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Sinclair Community College US Colonial History forums

Updated on June 12, 2014

Forum 1

The cultures (or worldviews, or societies, whatever term you want to use) of the Indians, Europeans and Africans were all changed profoundly by their interaction in early colonial North America. What was the most important change (for better and/or worse) for each of the three?

Indians

Bartolomé de Las Casas in his book A Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies wrote, “They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome. These people are the most devoid of rancors, hatreds, or desire for vengeance of any people in the world.” The Indians lost their innocent view of the world when the Spaniards began torturing, killing, and enslaving them. This was a change for the worse. The Indians lost their trust in people and were forced to attempt to fight back against the Spaniards and in turn were easily beaten due to the weakness of their weapons. They were easily and cruelly slaughtered by the Spaniards who spared no one. This resulted in the depopulation of the Indian people. Bartolomé de Las Casas writes, “We can estimate very surely and truthfully that in the forty years that have passed, with the infernal actions of the Christians, there have been unjustly slain more than twelve million men, women, and children. In truth, I believe without trying to deceive myself that the number of the slain is more like fifteen million.”

Source: Bartolomé de Las Casas and his Journal

Europeans

The European society changed for the better due to its interaction with North America. The Europeans were able to easily control the Indians that inhabited North America due to their superior weaponry. This allowed the Europeans easy access to familiar European commodities such as iron, copper, grapes, and fur bearing animals. The Europeans also discovered exotic products such as maize, cassava, and tobacco. The European markets and trade centers thrived with new products and more of the common ones. The Europeans now had access to a source of many products without the need to pay expensive prices due to the Indians lack of understanding towards money and tradable objects. They were easily fascinated with little objects like red caps, strings of beads to wear upon the neck, glass beads, hawk's bells and many other trifles of small value.

Sources: Christopher Columbus and his Journal, Bartolomé de Las Casas and his Journal, A People & A Nation

Africans

I felt that African Society had two important changes, one for the better and one for the worse. The African slaves had a change for the better as the Europeans treated their slaves better than the African masters. Jean Barbot writes, “For being used to see men’s flesh eaten in their own country, and public markets held for the purpose”. The African slaves at least can be assured that their skin is not going to be sold for people to eat. While it is a change for the better it is still trading one type of slavery for another. African society suffered a change for the worse when the Europeans did not just purchase Africans slaves they also captured and enslaved free Africans. Many Africans were transported to America as slaves where they found little to no respect for their culture. As such, African culture began to die out in African slaves.

Sources: Jean Barbot and his Letter, A People & A Nation

Forum 2

What do you see as the best and/or the worst contributions of Puritanism to American culture? Or you can put it another way: how does the Puritanism in our 'national genealogy' express itself today?

I think that the best contribution to American culture by Puritanism would by education. The Puritans believed that “all Christians should learn to read the Bible and to decide for themselves what it means”. To read the bible one must first be able to read. The Puritans came up with “A New England Primer Alphabet” to teach children to read; while it is religious in nature it did its job well. The Puritans also built Harvard College six years after they settled in Massachusetts Bay. The Puritans wanted people to be educated so that they could read and interpret the bible for themselves.

The worst contribution of the Puritanism to American culture was their “need to segregate themselves from nonbelievers, to create a "Bible commonwealth,"”. “The colony of Massachusetts Bay expelled hundreds of dissenters, and even hanged a few.” This led to America losing a great deal of intelligent people. Their need for segregation cost them people like Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams who were the real Puritans, not people like Cotton Mather or John Winthrop.

Forum 3 Works Cited

Snyder, Mark. "The Education of Indentured Servants in Colonial America." N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2012. <http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JOTS/v33/v33n2/snyder.pdf>.

"The Start of Slavery in North America." About.com African-American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2012. <http://afroamhistory.about.com/od/slavery/a/The-Start-Of-Slavery-In-North-America.htm>.

Forum 3

Which came first in America, slavery or racism? Or put it another way: did slavery cause racism, or did racism cause slavery? (Obviously slavery existed long before the American colonies were founded; but this question refers to America, specifically colonial Virginia.)

Slavery came before racism to the American colonies. At first, in Virginia, “white and black servants were treated very much the same”. This statement from an Introduction to Slavery shows that originally black servants were treated much the same as their white counterparts. It was not until later that “we find black servants receiving different and more severe punishments in court records”.

In 1757 in the Virginia colony Reverend Peter Fontaine said, “The Negroes are enslaved by the Negroes themselves before they are purchased by the masters of the ships who bring them here. It is, to be sure, at our choice whether we buy them or not, so this is our crime, folly, or whatever you will please to call it.” Africans were being enslaved by other Africans before slavery even reached America. This shows that the American colonists were buying African slaves because they were available not because they had a preconceived notion of them being inferior based solely on skin color.

Slavery or indentured servitude existed before African slaves were brought to America. Indentured Servitude was slavery by contract; a person would be a slave in return for passage to America for a set period of time. A felon could also be sold into indentured servitude by his or her country. Mark Snyder writes in The Education of Indentured Servants in Colonial America that it is believed that indentured servitude came to America in the early 1600’s when Jamestown was founded. When Africans were brought to Virginia, they were originally treated as indentured servants and were freed when their time was up. The African slaves were not treated differently than white servants until racism was born.

Forum 4

What connections do you see between the (religious) Great Awakening and the (political/economic) American Revolution? Cite some specific examples from the readings.

The biggest connection is that the Great Awakening helped cause the American Revolution. This is shown in The Great Awakening - An Intellectual Crisis. The lesson states, “The Great Awakening directly influenced the rhetoric and ideology of the American Revolution. Indeed, it was an intellectual crisis that penetrated every aspect of American thought; and so might be called a primary cause of the Revolution”.

The Great Awakening “challenged traditional modes of thought, for the revivalists’ message directly contested the colonial tradition of deference” (Norton 110). This led to people separating into New Lights and Old Lights. The New Lights then “questions not only religious but also social and political orthodoxy … New Lights began to defend the rights of groups and individuals to dissent from a community consensus, thereby challenging one of the fundamental tenet of colonial political life”(Norton 111). The Great Awakening put the American people in the right mindset for the American Revolution. The Great Awakening prepared the colonists to question why they were controlled by Great Britain.

The Great Awakening and the American Revolution both forced people to act as individuals and question religion and political tenets. During the Great Awakening the American people had to question their religious beliefs. They had men like George Whitefield preaching about redemption. Then there were men like Jonathan Edwards who preached that “natural men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked…” When the American people were presented with different men who preached different concepts from the same religion, they themselves were forced to decide if they were an Old Light or a New Light. Likewise the American Revolution forced the American people to decide if they would be loyal to America or Great Britain or themselves as an individual.

Forum 5

Was the Revolution really "radical" (that is, were the revolutionaries trying to bring about a genuine deep change in American life); or was it "conservative" (an attempt to exchange foreign rule for rule by Americans, without really changing the structures of society)?

I feel that the Revolution was more of a civil war acording to the defintion presented in A Grassroots Revolt against Colonial Authorities. The lesson clearly states the difference between a revolution and a civil war as “A revolution overthrows the existing political, social and economic hierarchy. A civil war changes the membership of the hierarchy, but not the hierarchy itself”. Using this definition I would say that the Revolution was conservative in that it was more of a civil war than a true rvolution.

Samuel Adams was definitely a radical, however, if the Revolution was Radical than America should have undergone darastic changes after they won the war. For instance Adams writes,“… The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legialative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule”. The problem is that the laws of America remained to resemble Britain’s laws. American laws did not change to resembling the laws of nature, they stayed relatively the same. The laws still kept the rich aristorcrats in power, the poor working in farms, and the middle class working on ships or shops.

In 1776, another true radical, Thomas Paine wrote a series of pamphlets called, Common Sense. One section read, “ O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dares oppose, not only the tyranny but the tyrant, syand forth!... Freedom has been haunted round the globe. Asia and Africa expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England has given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind”. Thomas Pain wrote for freedom, yet after the war was won America did not allow for freedom any more than Europe did. When America won the Revolution, they did not free the slaves to allow freedom in America.

The Revoltion was more conservative than radical because while the government changed America did not. The revolution, in the end, was not a radical one that men like Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine hoped for. It was “an attempt to exchange foreign rule for rule by Americans, without really changing the structures of society”.

Forum 6

Perhaps both sides were "blind with patriotism," in Malcolm X's words. But which side makes the stronger argument? Why do you think so?

While both sides were "blind with patriotism”, I feel that the American side had the stronger argument. The Americans and the British each looked at the war differently. The American side saw the revolution as their way to gain their freedom from the British and knew that if they failed the consequences would be harsh. The British saw the war as the Americans refusing to pay the debts they owed to the British. The Americans had more riding on the outcome of the war than the British did.

Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine were both truly "blind with patriotism," as Malcolm X said. Both men made moving arguments that got the “fence sitters” involved in the war. In his speech at St. John’s Church Patrick Henry said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Thomas Paine wrote a series of pamphlets called Common Sense that helped the American people to decide to fight in the Revolution. In his first pamphlet, The American Crisis, he writes, “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Thomas Pain’s pamphlets made many moving references; he compares the British tyranny to hell and he makes references to America’s failure meaning slavery for everyone.

James Chalmers, a loyalist, who wrote Plain Truth in response to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense penned, “A war will ensure between the creditors and their debtors, which will eventually end in a general spunge or abolition of debts, which has more than once happened in other States on occasion similar”. The arguments made by James Chalmers and the British loyalists were found to lack the type of emotional response that men like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine created.

Forum 7

Choose one of the alternative ideas presented by the Anti-Federalists (other than the Bill of Rights, please, which is just too obvious!) and argue that it was a really good, or a really bad, idea.

One of the alternate ideas the Anti-Federalists presented was the idea of having a weaker federal government. The Anti-Federalist group was headed by Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee. The “Antifederalists, while recognizing the need for a national source of revenue, feared a too-powerful central government” (Norton 187). I feel that the Anti-Federalist idea for having a weak central government was a bad one. The government needed to be able to have the power to act quickly when needed, not wait around for every state to send a delegate on horse-back.

The Anti-Federalist’s main fear is stated in the `Brutus' Letters. Their main fear was that the federal government would exercise their power to “annihilate all the state governments, and reduce this country to one single government”. I feel that the Anti-Federalists wanted the government to be weaker so that it could not dissolve the states; however, in making the federal government weaker, the country would also take more time to respond to an attack from another nation.

History has shown that weak governments can cause a people to be conquered. For example our history textbook explains how easy it was for the Europeans to originally conquer America. The Indians split themselves into separate tribes and, by doing so, made themselves weaker and more open to attack. When the Europeans came and conquered the Indians, they were already divided amongst themselves. This made them easier to conquer as they were limited in how quickly they could warn other tribes and in how rapidly they could assemble additional warriors. This is an example of how easy it is for nations to conquer a country with a weak government.

Forum 8 Work Cited

"D.C.'s Political Report: 2012 Presidential Candidates." D.C.'s Political Report: 2012 Presidential Candidates. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. <http://www.dcpoliticalreport.com/pres12.htm>.

Infoplease. Infoplease, n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. <http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781450.html>.

Forum 8

How would today's America be different if an institutionalized two-party system had not evolved? (Maybe no parties at all; or a large number of parties across the political spectrum, as in most of the world today?) Argue that we would, or wouldn't, be better off if we had taken George Washington's advice.

I feel that America would be better off if we had heeded George Washington’s warning, “Let me…warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally”. In his first inaugural address President Jefferson agreed with George Washington when said, “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” If America had listened to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the country would not have a Democrat and Republican Party. Instead, we would have candidates that would be judged by their merits, not their political party.

I feel that the country would be better off without political parties. The American people generally vote based on which political party they support considering that most people only vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate. If we did not have political parties, then all candidates would be judged equally. This means that the Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, and many other party’s candidates would have an equal chance of winning American votes. This would better serve America as it would allow us a diverse candidate pool. America would have the best president, not just the one with the most financial and political support.

Forum 9

How did these early policies and attitudes towards westward expansion affect American culture, in the long run? Not just the way we look at our own country, but the way we look at the world?

The early attitude towards western expansion was one of curiosity. Thomas Jefferson writes to Lewis, “Your observations are to be taken with great pains and accuracy”. America was very interested in finding out more about the West, particularly the Indiana territory. President Jefferson specifically wanted Lewis and Clark to “… acquire what knowledge you can of the state of morality, religion, and information”. He wanted to know about the Indians so he could decide how best to “civilize and instruct them”.

President Thomas Jefferson dictated that the policy for Lewis and Clarks exploration was “… we wish you to err on the side of your safety, and bring back your party safe, even if it be with less information”. The policy for Lewis and Clark’s trip was to get as much information as possible without risking their safety to the degree that their party would be unable to return. While desirous of information, President Jefferson understood that some information is better than no information.

I feel that America’s early attitudes towards expansion have caused us as a country to look at new things with curiosity. When we see something new, we question it and attempt to discover all that we can about it. Also, much like how Jefferson wanted Lewis and Clark to gather information on the Indians, America has diplomats to gather information about foreign countries. Whether in the past or present, America uses all the means at its disposal to gather information about non-Americans, in order to create more successful plans.


Forum 10

In what ways do you see the South becoming ever more different from the North? If you had been living at the time, what signs would you have seen of a civil war in the future?

America first split into North and South over values. “Certain American values, such as materialism, individualism, and faith in progress, have been associated with the North and values such as tradition, honor, and family loyalty with the South” (Norton 247). The difference in values is what caused the first signs of an impending civil war.

After the American Revolution the North and Upper South began to apply “Enlightenment ideas of natural rights and equality” (Norton 250) to slavery. In 1796 George Tucker argued that, “slavery not only violates the laws of nature and of civil society, it also wounds the best forms of government”. The South defended the practice of slavery; their economy depended on farming and they used slaves to clear the fields and harvest the crops. William Grayson defended slavery; he saw slavery as “the system of labor which exchanges subsistence for work, which secures a life-maintenance from the master to the slave, and gives a life-labor from the slave to the master”. William Grayson provided one of the many pro-slave arguments. Many Southerners justified slavery as a positive good and not just a necessary evil.

The argument on whether slavery should be kept or not caused many issues in the United States. In 1816 George Bourne, a presbyterian minester, was exiled fromVirgiania for his anti-slavery sermons and for expelling slave holders from his church. As the slavery argument became religious, the movements became less likely to be able to be resolved in a peaceful manner. Anyone living in the post civil wartime period would be able to see that the North and South were heading towards a major confrontation.

Forum 11

Why didn't these movements catch on, and evolve into large-scale labor unions? What other factors in American life at the time worked against organized labor, or distracted people from the issues the Workies raised?

The labor unions did not catch on and evolve into large-scale unions because at that time “unions were still technically illegal, organizers disguised them as political parties”. Since the unions were illegal many people would not want to become involved in them even if they were disguised as a political party. Many of the working class people could not risk being in a labor union because unemployment insurance did not exist and a factory would not want to hire anyone that was in a labor union.

Labor unions may have caught on and become popular even with the risk involved if it wasn’t for the financial panic. In 1837 the closing of Second Bank of the United States triggered an economic panic that turned into an economic depression. The American people did not have time to worry about the issues the Workies raised, when they had to worry about poverty, food, and family. Philip Hone, former New York Mayor, observed, “A deadly calm pervades this lately flourishing city. No goods are selling, no businesses stirring.” (Norton 291). People were forming lines in front of soup societies for food, looting buildings, sheriffs were forced to sell seized property at a quarter of the normal price, and workers were demanding their deposits from closed banks. With all this going on people did not have the time, energy, or financial security to make demands from the factories. During this economic depression people were happy to just be employed no matter the working conditions of the job.

Forum 12

The utopian, abolitionist and women's movements had a lot in common. How did they all hope to "perfect" America? What were their shared goals?

The utopian, abolitionist and women's movements all hoped to perfect America in some way. The Utopian groups merely wanted to be left alone in their created Utopia. The abolitionists wanted freedom for the slaves. The women's movements wanted equality among men and women. The utopian, abolitionist and women's movements all desired what was best for their group.

One of the shared goals of the abolitionist and women's movements was stated plainly in the Seneca Falls Declaration. The declaration states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. The women's movement and the abolitionist movement wanted to perfect America by making all people equal.

The Amana Society did not want to perfect America; they wanted to perfect their own society. The Amana Society had many rules for how they should act in public, private, and outside of their society. One of their rules states, “Have no intercourse with worldly-minded men; never seek their society; speak little with them, and never without need; and then not without fear and trembling.” This rule shows that the Amana Society did not wish to interact with anyone outside of their society. The rule further states that they should fear anyone that was not part of the Amana Society.

Works CIted

 
 
"List of Wars Involving the United States." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Feb. 2012. Web. 02 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States>.
"Manifest Destiny." Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2012. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Manifest Destiny>.

Forum 13

Looking at today's America, what characteristics of our society do you see as products of the "western experience" in our history?

The western experience in America has defined many modern day American characteristics. The western experience brought about the creation of the term and implementation of Manifest Destiny. America’s experience in the west also caused many writers, poets, and artists to glamorize the western experience to their readers.

Manifest Destiny is the belief that it was America’s destiny to expand and extend its’ territory as well as its’ influence. In 1839 John L. O'Sullivan wrote “America is destined for better deeds. It is our unparalleled glory that we have no reminiscences of battle fields, but in defense of humanity, of the oppressed of all nations, of the rights of conscience, the rights of personal enfranchisement.” The fact that America defends oppressed nations is a modern day characteristic that was a product of the western experience. America has gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan to help the oppressed.

Many Americans traveled westward after reading works that described the West as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Norton 336). Arriving immigrants were quickly disillusioned to what the West actually was. The song “to the West” does a reliable job summing up what immigrants thought once they made in to the west. It reads, “At the west they told me there was wealth to be won… I tried—couldn’t do it—gave it up in despair… The snug little farm I expected to buy, I quickly discover was just all in my eye” (Norton 335). The characteristic of glamorizing ideas to attract the American public is a very modern characteristic. America often glamorizes war in their recruitment commercials and posters. America talks about how men should become soldiers to show prove their strength, manliness, and/or devotion to the country. None of these commercials or posters shows the difficulties and/or death on the battlefield any more than the writers and government talked about the violent wildlife, the Indians, or the hardships of starting a farm from scratch.


Forum 14

Is there any way the United States could have brought slavery to an end, without violence or civil war?

I believe that slavery may have been ended without violence if the argument had been kept more political. The problem began when anti-slavery groups instigated and/or encouraged violent rebellions. These rebellions and speeches led the arguments to evolve into warfare.

The anti-slavery movement became violent when John Brown of Connecticut led a raid on Harper’s Ferry. John Brown and his financial backers believed that the destruction of slavery “required revolutionary ideology and revolutionary acts (Norton 381). To the South John Brown’s attack was seen as an act of “midnight terrorism and the fulfillment of their long-stated dread of ‘abolition emissaries’ who would infiltrate the region to incite slave rebellions” (Norton 381). The South saw Brown’s actions as an attack on them and their way of life. This was no longer an argument over slavery; it was a war to prove that the South had the right to live their lives as they wanted.

In 1843, Henry Garnet called for rebellion. He said, “if hereditary bondsmen would be free, they must themselves strike the blow”. Here is yet another man encouraging slaves to revolt knowing that slave revolt is one of the South’s greates fears. To the South, seeing men advising their slaves to strike against them and no one in the North doing anything to stop, would have been seen as an insult to the South.

I feel that the United States could have brought slavery to an end without violence if they had worked with the South to end slavery instead of allowing radical abolitionists to attack the South and harden the South’s resolve against any type of anti-slavery agreements. If the North had put a stop to violent attacks and instead talked the issue over with the South in a nonviolent manner, perhaps the United States could have formed a plan to end slavery without making the South believe that the North was attacking their way of life. They could have developed a plan to end slavery gradually, so that the Southern economy would not suddenly crash when it lacked slave labor.

Forum 15 Work Cited

"Civil War Trust." Civil War Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2012. <http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/faq/>.

"Why Did They Fight? | American Civil War." Why Did They Fight? | American Civil War. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2012. <http://www.factasy.com/civil_war/2008/03/13/why_did_they_fight>.

Forum 15

Why (really) was this war fought? Was it about slavery, which seems like the most obvious answer? or was it about legal, constitutional, philosophical, economic reasons? Some combination of these? In your view, what was the real number-one issue?

I feel that the many Northerners fought in the Civil War against the South because of slavery; however the main reason for the war was not slavery. The main reason for the Civil War was the Unions’ refusal to allow the United States to be split. The South fought against the North because of economic reasons. They were afraid that if they did not fight to be separate from the North then the North would free all their slaves leaving the South’s farming economy to crash.

The Emancipation Proclamation, written by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863, gives the North’s reason for the War, the freedom of slaves. The Proclamation reads, “And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free”. This Proclamation does not free all slaves, but merely the slaves that are in states that are in rebellion against the North. The hope was that the Proclamation freeing the slaves would weaken the South and allow for an easier North victory.

Another reason for the war was the economic consequences that the South would suffer if all of their slaves were freed. The South fought to be separate from the North because they believed that the North wanted to free all of their slaves. Without slaves the South would have to pay individual workers to have their fields maintained instead of a one-time fee for a slave laborer. The South fought because they were afraid that without slaves their economy would collapse and leave them inferior to their Northern counterparts. The South felt that if they separated themselves from the North than the North would be unable to free their slaves and then their economy would not crash.


Forum 16

Americans had just fought a horrendous war to fulfill the Revolution's promise that "all men are created equal." So why were the freed slaves were treated this way? or to put it another way, why did average Americans (who after all, were mostly decent people with consciences) allow this to happen?

The freed black slaves were treated poorly after the Civil War. In 1866 the American government issued Official Advice to Freedmen. Their official advice consisted of telling the former saves that they should recognize their obligations to the federal government because it had freed them from slavery. The document further states, “I advise you to remain in your old homes, and that you enter into good contracts with your former owners and masters… I trust you will be able to get on as well with your late masters. ” The document is recommending to the former slaves that they should stay with their former masters, thus advising the black people to accept a lesser place in society and not to strive for more.

One reason is that many Americans fully believed that Africans were not intelligent and, therefore, could only be “governed with the whip” (Norton 444). Another reason for this belief was that many Americans blamed the former slaves for the war and their suffering, because if there had not been an argument over the slavery issue then the war may not have started. The white Americans blamed the loss of their loved ones on the former black slaves.

In the South Americans disliked blacks because of the “tremendous financial loss in slaves” (Norton 443). When the slaves were freed, Southern slave owners lost the money that they had paid to purchase their slaves and they took their anger out on the blacks by not treating them equally.

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