During the lead up of the American Civil War, national ideological focus changed to what is known as the slavery debate. This shift was particularly important for a nation that prides itself on the principles of liberty and freedom. This debate over whether the ethical issue concerned with slavery exploitation was protected under the Constitution of the United States heavily challenged fundamental doctrines of this free nation.
One shining example is former president Abraham Lincoln and democratic nominee Stephen A. Douglas’ series of unmediated political debates, which illuminated much on the country’s reliance on slave exploitation. Stemming from this invigorated interest, remarkable changes began to blossom into a new era of American literature, cinematography and media coverage.
Distinct writers, such us Richard Wright, used their literary works as a way of redefining discussion of race relations in the United States during the mid 20th century. Indeed, Wrights novel Native Son was the first best selling novel by an African American writer and heavily increased his respect as a novelist.
In his novel, Wright uses his main character, Bigger as an example of the average brute Negro and highlights his relation with white individuals. Bigger’s life is not only contrasted with that of white, but an evident feeling of race superiority can be acclaimed through Bigger’s feelings and actions.
Wright’s chief success in the novel is his ability to warn America that Bigger’s aggressions were provoked by the oppressing racist force society imposed on African Americans. The author urges for change and explains to the white people the reasons behind several savage acts that black individuals such as Bigger committed. The effects of slavery on the American people have also been documented by James Baldwin.
James Baldwin an African American novelist and social critic of the mid 20th century presented Everybody’s Protest Novel: Notes of a Native Son, as a way of criticizing Richard Wright’s Native Son for portraying Bigger as and angry and violent black male.
Although Baldwin tackles issues against race in American and Europe, he believes that “Below the surface of (Wright’s) novel there lies, as it seems to me, a continuation, a complement of that monstrous legend it was written to destroy .”It is evidential that Baldwin disregards Wright’s novel and intends to honestly analyze an African American man’s experience.
Specifically Baldwin condemns Wright by highlighting: “The failure of the protest novel lies in its rejection of life, the human being, the denial of his beauty, dread, power, in its insistence that it is his categorization alone which is real and which cannot be transcended.” Clearly, Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son agrees with other African American authors, specially criticizing Wright’s abuse of naturalism and protest fiction in his novel.
Race intolerance is an extremely delicate topic in the United States. Slavery reinforces social prejudices and the forceful oppression against colored individuals during the mid 20th century.
The enslavement of African Americans in the United States opened wounds that until the date society cannot heal. Slavery has been the root of fear and the cause of violence of black individuals. Undeniably the society in which African Americans lived created an oppressive atmosphere that caused them to find its balance and identity relying on hostile actions.
All efforts to examine slavery through the lens of modernity makes it difficult to comprehend how individual’s supported and sustained an institution for centuries that degraded and dehumanized others for the exploitation of profit3. Slavery was a multidimensional practice that influenced economic thought in its time but also affected the social, cultural, and moral ethos of both its defenders and its destructors.
The slaveholder and the non slaveholder alike were sallied by maintaining a slave based society, and all individuals, whether they lived in the South or North, found their lives and times circumscribed by the necessities inherent in preserving slavery and preserving civil society simultaneously.
The response to this challenge led to the formation of a defensive posture that acknowledged the place of slavery in the natural order of the things and viewed abolitionist challenges to the peculiar institution as errant beliefs that would only produce social discord4.
Slavery played a significant role in the American politics in the nineteenth century. The legacies of slavery such civil rights, segregation and racial discrimination have dominated the current American society4. Slavery was a detrimental human servitude that put to test the very meaning and freedom of the American people. Slavery has had a significant impact on the political climate of the US. A number of experts hold the opinion that the early US was in fact defined by a relative lack of social differentiation3. The absence of class stratification in the American societies is also another outcome of slavery.
The American Revolution is said to have reinforced the scientific, social, and economic sources of racism, a product of slavery. The American Revolution brought together an extended body of political thought within which the existence of slavery could be tolerated only with the greatest difficulty.
Moreover, largely because it was the Revolutionary ideology and rhetoric which had prompted the debate over the nature of blacks and their place in the American society, that debate was concluded substantially within its context. Although religious inspiration and conviction accounted for a large proportion of individual manumissions and helped to promote antislavery, the scriptures themselves were ambiguous4.
They reinforced but rarely determined the course of the argument. If we are fully to appreciate, however, not only the extent but also the limitations in terms of the Revolutionary developments in approaches to slavery and race, then we must look at certain other trends in the American society which made their own contributions to the growth of more rigid patterns of racial prejudice and which lent their support to the view that it was necessary to resist slavery.
It has frequently been pointed out by historians that the very existence of any widespread antislavery sentiment in the Upper South was contingent upon the declining economic fortunes of the Tidewater region. During the last quarter of the eighteenth century, that region began the painful process of a major agricultural adjustment.
Until the middle of the eighteenth century the Negro’s place in the American society has been firmly institutionalized: he was a slave. The ideas central to the revolutions subjected the definition to severe strains. Coupled with broad a humanitarian and religious impulses, they brought under fire the institution of slavery and promoted a destruction of the identity of the slave and Negro.
This demanded, especially of the South, a redefinition of society and its values; it demanded a cultural revolution to match the political evolution. The revolutionary debate promoted an articulation of ideas which had previously existed largely on the level of assumption4.
The process of articulation made hardened and rationalized those assumptions and thereby made them more difficult to dislodge. It focused attention on the multiracial nature of the American population and laid bare the anomalous position, which blacks occupied. Blame for the anomaly was almost inevitably heaped upon the hapless blacks themselves.
The outcome of the debate was largely influenced by existing prejudices, but this emerged from it stronger than ever. Articulation and definition gave them an authority and respectability which firmly established them as societal norms. Moreover, there seemed to be no countervailing forces to arrest this development apart from those contained in the dogma of the American creed.
It had become obviously by 1820, however, that the revolutionary of force that creed was inadequate to destroy slavery and the social structure that it endangered3. It had become equally obvious that that the universality of the creed could not stand before the vision of America as a white man’s country.
Nether failure is all that suspiring, of course. Success would have involved a fundamental reordering of American society. But the extent of the failure was considerable. The growing discrimination against blacks has to be set against the active democratization and liberalization of the white society. It is worthy of note, for example, that restriction of black suffrage rights in some Northern states introduced in the very constitutions which were concerned to expand the political privileges of other members of the community.
Furthermore, by 1820, the major lines of Southern antebellum development had been established3. While this development included a similar, but modified, process of political liberalization, it was to include also an ever more active and positive defense of slavery. The 1820s was indeed a crucial decade; but the roots of those developments themselves foreshadowed, the revolutionary and post revolutionary generations.
The revolution flattered to deceive; it promised more than it achieved3. The historian is faced with the sad paradox that the first great onslaught on slavery on America was impelled by egalitarianism and by a belief in universal and natural rights: but it helped to produce a positive racism and explicit denial of those rights4.
The most detrimental impact of slavery on the American society is that it gave birth to racism. Racist doctrine evolved in early colonial America to place humanity into compartmentalized groups based on distinctive, social, and mental traits, which presumably established a ranking founded upon the unilinear evolutionist thinking of the time.
Its practitioners sought to delineate bicultural boundaries, coinciding with innate and heritable mental and moral differences, as justification for a polarization of the races that led to the subsequent exploitation and oppression of the darker races of the world.
The slave system was somewhat color blind until religious, social, legal, and political legitimation within the infrastructure of the Americas became aligned with the racist doctrine fostered by environmentalist thinking of the nineteenth century. Racism has its roots in the legacy of transatlantic slave trade, as it was the trades that created the ideology of white supremacy as a justification or support for the forced migration of millions of Africans to Europe and America4.
Baldwin, James. Everybody’s Protest Novel. Paris: Partisan Review, 1949.
Davis, Darién. Slavery and Beyond: The African Impact on Latin America and the Caribbean. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995.
Duncan, MacLeod. Slavery, Race, and the American Revolution. New York: CUP Archive, 1974.
Wright, Richard. Native Son. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1940.
- James Baldwin, Everybody’s Protest Novel, (Paris: Partisan Review, 1949) http://www.uhu.es/antonia.dominguez/semnorteamericana/protest.pdf pg. 22
- James Baldwin, Everybody’s Protest Novel, pg. 23
- Davis, Darién. Slavery and Beyond: The African Impact on Latin America and the Caribbean. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995.
- Duncan, MacLeod. Slavery, Race, and the American Revolution. New York: CUP Archive, 1974.
- 3 Davis, Darién. Slavery and Beyond: The African Impact on Latin America and the Caribbean. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995. 4 Duncan, MacLeod. Slavery, Race, and the American Revolution. New York: CUP Archive, 1974.