Utilizing specific examples from both books, explain how the actions of African Americans damaged the institution of slavery and ultimately led to its demise.
African Americans damaged the institution of slavery by organizing rebellions, working together to facilitate successful escapes, writing petitions to government officials and any other way they thought they could get their message heard.
The most successful means of damaging slave agency was through written appeals and petitions. Several African Americans submitted such documents to Congress, newspapers and other narrations. These documents include Caesar Sarter’s Essay on Slavery; a petition of New England slaves, Peter Bestes, Sambo Freeman, Felix Holbrook and Chester Joie written to the Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, and the General Court of Boston; a letter from Benjamin Banneker to Thomas Jefferson, then the sitting Secretary of State of Virginia; Absalom Jones and Richard Allen’s A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia, in the year 1793 and Absalom Jones’ petition to the President, Senate and House of Representatives on January 23, 1797, which was signed by Jacob Nicholson, Jupiter Nicholson, Job Albert and Thomas Pritchet; Letters from a Man of Colour on a Late Bill Before the Senate of Pennsylvania, 1813, written by James Forten; and George Lawrence’s An Oration on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, 1813. (Nash 2001, 167-201). Meanwhile, David Walker’s Appeal asked the blacks to take an eye for an eye. (Kelley and Lewis 2005, 216). Martin Delany published a book in 1852 which he titled The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States. In his book, Delany urged the African American population to consider emigrating to South or Central America or even to the unpopulated American west. (Kelley and Lewis 2005, 217).
Escape attempts were another way slaves could damage the agency of slavery. Harriet Tubman was an important player in the Underground Railroad. She was called the “Moses” of her people returning again and again to lead many hundreds of slaves to freedom in the North. (Kelley and Lewis 2005, 194-195). Slave revolts incite fear in white Americans. The Stono Rebellion in 1739 is an example of such an insurrection. The slaves in Charleston formed together to kill their masters in an attempt to reach freedom in St. Augustine, Florida, but their attempt was thwarted and many were put to death. Anyone suspected of aiding the slaves was also killed. (Kelley and Lewis 2005, 93). Also leading slave revolts were Gabriel Prosser, Charles Deslondes, Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner. In fact, the Turner rebellion was the most widespread and vicious of all the rebellions. Turner led a group of men on a raid to kill whites regardless of age or gender. He was finally found hiding in the woods after which he was hung, along with all of his conspirators. (Kelley and Lewis 2005, 197-198).
Phillis Wheatley was an African American woman who wrote poetry to express her feelings about the condition of slavery. In 1772, she wrote a poem to the earl of Dartmoth, William Legge. In her poem, she wrote, “should you, my lord while you peruse my song, wonder whence my love of freedom sprung, I in young life, by seeming cruel fate was snatched from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat…” Wheatley was the first African American to publish a book of poetry which earned her international acclaim. (Kelley and Lewis 2005, 103-104).
Quok Walker was a slave who took his cruel master to a Massachusetts courtroom and won. Walker was beaten by his master for running away a hiding at a neighbor’s house. The court determined that the slave master had committed assault and battery. Further, they decided that slavery was not allowable in the state of Massachusetts, so Walker went free. This is another example of how a slave was...
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