From the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century, the United States was as rough as the country had ever been up to this time period. The country had seen its first war fought on United States soil since the American Revolution. Due to the fact that Americans were fighting Americans, rates of American deaths were the highest of any war in American history. The biggest question during this period was what were “we” even fighting over or fighting for? That answer was very simple. The northern states, or the Union states, wanted to abolish slavery and the southern states, or confederates, deemed it necessary for plantation work and other necessary work. The conflict between the two sides lead to the secession of the South and ultimately caused the Civil War.
In the Higginbotham readings, we learn about the Africans being stolen from their homes and transported to America. The conditions in the ships were awful, and we learn that many of them died on the trip over to the U.S. Once they came ashore, they were sold to white, male plantation owners to work for no wage. “From the first encounter on the American continent between Africans and Europeans, the journey from total racial oppression toward the goal of true racial equality has been long and tortuous.” African Americans touched the American soil with no shade of freedom whatsoever. Higginbotham wrote that, “We the people” of the Constitution was only reserved for the white people. This meant that Africans were basically the same as cattle to the White man, or even less than cattle. They were completely dehumanized and remained like that for many years until the end of the Civil War, which is why the Civil War was fought. Leading up to the Civil War, there were many conflicts between whites and blacks. The biggest conflict was the way in which whites treated blacks. These disputes all started in 1787, during the Philadelphia convention when the Northern and Southern states agreed that African-Americans would count for three fifths of a person, creating the three-fifths clause. As slavery in the United States went on, the African-American slaves continued to be treated poorly, with poor living conditions, and working from sun up to sun down every single day. Slaves that rebelled against their masters, spoke their mind to anyone other than a slave, or were caught running away were killed.
In the 1855 case of Celia, a nineteen-year-old slave living on a Missouri plantation saw the harsh repercussions of having no human rights during this time. Over a five-year span, Celia was brutally raped and fathered three children to her middle-aged owner. On June 23, 1855, Celia brutally clubbed her master to death as he approached her cabin. Celia was arrested for the murder of her master. As the trial went on, she was not allowed to speak and plea self-defense in the court. Why? She was not able to speak in court because she was a black, female slave and they were inferior at this time. She was hung on December 21, 1855, for her self-defense actions against her master. (Woods, Lecture).
With events like Celia’s trial and the three-fifths clause, Northern abolitionists wanted to abolish slavery. In 1861, the Civil War was officially under way. The North and the South fought for 4 grueling years to end slavery. Finally on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the Emancipation Proclamation, which stated that all slaves in the Confederate states were free. Clearly, the United States was feuding during this period, and Lincoln issued this proclamation to impact the Union efforts and redefined the purpose of the Civil War, making it a symbol of equality and social justice. In the document, Lincoln stated that, “all persons held as slaves … shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” It declared that slaves in rebel states were free, providing them with the support of the United States government, they should be