The Cause and Evolution of American Racial Beliefs Through History

Topics: American Civil War, Slavery in the United States, Abraham Lincoln Pages: 5 (1823 words) Published: November 16, 2011
The Cause and Evolution of American Racial Beliefs Through History The American racial belief that Native Americans and African Americans were lesser peoples due to their color and intellect lead to the spark of the civil war in 1861, ultimately ending in the abolition of slavery. Such American racial beliefs also led to absurd justifications of slavery and a change in who should be free and who should not over time. Territories of the differing beliefs included the North (the union states) and the South (the confederacy) in early America. According to the American definition of freedom between 1619 and 1863, the whites were free men, as they were superior to the African Americans and Native Americans in both skin color and intellect. The wealthy white males owned the plantations where slave work occurred, and they surely were not going to do the plantation work themselves. So they participated in the widespread idea of slavery, buying and trading slaves and mastering them.

In the late 1700s, Thomas Jefferson heavily believed that the African Americans and Native Americans were unfit for life in a republican society, due to their lack of education and intellect. In 1784, Thomas Jefferson addressed his views of the Indians and Blacks. He stated that the first difference between the Indians and the Blacks is their skin color. He made this remark, “the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us.” [1] Thomas Jefferson stated that nature is causing the difference between the Indians and the Blacks. Jefferson attempts to justify his belief in slavery over inferior races, in particular the African Americans. Thomas Jefferson also states that the Blacks are inferior, this time in reason. He stated, “It appears to me that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid.”1 This statement is true, however largely due to slavery itself. Euclid was a Greek mathematician known for his findings in geometry, which were taught through education. No education was offered to the African American’s; therefore they are viewed as inferior in reason. Jefferson concluded by sharing his opinions about the Indians, he states “They (The Indians) will crayon out an animal, a plant, or a country, so as to prove the existence of a germ in their minds which only wants cultivation.”1 Jefferson shared that just because the minds of one race have not yet “Cultivated”, the superior whites shall master them. This is historically significant because it shows that the Native Americans and African Americans had been given a slim chance to become educated, and they were punished due to the lack of their intellectual gains.

Around 1801, the Blacks rebelled, renewing the white man’s fear, imposing the idea of colonization, which was introduced by Virginia governor James Monroe. Jefferson, posed with a problem, either had to send these blacks back to Africa, which was considered the last resort, or locate a “Receptacle” for them. Meaning that he would have to find territory willing and able to accept these blacks. Some Blacks were free, however they were still being treated as slaves, being forced to separate from family and loved ones. Responding to a letter from James Monroe, Jefferson stated in his Nov. 24, 1801 letter, “could we procure lands beyond the limits of the US to form a receptacle for these people.”2 We can now reason that the Blacks were being held as slaves partly because the whites were afraid of losing power, which implies that whites think that the African Americans would be a powerful race if the chance arose. Jefferson wanted to move these troublesome blacks, but he does not want to dump them upon a region that is uninviting to them, because this will then cause bigger problems. Instead, he wants to rid them to the West Indies, he promptly states in the same...
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