For the White Man, Of the White Man, and By the White Man
The American Revolution was a glorious war fought to free the
American colonies from the British rule. Although we won that war,
there were still many people who were not free from our rule. One
people in general were the black slaves. The black people had many
struggles to freedom which helped shape our American culture today.
Three different periods characterized there struggles: the slaves before
the Civil War, during Reconstruction, and during the civil rights
movements. These three eras mark a pivotal point in the movement and
advancement of the black race to social equality.
During the time before the Civil War, it was not easy for slaves to
organize and rebel against their slaveholders or whites in general.
There were numerous laws that specifically took away slaves rights as
men. Slaves also feared the whip and even death if they were to act out
against their owners. The Declaration of Independence did not apply to
many groups and the black race was one of those excluded groups. "We
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness"(Primus
295). Thomas Jefferson, having slaves himself, recognized the fact that
he could not free the slaves himself in that document. It was difficult
enough for him to get the Declaration approved by all of the colonies in
itself. In fact the last man to sign the Declaration of Independence
did not do so until the year 1778. The slaves were kept in ignorance of
any knowledge which might have led to their freedom. Laws forbade
reading and writing for slaves. They also forbade anyone to teach a
slave to read. To keep the slaves obedient, slaveholders often made an
example of a slave by beating him with the cow skin, or even killing
him. "He[Gore] gave Denby but few stripes; the latter broke away from
him and plunged into the creek, and, standing there to the depth of his
neck in water, he refused to come out at the order of the overseer;
whereupon, for this refusal, Gore shot him dead!"(My Bondage and My
Freedom 122). This era was definitely a period were the black people
had little voice in their future and society.
Most people in the north felt differently however. These people
were called the abolitionists, and they were dedicated to freeing the
slaves. The southern states, strongly disagreed with their views and
broke away from the Union to form the Confederate states. Their
division led to the Civil War, resulting in freedom for the slaves.
"And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order
that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts
of States are, and henceforward shall be, free; and that the Executive
Government of the United States, including the military and naval
authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said
The Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln wrote was a large step
towards the equality of black men and women. It spurred the
Reconstruction era that was so vital to black rights movement. The
Reconstruction period brought new laws, giving black people the right to
own land, and black men the right to vote. "The right of citizens of
the of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the
United States of by any State on account of race, color, or previous
condition or servitude."(Primus 339). It was now amended in the
Constitution. While the whites still found ways around these laws
however, the black people were still better off than they once were.
Some states enforced a Black Code, which forbade a black man the right
to vote if he could not read. This was somewhat effective for the
southern whites in blocking the black vote, since the blacks were
forbidden to learn to read while they were enslaved. With the new black
freedom, came organizations against their freedom. The KKK, or Ku Klux
Klan, was responsible for many black murders. The cult would often made
an example of a black man if he were very outspoken and loud. They
would hang a black man in the most popular tree in town as to make sure
everyone got the message. Reconstruction brought education to the
blacks, but it also brought segregation. Blacks had to use separate
schools, buses, and public facilities. Although use of these facilities
was far better than slavery, blacks still deserved the same rights as
everyone else. With ever increasing segregation, it was only a matter
of time before blacks would demand equal rights, and that is what
spawned the civil rights movements.
The civil rights movement in the 60^Òs was a major event in U.S.
history for men and women, black or white. Without the Reconstruction
period, however, Michigan State University might be an all black
segregated school. Blacks had the right to ride in the front of the
buses, drink out of the same drinking fountains, and go to school with
their white neighbor. After the civil rights laws were enacted,
military personnel were sometimes needed to protect the black children
going to school. Affirmative action ensured fair employment practices.
The civil rights movement was undeniably the pivotal point in this
countries history for social equality.
What our forefathers fought for in the American Revolution was
freedom form British rule. The Civil War was fought mainly for the
freedom of slaveowner^Òs rule. At some point in between those two
periods America forgot what it was like to be ruled without choice.
Today, after the civil rights laws, the U.S. seems to be a more
harmonious place to live. We must see that the past does not repeat
itself, while we must also ensure that we are ever striving to improve
our way of life. It is up to our generation to teach future generations
that the basic ideals that our forefathers fought for in the American
Revolution only the stepping stone to the ideals that we live by today.