African American Studies

Abraham Lincoln; Was He “the Great Emancipator”?

Abraham Lincoln has been identified by many as the Great Emancipator for his efforts in the liberation of over four million slaves.  He was very instrumental in the collapse of slavery with his Emancipation Proclamation. He signed the proclamation on January 1, 1863 which transformed the level and meaning of the Civil War. Lincoln popularized his approach of bringing slavery to an end which aimed at coming up with the least revolutionary and the most lawful methods to completely abolish slavery. He gave proposal of different variations that sought to attain gradual, compensated emancipation as well as support the voluntary removal of freed slaves from the United Stated. This paper acknowledges the efforts that Abraham Lincoln did in the freeing of blacks and abolishing of slavery but does not support his title of the Great Emancipator. The discussion will present the reasons for this position.

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While I cannot deny the great contribution that Abraham Lincoln did in abolishing the slavery, I tend to join the critiques seeking to search for deeper insight into what led to this position. The motives if Lincoln signing the Proclamation has arose among many scholars. An article by Lerone Bennett has described Lincoln as a White Supremacist rather than the Great Emancipator. His argument here presents Lincoln as an opportunist rather than idealist. From his action it is evident that Lincoln did not believe in whites and blacks living together in America. This can be seen from his proposal on Black exodus that told the Black that it was their duty to leave after being freed (Friedman, 2005).

Critiques have indicated that the action by Lincoln was a political move aimed at giving him more power and popularity. In this, the actions of Lincoln passing the bill were a war measure that was meant to ensure the weakening of the Confederate army and strengthen the Union Side with more black soldiers. This therefore classifies this emancipation as a military necessity rather a major antislavery achievement. Lincoln provide arguments on the political front for his support of the emancipation by stating that no human power would conquer the rebellion without the use of Emancipation lever as he had done (Friedman, 2005).

Abraham Lincoln did a great job of liberating the slaves from the reign of slavery but not to the extent of earning the title of the Great Emancipator. His speech to the senate in 1858 indicated his position that he was not in favor of enhancing social and political equality of whites and black races. He indicated that he was not moving to make the black voters, nor help them qualify for positions of power, neither support their intermarriage with the white people. He indicated that there were physical differences between the white and blacks in terms of social and political equality (Douzart, 2012).

In conclusion, the efforts by Lincoln to end slavery through the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation were not purely on the benefits of blacks. While he supported the idea of people not holding others under their power, his proclamation did not grant them equal rights with the whites. Even after the abolishment of slavery blacks were not allowed to intermarry with the white, vote or even hold positions of power. This therefore does not acknowledge of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. He made tremendous efforts to the abolishment of slavery but his motives make him lose on the position of the Great Emancipator.

Comparing and Contrasting Colonial and American slavery

There are two different types of slavery that have existed which are Colonial and American Slavery. These two types of slavery have had different features and characteristics in terms of conditions, treatment in slavery, and punishment of the slaves. This paper will seek to compare and contrast the Colonial slavery and the American slavery while laying emphasis on the condition, treatment and punishment of the slaves. The colonial slavery took place from the seventeenth century as opposed to the American slavery that came during the 18th and 19th century.

American Slavery

The slavery in America was different between the Southern and then Northern regions. Among the Southern region, there was harsher and crueler condition as compared to the Latin America. In the Northern region made up of the Latin America, the Catholic Church were huge advocates of the rights of slaves where they were granted the right to marry, seek relief from the master as well as buy their freedom. In some areas such as the West Indiana, slaves were expected to grow their own food unlike their counterparts in the South.

The American slavery aimed at having an ideal slave which was achieved by maintain high levels of discipline and unquestionable submission. The masters aimed at creating a sense of personal inferiority for the slave to always know their place. The slaves lived in fear and had to have interest in their master’s undertakings. The slaves were deprived of education and recreation to make sure they remained dependent and uneducated (Weld, 2015).

The slaves during the American slavery were punished through means such as whipping, shackling, being beaten, branding, different forms of mutilation, and being put in prison. The punishments were usually carried out after the slaves were committed acts regarded as disobedience to their masters. Some other forms of punishments were initiated to assert the position of power of the master over the servant. Punishments through whipping while on work in plantations as a way of making the slaves work at a faster pace (Simkin, 2016)

Colonial Slavery

Colonial slavery was initiated by the European colonizers such as the British, Spanish, and French. These Europeans entered America in early 17th century as settlers. The forced labor during these years was mainly comprised of the indentured service. This meant that the masters did not permanently own the slaves and would use them as human tools of production. These slaves were either acquired through voluntary or involuntary means. The voluntary servants included redemptions who served to pay their passage fee to America and the children of English poor working as apprentices up to their twenty first birthdays. The involuntary slaves included the impoverished and orphaned English children provided by the English government, the colonial criminals, colonist bound to serve in lieu as a result of their debt (Rothbard, 2013).

 They resolved to acquire African slaves as source of cheaper and readily available labor source as opposed to using the poorer Europeans whom they had to pay.  This lead to the importation of African slaves in Mass. The indentured slaves received harsher treatment as the master aimed at completely exhausting them before the end of their tenure. The indentured servant would receive no money.

The colonial slavery was mainly comprised of the indentured servant who did not get any monetary payment. Their working schedules and conditions were determined by the masters. The masters would also place punishments of different kinds to the slaves at their own discretion. Most the slaves were punished for attempts to run away from their masters. The forms of punishment adopted by these masters included beating, or increment of the term of indenture for factors of two or three. Other forms of punishment included branding, being chained and torture. Punishments were also initiated to deal with the runway slaves and the leaders of such uprising who would even be killed (Rothbard, 2013).

Conclusion

The American and the colonial slavery both involved acquiring free or cheap labor from servant. The colonial slavery mainly involved indentured servant tied to slavery for a certain period. These servants were mainly poor or imprisoned whites. The American slavery was mainly comprised of the Negro slaves who had been captured and shipped from Africa. The slaves under the American slavery were comprised on energetic, healthy and well-built Africans. The slaves were lived in poor conditions with not rights to education and other privileges. They were constantly punished through imprisonment, beating, and whipping, extension of working period, branding and mutilation.

Frederick Douglas- An African American Who Had Great Impact Before 1880

Frederick Douglas was and remains to be a great inspiration to many people all over the world today, most specifically African American populations. Frederick Douglass was born in the year 1818. The exact month and day on which he was born is not accurately known. When he grew up, he chose to celebrate his birthday on the fourteenth of February. His full names were Frederic Augustus Washington Bailey. He was born a slave in Talbot County which is in Maryland. During the early days of his life, Frederick Douglass lived with grandmother known as Betty Bailey. His mother passed on when Douglass was ten years old. When he was still very young, Douglass was chosen to live in the house of the white men who owned plantations. People speculate that one of these plantation owners may have been his father. Douglass has a passion for learning and he continued to learn various things from the white children and those who knew how to write around him.(Douglass, 2003)

Through reading, Douglass started resenting the injustice in the system and his ideological disapproval of slavery started to be shaped. He enjoyed reading newspapers and political articles that helped shape his way of thinking. He shared the information that he gained from his diverse reading with other slaves that he worked with. At one time he was hired out to a man called William Freeland. During this period he took time during the church services, that took place every week, to teach other slaves how to read. He concentrated on teaching them how to read the New Testament in the Bible.  Douglass’s classes were popular among the slaves as many of them turned up to be taught. William Freeland was not bothered by the lessons that were taking place but the other slave owners disapproved. These slave owners dispersed that group of people using clubs and stones.

As a slave Frederick moved between different slave owners. At the time he was around sixteen years old he had to work for a man known as Edward Covey. Edward Covey was known for his cruelty towards slaves. Working for Covey was very hard for Frederick as he endured physical and psychological torture. Covey only stopped beating Douglass after the two had a physical confrontation which Covey lost. In his first autobiography, Douglass describes that confrontation as a powerful one. Before the age of twenty, Douglass had attempted to escape from his owners two times. The second time when he was twenty years old, he succeeded in escaping. The successful escape was aided by a young black woman from Baltimore called Anna Murray who was a free woman. Murray supplied him with some money and a sailor’s uniform during his escape.

Murray and Anna got married on September 15, 1838 after which they adopted the name Johnson in order to disguise the identity of Douglass. After marriage the two established a home in New Bedford in Massachusetts. New Bedford had a flourishing community of free black people. When living there he became a member of a black church in the community and went to abolitionist meetings regularly. At one time, Douglas was requested to tell his story during one of meetings the abolitionists held. This was the beginning of his journey as an anti-slavery lecturer. (Douglass F. , 1968)

The author of a weekly journal, The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison was impressed by the extraordinary skills that Douglas possessed and wrote about him in his journal.  This story made him more famous in the community. Douglas gave his first speech ever at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s annual convention in Nantucket. Even though he was loved by many people, he was still highly opposed by some. In 1943 Douglas was beaten by an angry mob when on a lecture tour.

In 1845 Douglas had his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. This was translated into a number of languages and was a best seller in the United States. Many people could not believe that a former slave who had no formal education could be able to write such a great prose. Three versions of Douglas’s autobiography were published during the period he was alive. My Bondage and My Freedom was published in 1855 and Life and Times of Frederick Douglas in 1892. In 1845 Douglas escaped to Ireland to avoid recapture and. He stayed in Ireland and Britain lecturing many people on the evils of slavery.  He eventually returned to the United States in 1847 as a free man.

Douglas was a passionate supporter of the rights of women. During the civil war, Douglas used his great status to affect the influence of black people on the war. In 1863 he talked with President Abraham Lincoln about how black soldiers were treated and thereafter with President Andrew Johnson about black suffrage. Douglas was assigned several positions after the war. He would later become the first African American man to be nominated for the position of a vice president in the United States. This was the first time ever that an African American appeared on a presidential ballot. Douglas died in 1895 of a heart attack at the age of 77 and was buried in Rochester in New York

The Civil War and It’s Profound Effect On African Americans.

One event that had a tremendous effect on the African American community before 1880 is the civil war. The civil war began in 1861 and ended in the year 1865. The war was motivated by the tension that had been growing between the northern and southern states in the United States. When Abraham Lincoln was elected as the president in 1860, seven southern sates receded from the Union. In the middle years of the 19th century the economy of the Sothern states was highly dependent on large scale farming that depended highly on slaves. The growth of abolitionist ideas in the northern states made the southerners fear that their economy was in danger as slavery was a high contributor to the stability of their economy. (Collier, 2004)

The United States congress passed the Kansas Nebraska Act in 1854. This act served to legalize slavery in new territories. This Act motivated the pro- slavery and anti-slavery forces to form a new party that was aimed at opposing the extension of slavery into new in the western states. The southerners became more convinced that their economy was under attack and when Abraham Lincoln was elected as president. Abraham Lincoln was an abolitionist sympathizer who made many states recede from the United States. These states included Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. The civil war started in April when the confederate artillery fired the first shots. The confederates believed in preserving the traditions and institutions of their fore fathers with slavery being one of them. On July 21, 1861, 35000 soldiers of their soldiers forced Union forces to retreat towards Washington D.C. This battle is known as the first battle of Bull Run. This battle made Lincoln call for the recruitment of 500,000 more people. After some time it became clear to both sides that the war was not going to be short lived, hence both sides called for more recruits.

The single bloodiest day in the civil war occurred on September 17, 1862 at Antietam. On this day there were 12,410 casualties from the union and 13,724 from the confederates’ side. The victory of the union on this day made the confederates to stop their advance in Maryland.

President Abraham Lincoln took advantage of the victory the union had at Antietam and issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. This proclamation set free all the slaves living in the rebelling states after January 1, 1863. Lincoln referred to this action as a wartime measure but he did not free any slaves in the states that were loyal to the union. This proclamation reduced the confederates’ laborers and made the opinion of many people shift to supporting the union. The civil war was horrific and the most fiercest battle that has occurred on American soil

When the civil war began, many free blacks volunteered as soldiers and went to war alongside other union soldiers. On the confederates side the slaves were forced to fight alongside their masters. Most of these slaves were not given combat duties as the northern officers did not believe that they would fight. Blacks were also used as spies, cooks, blacksmiths and other relief duties (Heidler, 2000)

In 1864, the union put Petersburg under a siege which lasted for nine long months. The confederates’ army in- charge Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House after attempting to fight against the Union’s siege and failing. His surrender was accepted on April 9. This was a big stride on the journey to end the civil way. The union was experiencing a big victory. On April 1965 President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at the Ford’s Theatre that is in Washington. The man who assassinated him was an actor and a confederate sympathizer called John Wilkes Booth. On that fateful day the Union and the United States lost a great influential leader. The civil war ended on April 26, after all the rebelling states surrendered.  By the time the war ended 620,000 of the 2,400,000 soldiers who took part in it had lost their lives.

References

Collier, P. &. (2004). Greed and grievance in civil war. Oxford economic papers,, 563-595.

Douglass, F. &. (2003). The life and times of Frederick Douglass. . Courier Corporation.

Douglass, F. (1968). The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. An American Slave (1845. An American Slave .

Douzart, A. (2012). The Changing Image of Abraham Lincoln Among African Americans. Journal of Ideology.

Heidler, D. S. (2000). Encyclopedia of the American Civil War. A Political, Social, and Military History, 950.

Rothbard, M. (2013). The Brutality of Slavery. In Conceived in Liberty (pp. Volume 1, Chapter 6).

Simkin, J. (2016). Slave Punishments. Retrieved from http://spartacus-educational.com/USASpunishments.htm

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