A Dream Deferred: African Americans from 1865

Topics: Slavery, African American, United States Pages: 9 (3371 words) Published: November 14, 2010
“If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of Almighty God, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.” Samuel Adams

The history of the African American is filled with oppression, inequity, and triumph. Its not the typical history of the immigrant who assimilated into the American way of life while in search of the American dream. Life for African Americans in the United States started out much like Langston’s Hughes poem “A Dream Deferred” with memories of life in their homeland at a distance, causing their hearts to well with sadness. America was built on the blood, sweat, and tears of millions of Africans who were removed from their homeland, stripped of their humanity and sold as slaves. There is nothing honorable about these acts committed by a nation that was founded on the principles of equality and freedom. Early British settlers were not prepared for the task of creating settlements or the harsh life they would initially endure in this new land inhabited by Native Americans. The Indians were not easily broken, each tribe fought hard to protect its people. Settlers also brought with them illnesses reeked havoc on the immune systems of the Indians like small pox that killed them in large numbers. So the task of conquering and securing the land while setting up forts and frontier settlements was a grueling task. The land was unforgiving; winters were long and cold many lost their lives and many returned to their homeland with their dreams of life in a new land deferred as well. Once frontiers became stable Caucasian indentured servants and African American worked side by side. African Americans and Caucasians preformed tasks like clearing land, planting and tending to crops. They also managed the daily business of the plantations, some even having a basic education. As the colonies and plantations grew, landowners became more dependent on African labor. African labor seemed to be economical so more African’s were brought over to work the land. Slaves became an asset due to the skills they acquired before enslavement, ability to learn new skills quickly, and endurance. During this time many Africans were woodworkers, tailors, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, longshoremen and even the pilots who guided ships in and out of harbors (Davidson, 2008). Due to this the number of Africans in some states increased and surpassed the number of Caucasians. It is noted that by 1700 the number of blacks in South Carolina, was far greater than the number of whites. (Davidson, 2008) Although slavery developed differently throughout the colonies, it began with the colonists’ need for labor obtained through the use of slaves or indentured servants. Slavery presented a better economic option. In the North, slavery was not as important to the agricultural economy. Farms were smaller and slave labor was not necessary. So in the larger cities, many slaves worked with their masters in services and manufacturing, running printing presses, building ships, and binding books (Connerly, 2002). By this time vessels were already in place to transport Africans to the colonies; African labor at this time became synonymous with slave labor, and the dream of freedom was deferred. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries African Americans were subjected to inhumane treatment such as merciless whippings, beatings, and lynching’s. As slave owning became more widespread, slaves tried harder to escape many loosing their life or limbs in the process. In some colonies, slaveholders were given the right to mutilate and even kill slaves who didn’t perform to their master’s satisfaction. To further drive this point home many colonies by the 1700’s changed their common law so that it would include slave...
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