything without a demand.
Slavery in American began during the 1500’s when enslaved African Americans were brought to the new world on the Middle Passage. By the 1700’s, approximately 25,000 Africans had been enslaved and transported across the Atlantic Ocean. Slaves were used to satisfy the American need. Sugar plantations were hard to maintain, and the American’s could not do it alone. Sugar planting, harvesting, and processing were tiring, hot, and dangerous work. The plantations required large numbers of workers whose work habits could be coordinated and controlled. However, slaves were needed because there were not enough settlers to satisfy the labor requirements for profitable sugar plantations. The slaves were worked endlessly. Sometimes, they worked 18-hour days, overseen by people with whips. The work was backbreaking, cuts from the tools were inevitable, and many died from using the machines, as well as other factors. The production was coercion. Slaves were controlled by threat or use of deadly force. Some were able to escape, but many died. American’s believed that slavery was needed. White people depended on slaves to keep homes and plantations running smoothly (West, n.d.). Although cruel, slavery was at the center of the triangle trade. Slaves would use sugar to make molasses, which was transported elsewhere to be distilled into rum that would be exchanged for more slaves. Eventually in 1808, buying slaves from across the Atlantic was made illegal, but that didn’t mean that slaves weren’t still traded and sold within America. Eventually, the expansion of the sugar plantation led to the prices falling, which reduced the profitability of the plantations. Even with sugar no longer profitable, tobacco and cotton, as well as other crops could still make money, and slaves were still needed to keep families rich (West, n.d.). Yet, it was not until the American Revolution that the slaves realized what they were missing.
Slavery greatly affected the course and tone of colonial politics. The American Revolution was deeply implicated in growing concerns about American liberty. During the 1700s, American’s demanded rights and liberties that they believed came from God. Although the government was only trying to raise money to pay off the debts from the Seven Year’s War, the people saw the taxes and regulations as encroachments on their rights. According to Slavery and the Making of America, slaves participated with the whites in protests and proclamations of “No taxation without representation” (p. 49). The irony of the American’s cry that they would “not be the slaves of England” was not lost on the slaves (p. 49). The American Revolution was the movement that began the push for the emancipation of the slaves. African American slaves were...
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