Alvin Ailey Cry

Topics: Slavery, Slavery in the United States, Abolitionism Pages: 6 (2056 words) Published: March 5, 2012
Question 1:
Give an account of the socio-historic context of the work Cry In the early 17th Century, European settlers in North America turned to African slaves as a cheaper, more plentiful labour source than indentured servants. After 1619, when a Dutch ship brought 20 African ashore at the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, slavery spread throughout the American colonies. Though it is impossible to give accurate figures, some historians have estimated that 6 to 7 million slaves were imported to the New World during the 18th Century alone, depriving the African continent of some of its healthiest and ablest men and women. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, black slaves worked predominantly on the tobacco, rice and indigo plantations of the southern coast. After the American Revolution, many colonists began to link the oppression of black slaves to their own oppression by the British ultimately resulting in the call for slavery's abolition. Slavery itself developed primarily in the South however, many of the Northern businessmen held investments in Southern plantations and benefitted economically in the slave trade. However, this did not deter the abolition of slavery between 1774 and 1804, in all of the northern states. Despite this movement, the industry continued to be vital to the southern states. From the 1830s to the 1860s the abolition movement gained strength in the northern United States, led by free African's such as Frederick Douglass and white supporters such as William Lloyd Garrison. While many abolitionists based their activism on the belief that slaveholding was a sin, others were more inclined to the non-religious "free-labour" argument, characterised through points such as the regressive nature of slavery, its inefficiency and its pointlessness derived from an economic perspective. Anti-slavery supporters began at this point helping fugitive slaves escape from southern plantations to the North via a loose network of safe houses as early as the 1780s. This practice became commonly known as the Underground Railroad, gaining momentum towards the 1830s and although estimates are varied, it is believed to have achieved freedom for around 40000 to 100000 slaves. The success of the Underground Railroad spread abolitionist emotions throughout the North and undoubtedly increased sectional tensions, implicit in convincing and persuading southerners of their northern countrymen's determination to defeat the institution that sustained them. Finally, in 1865, the 13th Amendment was adopted, abolishing slavery officially. Despite this development, the status of freed slaves in the post-war period remained precarious and significant challenges faced the Black peoples during the Reconstruction period. Former slaves received the rights of citizenship and the equal protection of the constitution under the 14th Amendment as well as the right to vote as outlined in the 15th, however these provisions were oftentimes ignored or violated and former slaves were faced with the ensuing challenge of inducting themselves into the post-war economy which was aggravated further due to restrictive, discriminatory codes and regressive contractual arrangements such as sharecropping. Despite seeing an unprecedented degree of black participation in American political life, Reconstruction was ultimately frustrating for African-American's, and the re-birth of white supremacy; such as the rise of racist organisations not unlike the Ku Klux Klan; had triumphed in the South by 1877. Near to a Century later, resistance to the lingering racism and discrimination in America that began during the slavery era would lead to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which would consecutively achieve the greatest political and social triumphs for black peoples since the Reconstruction. Alvin Ailey produced the work Cry utilising this context as a stimulus. The timeline apparent mirrors the stages observed throughout his composition with the only...
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