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Why was the abolition of slavery so hard to acheive?

The reform movements and sectional conflicts of the mid 1800's rightfully centered on the issue of slavery. There arose a movement in the North called the Abolitionist Movement. The movement to abolish slavery represented the very best of human intentions yet was a strike to the heart of Southerners. Southerners, as a result, resisted abolition. As you can imagine this led to increasingly bitter sectional conflict.

1. William Lloyd Garrison - Publisher of the newspaper "The Liberator" we was the most outspoken and most vocal of all abolitionists. He often wrote in corse and blunt language that left no room to be misunderstood. This short excerpt shows his resolve and his passion: "I am in earnest. I will not equivocate; I will not excuse; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard!"

2. Frederick Douglass - Frederick Douglass, (1818?-1895), was the leading spokesman of African Americans in the 1800's. Born a slave, Douglass became a noted reformer, author, and orator. He devoted his life to the abolition of slavery and the fight for black rights.

3. Harriet Tubman - Harriet Tubman was an African American whose daring rescues helped hundreds of slaves escape to freedom. She became the most famous leader of the underground railroad, which aided slaves fleeing to the free states or to Canada. Blaks called her Moses, after the Biblical figure who led the Jews from Egypt.

4. Sojourner Truth - Like Harriet Tubman, Truth was born into slavery (with the given name Isabella) and had no formal education. She fled the last of a series of masters in 1827, and several years later, in response to what she described as a command from God, she became an itinerant preacher and took the name Sojourner Truth. Among her most memorable appearances was at an 1851 women's rights conference in Akron, Ohio: in her famous "Ain't I a woman?" speech she forcefully attacked the hypocrisies of organized religion, white privilege and everything in between.

5. Nat Turner - Nat Turner, a black slave and preacher, led the most famous slave revolt in United States history. In 1831, Turner and from 60 to 70 other slaves killed about 60 whites in Virginia. The victims included the family of Joseph Travis, Turner's owner.

More whites died during the rebellion led by Turner than in any other in the nation's history. The Virginia militia captured and hanged about 20 of the slaves, including Turner. In addition, angry whites killed about 100 innocent slaves. The rebellion caused the Southern States to pass strict laws for the control of slaves, especially those who were preachers.

6. John Brown - He lived and worked successively in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York. Meanwhile, he had conceived an intense hatred of the institution of slavery and had resolved to do everything in his power to bring about its destruction. Brown, with only eighteen men, five of whom were Negroes, attacked and captured the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, W. Va. on October 16, 1859. On October 18 he was overpowered by a small force of United States Marines under the command of Col. Robert E. Lee. Brown was captured, seriously wounded and thrown into prison. He was tried and convicted for "treason and conspiring and advising with slaves and other rebels and murder in the first degree" On December 2, 1859, Brown was hanged at Charleston.

B. What was the impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin?"

1. Harriet Beacher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin addresses the issue of slavery Frequently in the novel the issue is raised . Even Mrs. Shelby ( slave owner) recognizes the depravity and admits that slavery, "is a bitter, bitter,most accursed thing- a curse to the master and a curse to the slave!" The novel is extremely effective in conveying the inhumanity concerning slavery and does so in an honest manner. The preposterousness of such practice is clearly identified by the reader and illustrated remarkably well by Stowe. Stowe also discerningly demonstrates the disheartening fact that, "slavery always ends in misery" Stowe's book sold over 300,000 copies in one year, a record for the time. In fact more copies of Uncle Tom's Cabin were sold that year than copies of the Bible!

C. Why was slavery so hard to abolish despite these efforts?

1. Northerners as the silent accomplice - Abolitionists in the North were few and far between until the late 1850's and even then there were quite few. In actuality abolitionists only made up less then 2% of the Northern population. The plain fact was that most did not care.

2. The North made a profit off of slavery - Northern shippers and vessels plied the seas engaged in what was known as the "Triangle Trade." Northeren shippers made a huge profit going from : Molasses to Rum to Slaves." If you get a chance watch the movie "1776" where the delegate form South Carolina, Rutledge, makes this relationship quuite clear. It's about 1/2 way through the film.

3. The South passed effective legislation. Laws like the Slave Codes which forbade the teaching of reading and writing to slaves and the Fugitive Slave Laws, which mandated the return of escaped slaves as lost property, made it difficult for slaves to resist.

4. To take away the slave meant to take away the private property of southerners, this was a law most were unwilling to break. No matter how absurd that seems to you today it was true in 1850.

4. The north was unwilling to fight - There was little desire to push the issue as it seemed it might lead to war.

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