The Life of an African-American
I am currently a sixty year old African American living in Southern Alabama. Throughout my life, I have experienced more hardships and seen more suffering than any man should ever live through. Growing up in the South during the 1830’s, I would have never imagined the opportunities that I have now, compared to my mother and father’s time. My mother and father came from West Africa as slaves and worked endlessly on a tobacco plantation in Virginia. I remember when I was a boy my father told me that when he was a child, slavery was becoming unpopular and soon enough, it would be gone. However, when the cotton gin was invented in 1793, all hope was gone as the demand in labor for cotton skyrocketed. It took till 1865, but I still remember that day when I heard the news that the Civil War was over. Now for the first time, blacks were seen as real live people. Since then, we have been fighting for our rights throughout the Civil Rights Movement. It is currently 1896 and we are still fighting for our liberation. I am told by many activists including W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington that the day will come when we are accepted by society, but until then we must be patient and not damage our integrity. By 1860, more than a third of the population of the south was made up of slaves. We worked on cotton and tobacco plantations. I lived in a simple one room log cabin where there was one door and one window. My daily routine would start with the sound of a horn or bell when I would be assigned of removing weeds and transporting water to other workers. This long day with the ultimate goal of survival, ended well after sunset. What hurt the most was that our lives were so insignificant. I was weak and powerless. My owner could do and say whatever he wanted as if I was an animal rather than a human being. If I did not obey him or if I did an inadequate job, I would be punished very badly. Despite these harsh conditions, we formed families and communities here on the plantation. It was hard to keep a family together for a long period of time because of the chance of being split up when sold. Once a close friend or family member got sold, there was a possibility of never seeing them again. There were a great number of legal, political, economic, and social changes that occurred over the course of my life. I remember all the way back to 1846 as if it was just yesterday. The Mexican-American war had just ended and America acquired a lot of new real estate. By securing all this new land, we were at the point of no return. This would predispose the events that would lead to the Civil War. The North did not want the new land we acquired to be slave states whereas the South did. David Wilmont, Democratic representative from Pennsylvania attempted to prohibit slavery in the new territory by offering Congress the Wilmont Proviso. It stated that slavery will not be permitted in any of the new lands acquired form the Mexican-American war except for Texas. It hinged on the fact that when Mexico gained independence from Spain, the first step they took was outlaw slavery. Mr. Wilmot stated in his remark speech “If free soil should be gained from Mexico, then God forbid that we plant this institution on it.” This Proviso unfortunately never got passed, but it did serve to politicize the issue of slavery for the upcoming years. On the other end of the extreme, John C. Calhoun of the South issued the Calhoun Resolutions2. This was the South’s response to the Wilmont Proviso. Calhoun argued that since the territories were common possession of the state, Congress has no right to take citizens’ “property” because it would violate the 5th Amendment. I always thought this was a bizarre twist to the Bill of Rights but who am I to have an opinion. This bill would also never get to vote in Congress but would form a basic argument over the expansion of slavery. Wilmont and Calhoun were the extreme sides over the debate of...
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