The Civil War was started in 1861and ended in 1865, and it is documented as deadliest in the US history. Notably, seven (7) states in the Southern regions of the nation declared in the first month of 1861 that they had seceded from the United States of America, implying that only 27 states would remain in the formation. When they broke away, they created the Confederate States of America, and four months later, four (4) other states joined the regional union that would advocate their goals. From an African American historical perspective, it could be learned that the Southern states were not happy with the national administration for supporting the institution of slavery (Hummel, 2013). African Americans in the Southern states were being subjected to slavery practices that discriminated them by their color. Fortunately, the courage developed by the leaders in the states of the south went a long way in helping the affected minority group of citizens to be liberated from the institution of slavery. This paper seeks to describe the relationship between the slavery and the Civil War in the context of the US history.
The institution of slavery, which aims at encouraging an individual to own and exploit another, is one of the earliest systems that provided a platform on which human beings could form relationships. As a result of thriving practices of owning and exploiting the ‘weak’ persons in society, the ancient Greeks and Romans were characterized by prestigious material possessions that defined their levels of wealth (Hummel, 2013). However, North America did not adopt Chattel slavery as a complete system; but slave labor underwent remarkable phases of evolution that were catalyzed by forms of resistance that were developed by colonialists and the groups of people that belonged to different races in Virginia. The colonial elite aimed at maximizing their profits in tobacco farming by using cheap labor, a form of exploitation that was left in the southern states, and which was being supported by the Southern Whites (Hummel, 2013).
There was a strong belief among the participants in the American Civil War that the event was initiated by slavery. While the Union soldiers held that the military struggle was aimed at setting free the enslaved African Americans, Confederates engaged in the war to offer unique levels of protection to the southern society, which was typified by deep-rooted slavery issues. When one views the matter from an anti-slavery viewpoint, it can be concluded that it is an evil practice that could not even be compatible with the policies of the Republicans in the US. The most notable approach to ending the institution of slavery was containment, which implied that the expansion of the practice could be stopped; thus, gradually exposing it to extinction. However, those who supported slavery in the eleven states that seceded from the US claimed that the approach could interfere with their rights as enshrined in the American Constitution. Southern Americans feared that freeing slaves would have negative impacts on the region’s economy due to laziness that would be associated with the freed black Americans (Hummel, 2013; Rhodes, 2012).
Although some patriot leaders in the Southern states, such as George Washington, utilized the institution of slavery to remain in power, those who initiated the revolution felt that black Americans were being denied a constitutional right that was contained in The Declaration of Independence, and it stated that men are equal from the viewpoint of creation (Rhodes, 2012). No amount of political dissuasion could hinder the southern thinkers and opinion leaders from starting and sustaining the War that lasted for five years (Rhodes, 2012). In the beginning, the North did not intend to offer any changes regarding the extinction of the institution of slave labor in the southern states. However, Lincoln’s administration was forced to review its hard stance by the logic of activities as the armed struggle dragged. In fact, the war was expensive to maintain, and one could not decipher how the North was supporting slave labor in the South, yet the former had outlawed it in the late 1700s and early 1800s. At the peak of the War, still the South fighters were focusing on ending slavery; it was a relief to the Southern states that had previously been subjected to unprecedented levels of slavery when Abraham Lincoln his Constitutional powers to offer the Emancipation Proclamation (Rhodes, 2012). The presidential declaration was an executive order in early 1963 that aimed at freeing millions of enslaved southerners who were the victims of the capitalism-oriented investors that wanted to have free labor on their farms. It is estimated that slightly more than three million black slaves were set free, and a significant number shifted to the North’s Union Army to assist it to defend the South before the War was ended in 1865 (Hummel, 2013).
In conclusion, this paper has demonstrated that the issue of slavery and the Civil War were strongly related. Individuals against the institution of slavery were critical to stimulating and exacerbating tensions and disagreements that characterized the relationship between the South and the North prior and during the War. The historical era brings to the fore important lessons about racism and the suppression by the white society in the US. However, from the context of African American history, one can also use the issue of slave labor and the activities in the War to understand how some minority groups may fight back in a system of oppression and exploitation.
- Hummel, J. (2013). Emancipating slaves, enslaving free men: a history of the American civil war. Chicago, CA: Open Court.
- Rhodes, J. F. (2012). History of the civil war, 1861-1865. New York, NY: Courier Corporation.