Slaves can only improve their circumstances by making horrible choices.
The moral complexity of slavery for African American women and the limited legal options available to them is revealed in the tragic story of a slave girl named Celia.
Robert Newsom, a prosperous and respected Missouri farmer, told his daughters that he had bought a fourteen- year- old girl to be their house servant in 1850.
The recently widowed Newsom wanted a sexual slave.
He raped her after purchasing her, and for the next five years he treated her as his mistress, even building her a brick cabin fifty yards from his house.
She gave birth to two children, one of which was fathered by Newsom.
On June 23, 1854, the sixty five year old Newsom entered the cabin and kept attacking the woman.
Desper killed him with a stick and then burned his body in the fireplace.
The remains of Newsom's body were found in the fireplace after family members suspected Celia.
At her trial, she was not allowed to testify because she was a slave.
The judge and jury, all white men, found her guilty of murdering Newsom and she was hanged.
It was not clear which tragedy he was referring to.
The power structure in the south at the time was not good.
She was both a slave and a woman in a society rife with sexism and racism.
African Ameri cans displayed resilience despite being victims of terrible injustice.
Wherever they could, they forged their own sense of community, asserted their individuality, and devised ingenious ways to resist.
Many on the largest plantations would gather at secret "night meetings" where they would drink stolen alcohol, dance, sing, and tell stories of resistance.
The stories were often derived from African tales, such as that of "Brer" Rabbit, who hid in a patch of prickly briars to escape the larger animals.
Slaves were impressed by the importance of those with power over them.
The instructions to runaways about how to evade capture were contained in the spiritual "Wade in the Water".
The Underground Railroad was a secret organization that helped slaves escape to the North.
The spirituals were a form of protest.
The prayer and complaint of souls overflowed with the bitter est anguish.
Although states did not recognize slave marriages, they did not prevent men and women from choosing life partners and families within the slave system.
Slaveholders thought that a black man who supported a family would be more reliable and obedient.
Sometimes slaveholders would have a minister conduct the service in the slave quarters.
The norm for both the white and the slave community was the nuclear family, with the father as the head of the household.
A slave's childhood was brief.
At five or six years of age, children were put to work; they collected trash and firewood, picked cotton, and scared crows away from the fields.
They were field hands by the age of ten.
Efforts to create a sense of extended family were similar to practices in Africa.
The Old South was made up of people who were afraid of God.
The majority of Southerners, white and black, embraced evangelical Protes tant denominations such as Baptists and Methodists, even though there were pockets of Catholicism and Judaism in the large coastal cities.
Baptists and Methodists welcomed blacks and gave women important roles in their churches in the late 18th century.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slaveholders who had agonized over the immorality of slavery.
Tilghman Tucker's slaves gathered in the woods to bury and mourn one of their own.
Englishman John Antrobus painted this scene and served in the Confederate army during the Civil War.
By the 1830s, there was no criticism of slavery in the southern states.
The majority of preachers switched from attacking slavery to defending it.
The majority of ministers who refused to promote slavery left the region.
All the men who owned him were Chris tians, but their faith never made a difference in how they treated their slaves.
At a Methodist revival in the 18th century, Douglass's master experienced a powerful conversion to Christianity and became a religious "exhorter" himself.
His devotion to Christ had no effect on how he treated his slaves.
African American culture has a mixture of African can, Caribbean, and Christian elements.
Slaves were given relief for the soul and release for their emotions by religion.
Africans brought with them a belief in a Creator, or Supreme God, who they could recognize in the Christian God, and who they could also identify with.
They believed in spirits, magic, charms, and conjuring, as well as a con jurer who could make someone sick or heal the afflicted.
Whites tried to eliminate African religion from the slave experience.
Slaves secretly gathered in what were called camp meetings, or bush meetings, to worship in their own way and share their joys, pains, and hopes.
About 20 percent of adult slaves joined Christian denom inations by 1860.
Many others were not considered Christians because they practiced aspects of the Christian faith.
Few whites understood the dynamics of slave religion.
Slaves embraced the Bible's promise of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus because it was inspiring in its support for the poor.
John MacGregor sketched this scene of African American worship in the course of his travels throughout the United States.
Many white planters thought that their slaves would be more obedient.
A south Georgia planter said that a Christian slave is more profitable than an unfaithful one.
The singing, clapping, and prayers that animated African American worship were hated by the planter.
The beating of drums was banned by him.
He wanted his slaves to become Christians.
The South, Slavery, and King Cotton provided services for them and built a Methodist church on his plantation.
A white visitor who attended the church reported that there were no religious excesses orhysteria among the slaves.
They were forced to display their religious passivity.
The French- controlled sugar colony of Saint- Domingue became the Republic of Haiti after an organized slave revolt.
The slaves burned plantations and killed white planters and their families.
The United States was shocked by the rebellion in Saint- Domingue, the world's richest col ony and leading source of sugar and coffee.
Many terrified whites who fled Haiti arrived in Charleston, where they told of the horrors they had experienced.
The former slaves, led by L'Ouverture, defeated the British and French armies in Haiti.
The southern slaveholder's greatest nightmare was the revolt in Haiti.
Any sign of resistance among the enslaved could lead to a brutal and gruesome response.
Two of Thomas Jefferson's nephews, Isham Lewis and Lilburn, tied a seventeen- year- old slave to the floor of their Kentucky cabin and killed him with an axe in front of seven other slaves because George had run away several times.
One of the slaves was forced to dismember the body and put the pieces in the fireplace after they gave him the axe.
Organized resistance was risky because of the authority and fire power of southern whites.
There were only four major slave insurrections in the South in the 19th century.
In 1800, a revolt involving hundreds of slaves was hatched by a slave named Gabriel Prosser.
They had a plan to overthrow the white elite and capture the governor, James Monroe.
Gabriel thought the poor white people would join their effort.
Twenty-six of Gabriel's "soldiers" were captured and hanged, while ten others were deported to the West Indies.
The largest slave revolt in American history took place just north of New Orleans, where sugarcane plant ers had acquired a large population of slaves, many of whom were ripe for revolt because of the harshness of their working conditions.
On January 8, a group of slaves led by Charles Deslondes, a trusted black overseer, broke into their owner's house along the east bank of the Mississippi River.
The planter's son was hacked to death, but he was able to escape.
weapons, horses, and militia uniforms were seized by Deslondes and his fellow rebels.
They headed toward New Orleans after being reinforced by more slaves.
They killed whites and burned houses along the way.
Their ranks grew to more than 200 over the next two days.
Their victories were brief.
A group of angry whites, as well as several free blacks who were later praised for their "tireless zeal and dauntless courage", were lized by the territorial governor.
The U.S. Army and militia joined in.
Most of the slaves who fled were captured.
Deslondes' hands were chopped off and he was shot in the chest and thighs.
A bale of hay was thrown over him as he bled to death.
As many as 100 slaves were tortured, killed, and beheaded, and their heads were placed on poles along the Mississippi River.
The plot in Charleston, South Carolina, was similar to the one in Danese Vesey.
In 1785, Vesey was taken to Charles ton, where he was allowed to work for pay in his free time, at nights, and on Sundays.
He used the money he won from the lottery to start his own carpentry shop.
He organized a Bible study class for other free blacks in the AME Church.
He had a hatred for whites and the slave system.
Vesey and other blacks came up with a plan for a slave revolt.
They would distribute hundreds of rifles to both free and enslaved blacks after capturing the city's arsenal.
The South, Slavery, and King Cotton will be killed along with any blacks who refused to join the rebellion.
Vesey was going to burn the city, seize ships, and head for the black republic of Haiti.
The plot didn't get off the ground.
Vesey and 135 others were captured, arrested, tried, and convicted after a slave told his owner about the rebellion.
Vesey and thirty- four others were executed, and three dozen more were taken to Cuba and sold into slavery.
The Emanuel AME church was demolished.
South Carolina placed restrictions on the mobility of free blacks and black religious gatherings after Vesey's planned rebellion.
John C. Calhoun became the South's most outspoken advocate for states' rights and slavery because of it.
The solar eclipse in February of 1831 was God's signal for him to act.
The fortieth anniversary of the Haitian slave rebellion was the reason Turner chose August 21 as the day to launch his insurrection.
Turner unlocked the door of his master's house in the middle of the night and let in a small group of slaves.
Turner's lawyer, Thomas R. Gray, wrote "Remember that ours is not a war for a published account of Turner's robbery, nor to satisfy our passions."
More slaves and free blacks joined the rebels at other farmhouses.
Some slaves hid their owners.
Fifty- seven whites, most of them women and children, were killed before the revolt ended.
The revolt was crushed by federal troops, Virginia militiamen, and volunteers.
Several African Americans were decapitated and their heads were placed on the road.
Turner was found guilty after being arrested and tried.
He was asked if the revolt was worth it.
His body parts were given to the victims' families.
The legislature of Virginia debated the abolition of slavery.
The delegates restricted the ability of slaves to learn to read and write after the proposal was defeated.
More armed patrols were created in response to Turner's rebellion.
The obstacles thrown in the way of the flying slave were highlighted by a former slave.
Thousands of escaped slaves made it to freedom despite the obstacles they faced.
The courage of those who yearn for freedom was demonstrated by the fugi tive slaves.
50,000 enslaved people tried to escape each year.
Others ran away to avoid being beaten.
Most slaves couldn't read, had no maps, and couldn't use public transportation, so the odds were against them.
The South, Slavery, and King Cotton had to have an identity pass or official emancipation papers to leave.
Runaways were often forced to return when they ran out of food or lost their way.
Others were tracked down by bounty hunters.
In the 1850's, the height of efforts to help runaways, only 1,000 to 1,500 slaves a year made it to freedom.
Slaveholders didn't understand why a slave would run away.
Scottish- born William Dunbar ordered that two of his runaways in Mississippi be given 500 lashes and have logs chained to their ankle.
They are well clothed, work easy, and have all kinds of produce for free.
Slaves found other ways to resist.
They were often enraged and manipulated by their owners.
Some faked illness, stole or broke tools, destroyed crops, or secretly slaughtered and ate livestock.
Others slacked off.
The laborers would eat better on a prosperous plantation than on a struggling one, for there were constraints on such rebellion.
The shrewdest slaveholders knew that rewards were more profitable than pain.
The rapid settlement of the western territories during the first half of the nineteenth century set in motion a ferocious competition between North and South for political influence in the West.
The delicate political balance would be tipped one way or the other by congressmen from the newly admitted western states.
South erners were able to protect and expand slavery because of the rapid growth of cotton's profitability.
The political controversy that would end in civil war was caused by the aggressive efforts to expand slavery.
The nullification controversy in South Carolina showed that Southerners disliked being told what to do by outsiders.
In order to cement the slave system in the South, many in the 1850s imagined every white family in the region owning slaves.
A Georgia newspaper editor said that theirs is a pro-slavery form of government.
The region's determination to remain a society dominated by whites was the recurring theme of southern politics and culture from the 1830s to the outbreak of civil war in 1861.
A South Car olinian said that slavery with us is a vital fact.
During the 1830s and after, southern political leaders focused on protecting their right to own, transport, and sell slaves in the new western territories.
Race-based slavery provided the South's prosperity as well as its growing sense of separateness and defensiveness from the rest of the nation.
The efforts to preserve and expand slavery were spearheaded by the southern state legislature.
The leaders of the Old South equate the preservation of slavery with the survival of their region.
The abolition of slavery by the Northerners helped reinforce southern unity while provoking an emotional defensiveness that would lead to the creation of the Cotton Kingdom.
The South remained rural and agricultural in the first half of the 19th century as the rest of the nation embraced urban indus trial development.
Cash crops such as tobacco, rice, indigo, and cotton were favored by the region's climate.
The plantation system of large commercial agriculture was dependent upon enslaved labor.
The cotton economy in the Old South was based on slave labor.
Slaves were forced to work in harsh conditions as they prepared the terrain for cotton farming.
The majority of slaves worked on cotton plantations.
As long as cotton prices were high, planters searched for new land and invested in slaves.
The planter elite owned more slaves than the rest of the society.
Most whites owned no slaves.
Simple farmers raised corn, cotton, hogs, and chickens.
Farmers from the South were willing to move West.
Most of the time, white women were on house hold.
The majority of whites were loyal to the institution of slavery.
If slaves were freed, those who owned no slaves feared the competition they believed they would face, and they enjoyed the privileged status that race-based slavery gave them.
The enslaved faced more restrictions as the southern economy became more dependent on slave labor.
They could be purchased or sold at any time.
They had no ability to defend themselves.
There could be severe punishments for violations.
The majority of southern blacks were slaves.
The free blacks worked in towns and cities.
Many slaves tried to escape, but only a few rebelled because of the consequences.
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During the first half of the 19th century, the United States was full of optimism and restless energy.
The American creed was about continuity in a brighter future.
"America is the country of the future," the Massachusetts philosopher- poet said.
As the market revolution widened economic inequality, the young republic was experiencing growing pains.
At the same time, tensions over economic policies and debates over the morality and future of slavery created a combative political environment that overflowed into social and cultural life.
Americans became more interested in religious sal vation after the Revolution than they were in exercising political rights.
Many people in the country rejected Calvinist determinism.
Sin was voluntary rather than inevitable.
People were free agents who could choose to improve themselves and society.
The path to sal vation was given to everyone by these notions.
Puritan New England was once the model for an ideal Christian community because it was a shining example of representative government.
Reform 1800- 1860 contained an aspiration to become more and more perfect by changing themselves and society.
In the first half of the 19th century reformers fanned out across the United States to root out injustice.
Major advances in human rights were brought about by the combination of religious energy and social activism.
It also made people cynical.
From the colonial period to the 19th century, the rational Enlightenment and spiritual Great Awaken ing flowed.
The Calvinist view that people were innately sinful and that God only chose a select few for salvation was eroded by the two powerful modes of thought.
Many Christians in the 19th century embraced a more dem ocratic religious outlook that offered salvation to everyone.
Enlighten ment rationalism encouraged belief in progress through democratic reforms and individual improvement, while Protes tant churches stressed that all people were capable of perfection through the guiding light of Christ and their own activism.
Deists believed that all people were created equal in the eyes of God.
After the American Revolution, interest in Deism increased.
Deists believed that people could grasp the natural laws of the universe through the use of reason and scientific research.
Deists didn't believe that every state in the Bible was true, and they questioned the divinity of Jesus.
They opposed religious coercion and defended free speech.
Deists began to make inroads into American Protestantism with the ideals of Enlighten ment rationalism.
The old churches in Boston were vulnerable to the appeal of Puritanism.
The majority of Englanders were embracing a "liberal" faith that emphasized the compassion of a loving God, the natural goodness of humankind, the superiority of calm reason over emotional forms of worship, and a general rejection of the Calvinist belief in predestination.
People were not inherently bad.
The center of the movement was Boston.
Universalism was an anti- Calvinist religious movement that attracted the working poor.
The first Universalist church was founded in Massachusetts by John Murray.
They said that believers need to liberate themselves from the rule of priests and ministers and use their capacity to reason to explore the mysteries of existence.
Hell did not exist.
Salvation was available to everyone through the sacrifice of Jesus.
The Univer salists thought God was too good to be messed with, while the Unitarians thought they were too good to be messed with.
Universalism and Unitarianism did not mean that traditional religious beliefs were waning.
In fact, it was still widespread.
Traveling revivalists promoted a more intense and per sonal relationship with God during the first Great Awakening.
After the American Revolution, the Church of England lost its status as the official religion in most states.
The Episcopal Church lost its leadership position in the South despite the new name.
20 percent of the followers of the newer denominations were African American.
Religion, Romanticism, and Reform allowed individual congregations to exercise more power than the Anglican Church.
The Methodists formed a new denomina tion in 1784 that was committed to the aggressive con version of all people: men, women, Indians, and African Americans.
The percentage of churchgoers doubled by 1830.
The evangelical sects of Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians experienced rapid growth as a result of the Second Great Awakening.
The nation had 50 Methodist churches in 1780, but by 1860 there were 20,000.
Between 1800 and 1860, the percent age of Americans who joined Protestant churches increased sixfold.
Two centers of activity were involved in the Second Great Awakening.
The New England colleges that were founded as religious centers of learning spread across western New York into Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The other came from the back woods of Tennessee and Kentucky.
The Second Great Awak ening generated a lot of excitement and emotional excesses.
The traveling backwoods evangelist and the frontier camp meeting are religious phenomena.
People in the early 19th century believed in magic, dreams, visions, miraculous healings, and speaking in tongues as well as the supernatural inside and outside of churches.
Evangelists and "exhorters" who were not formal ministers, such as Jumpin' Jesus, were popular with lonely frontier folk who were hungry for spiritual intensity and a more authentic sense of community.
They wanted a religious experience that was disorderly and personal.
Mass revivals along the western frontier bridged social, economic, political and even racial divides.
Religious life on the frontier was powered by women, who flocked to the revivals.
There were few frontier churches in the western terri tories at the end of the 18th century.
The revivals and prayer meetings sparked religious fervor.
In an 1830s camp meeting, the women were so moved by the sermon that they shed their bonnets and fell to their knees.