Slavery During the Revolutionary War
American culture has always possessed a rich history filled with hard working and dedicated people. However, the American dream, which was founded on freedom and liberty, was not granted to all that were involved in the making of America. Slaves brought from the vast region of Africa provided a strong backbone for the formation of America, yet received nothing in return for their labor. Even Native Americans, who had settled on the land thousands of years before English men and women, were treated with hostility and violence that lead to an incredible death toll. Which, lead to nearly wiping out their entire culture. In order to understand these two major historical truths Americans need to as author Takaki says, use “a mirror without distortions” that reflects “the people of multicultural America”. Americans therefore need to look at their true history and understand that, while America was based on liberty and freedom for men, there were many men who have suffered and died in the process of making America the great nation it is today.
When English settlers started crossing the Atlantic they came to a world unknown to them. When they arrived they were surprised at the greeting they received from the original inhabitants, the Native Americans, but the peace between these two different cultures would clash and the results would be devastating for one side. Unknown to the people at the time, bacteria and viruses brought from Europe would plague the Natives who had no natural resistance to the diseases that the settlers brought with them. These plagues would eventually as author James Loewen of Lies My Teacher Told Me says, “Within three years the plague wiped out between 90 to 96 percent of the inhabitants of coastal New England. Native societies lay devastated…Because they carried the infestation with them, American Indians died who had never encountered a white person” (Loewen 74). This had a huge social impact both on the Native Americans and English Settlers alike. For Native Americans they believed that their own gods had betrayed them and that the white men were more powerful and superior to them. For the white settlers they believed that God was claiming the land for them and that the natives were punished for being, what they called “savages”. The result of this catastrophic death toll would leave the Natives weak and open for attack and would eventually result in losing their sacred lands to hungry settlers looking for expansion in the west.
While dealing with the Native Americans was a minor issue for the English settlers, making sure that there were enough slaves to do labor was a key ingredient in making the land habitable for the English. Without the free labor that was forced upon the slaves, many which were from South Africa, the English would have had an incredibly hard time adapting to the land and getting the land up and running. The slaves labor contributed from the building of houses to farming for crops, and their labor provided settlers with much needed supplies, which they would eventually need in fighting Britain for their liberty. However, Colonial America had issues from the slaves resisting their role. In an article called American Slavery author Kolchin says “Born in violence, slavery survived by the lash. Beginning with the initial slave trade that tore Africans away from everything they knew…” (57). From the beginning Africans desperately tried to not integrate themselves into American society. The only reason that slaves were eventually “tamed” was when they couldn’t take anymore of the violence and pain that the English settlers used on them. “They ignored the Anglicized names their owners awarded them; they refused to perform the new tasks they were assigned…New slaves, in short, needed to be “broken in,” made to accept their status” (57). Once these slaves were tolerant and abused to the point of fear, Colonial America used these workers to establish a solid footing and strengthen America. While the social implications of slavery have had a taint on American history, developments of African American culture has enriched America as well. Providing Americans with a rich history of sports, science, music and many other subject areas.
Race relations between both Native Americans and African Americans has had a difficult past in gaining fair treatment and respect after the founding of America. For Native Americans, we continue to insult an entire culture by celebrating Thanksgiving. A holiday, in which the purpose is to incite peace and friendship and to remember the values that brought Natives and Englishmen together, however in reality Thanksgiving, like many American holidays, has become commercialized and is meant for making money. Not only is it insulting to try to cover up history and pretend that Natives and English settlers were friends, but to commercialize a holiday which insults Natives and promotes a fake history is devastating. However, today Indians are fighting back and many declare Thanksgiving a day of mourning. This over the years has inspired several others to start to critically think about the implications of Thanksgiving and maybe one day Thanksgiving will be celebrated properly, or at least get rid of the stereotypes associated with it.
For African Americans, the history of gaining a life of freedom and equality has been a slippery slope in history. Important figures like Martin Luther King are associated with the liberation of African Americans. Although history has made blacks equal in today’s world, not everyone treats blacks the same. The KKK is still a group that continues to live on and racial intolerance continues to thrive. Films like Birth of a Nation then become dangerous for how the past is shown, and gives a positive light to race relations. In the end like Takaki says with his metaphorical mirror, we as a people need to understand that our own history is not as black and white as it may seem. That in order to try and become a people who are not racist and do not hold stereotypes, we need to understand the truth, no matter how ugly it may be.
Even though there might be social biases as Takaki points out, the future continues to become more tolerant with each passing day. What once started as a nation founded on slavery has become a nation of equal of rights. And while some of Americans still hold onto a past social order where people are treated based on their ethnicities, religion, gender or social class, Americans as a whole strive to build a better tomorrow. A future that surpasses what the founding fathers wrote to the British when they declared themselves as free men. A future that gets rid of social constructs and is one nation of free people.
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