Rights are a foundation for a society’s survival. Rights are defined as power or privileges granted to people either by an agreement among themselves or by law. African American slaves were widely traded for their labor and aid in production of crops, such as cotton throughout the American colonies.
They were viewed as property and disregarded as human beings. From the start of American history, African Africans were treated unfairly and given less rights than white Americans. From 1754-1865, rights of African American have remained static up until the Civil War.Throughout the American Revolution, rights for African Americans were drastically less than rights for colonists. As colonists experienced social and political improvements, African Americans continued to undergo little to no change. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, expressing the desires to create a new nation based on self- government and individual freedoms. The Declaration was excluding slaves, stating “That all men are created equal ..
. that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Document 1). African Americans were an exception to the Declaration, demonstrating the lack of rights they had. It was this document that further set a precedent for the future of African Americans.
The Declaration was vague and many people were under the assumption that slaves were property and should not receive any rights whatsoever. These rights continued to be constant to the period of the American Republic. The three fifths compromise was proposed by James Wilson in efforts to balance the voice in the house between the north and south by representing each slave as three- fifths of a person. The compromise gave the south a larger population allowing them to have more votes in the House of Representatives. The slaves contributed a increase in the south’s votes, leading to a larger voice in the house.
The document excludes “Indians not taxed, three- fifths of all other persons” (Document 4 ). The three-fifths compromise was another instance adding to the absence of rights for African Americans. It degrades their basic human rights by counting them as less than a full person. It allowed for slavery to expand, in order to aid the southern population, demonstrating, how slaves did not continue to gain anything. During the Age of Expansionism, Manifest Destiny and the Free-Soil Party allowed for further expansion of slavery.
Manifest Destiny is the expansion westward into new territory for a better economical society and an increase of resources for those who expanded. White Americans fulfilled their desire to stretch from coast to coast and receive land and resources in the process. On the other hand, African Americans were forced to expand as labor for their slaveholders. In 1872, John Gast painted a picture of an angel leading a spread in civilization depicting Manifest Destiny (Document 2). As Manifest Destiny is occurring and colonists are expanding westward, slavery is brought along with it. The need for slave labor increased as more land and farms were now expanded into.
This shows the sustained lack of rights in African Americans, and the continuing trend of slavery becoming more common. The belief in Manifest Destiny itself divided the nation, and the debate concerning slavery intensified. The expansion of slavery was also seen through the free soilers. Free soilers were a political party that opposed slavery. The political cartoon by J.L Magee shows democratic candidates from the 1856 election forcing a slave down a giants (who represents the free soilers) throat (Document 5).
The burning building and hanging man in the background show the brutality of the time period. The image is in reaction to the violence against anti slavery “free soilers”. The democrats are enforcing expansion upon the free soilers and the boards labelled “Kansas”, “Cuba”, and “Central America” show their intentions with slavery.
Expansion of slavery into new territories is a negative act which furthers slaves from obtaining any rights. The Civil War brought impactful new opportunity African American rights. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves completely, only in rebelling states, giving them freedoms of any American citizen. This does not free all slaves, it does not include the border states. The Emancipation ultimately changed the goal of the war and led to Lincoln’s strategy of total war to defeat the south. The proclamation declared, “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free” (Document 6). The aim for the war is now, freeing slaves and restoring the Union. African American rights were not greatly cared for until it became a rallying point for Lincoln’s army and now that it is, only some are going to get basic rights.
Many African Americans served in the Union army and navy, laying the first stone for the fight of their freedoms. Alone, the Emancipations long term effects are minimal, but it did set the foundation for total abolishment of slavery in the United States. There were issues with relying on the Emancipation to confirm there was an end to slavery, so in 1865 the 13th Amendment was passed by Congress. The Amendment abolished slavery in the United States and forever transformed the future of our country.
The 13th Amendment of the US constitution declared, “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States” (Document 3). This is a immense change of slave rights, they went from having little to no rights to having rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The gap between white Americans and African Americans is closing as they become more and more equal.
The United States finally found a constitutional solution to the issue of slavery leading to several future additions to the rights of American people. The Civil War positively shaped the rights of African Americans and was the basis for future equality in the United States. From the American Revolution up until the start of the Civil War African American rights stayed steady. The Civil War transformed the United States into ending slavery. The end of slavery influenced the economic, political, and social future of the United States, guiding the country to more equality.