Slavery and the Making of America
The series Slavery in the Making is a documentary based on the beginning of slavery, which then fell into a large increase in southern states, eventually tearing the Union apart and then bringing it back together. The series is broken up into 4 episodes The Downward Spiral, Liberty in the Air, Seeds of Destruction, and The Challenge of Freedom.
The series starts off with the building up and beginning of the British Colonies, then it moves into explain more in depth about the roles that certain individual slaves and African Americans took in the push for abolishment of slavery, ND finally ends by explaining life during and after Civil War Reconstruction for both blacks and whites. In the following paragraphs I will review each episode, touching on key points in history and certain individual stories that had an important role in history. The paragraphs will be in order by episode as follows: The Downward Spiral, Liberty in the Air, Seeds of Destruction, and The Challenge of Freedom.
Episode one, The Downward Spiral, opens up with the first 11 black indentured servants, which at the time were owned by a business, being moved from boat to land in the new world of “New Amsterdam” in the early years of the sass’s. These first 11 men would set the foundation and basic living essentials for their white masters. These 11 men worked from sun up until sun down building houses, doing all the hard important labor, and laying the basics for farming in the area. Eventually white indentured servants would be incorporated into the work as well.
Indentured servants would agree to work a certain number of years in order to pay off the debt they owed the business for the travel expenses to “New Amsterdam”. White indentured servants would work the same as the black indentured servants, being as he work that they would produce was more important to business owners than the person doing the Job. The reason that work was more important than the worker was because if an indentured servant was to die they could easily be replaced by bringing in someone new. It is in 1640 when we see the first distinguished punishment between blacks and whites.
This came when three indentured servants, 2 white and one black, by the names of John Punch, James Gregory and Victor working in tobacco fields in the Chesapeake Bay had finally had enough of the way they were being treated by their master. The three of them decided to try an escape. They were captured after a couple of days and returned to face trial. James Gregory and Victor, the two white indentured servants, were given additional years added onto their contracts. John Punch, the black indentured servant, was sentenced to serve until the time of his death, making him the first “slave” at this time.
But then by the time of the early 18th century we then begin seeing an increase in the number of slaves being brought in for slave trade so that they could accommodate the large increase in agriculture and serve ambitious farmers. These slaves were brought from Africa as prisoners of war and women and children to carry out the intensive labors. The most prized Africans brought in were men younger than the age of 20 and women younger than the age of 20 because they could serve for longer periods and conditions the slaves finally had their first rebellion, which would come to be known as the Stone Rebellion.
The Stone Rebellion happened in 1731 and started on a Sunday. Sundays back then were days that whites would attend church and slaves would be left to do their work, so whites brought their weapons to church in fear that a rebellion would be started on a Sunday. A group of slaves raided a weapon store killed the owner and placed his head on a pole, then proceeded with the stolen weapons to raid more and more places and increase their numbers. Eventually, they would be surrounded by whites and most of the rebels were killed.
In order to show other slaves what would happen if they attempted to rebel they place the heads of the killed slaves on poles along a major road. The Stone Rebellion would then be proceeded by the force of the Black Codes, which would limit the civil rights and civil liberties of blacks. Episode two, Liberty in the Air, begins with a slave by the name of Quack, who arks for a painter in New York, sneaking off the governor’s house to see and speak with his wife. Quack had been caught here a number of times and the governor put out to his guards that he was to not be on the property and if he was caught that he should be escorted off.
Quack would yell as he was being escorted away that he would burn down the place one day. Well the day that the governor’s house was burned down Quack became a prime suspect, but then officials started noticing a number of building in New York being burned down also. This was another uprising of black slaves that caused a mass panic over the whites in New York. The burnings would eventually lead to the death of Quack and 12 other men by being burned on stakes. By the sass’s 5,000 slaves were being brought into country each year.
Slaves were chained together and placed in small areas on the boats, some dying on the long Journey from Africa to the colonies. Whites in the colonies had figured a way to rationalize and place slavery into the legal system by reducing blacks to less than human beings. During this time however blacks began to inherit the African and American stance and this created a very unique culture. As the episode goes on we reach the Revolutionary War. The Revolutionary War began as a war between the Kingdom a Britain and the thirteen colonies, which then spread into Britain against the newly reformed United States, Spain, Netherlands and France.
The war would end up in the United States gaining its independence from European rule. During the Revolutionary War we see that African Americans would be placed into the military to fight for the United States. This showed that even though they were not considered citizens that they were forced to defend their masters, however there were some African Americans that fought on the opposite side. Other slaves during this time of has fled their masters plantation looking for new places to settle and hoping to become free.
After the war blacks that had been promised freedom for serving were not freed and became slaves again. Episode three, Seeds of Destruction, begins by going into the individual story of Harriet Jacobs. Harriet Jacobs was taught to read and write which at the time was against the law in 1813. She was then sold at the age of 12 to Dry. Norms where she would be a house slave. She endured many challenges while serving Dry. Norms, mainly the sexual tension that he would place between them as he wanted to hillier with other slaves that he would eventually sell for his own personal profits.
Harriet Jacobs would not give in to the attempts by Norms and eventually she would meet her “savior”, Samuel Treadwell Sawyer who came from a well known family and was a very good lawyer. She would then engage in a sexual relationship with Sawyer and eventually have his child at the age of 16 and 19. Harriet would eventually become the first woman to write a slave narrative, which revealed the harsh and sickening truths about slavery, it was titled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. In 1831 a preacher by the name of Nat Turner led 70 slaves in Virginia on a uprising in which he used readings from the bible to rationalize the rebellion.
In a span of 48 hours the rebels killed 57 whites. This only made things worse for slaves as many that had nothing to do with the rebellion were punished because whites became afraid of more slaves uprising and they needed to show that they were superior. We then see in 1777 single states begin to abolish slavery starting with Vermont, while at the same time with the invention of the cotton gin making cotton ore profitable the slavery expansion in the south increases. This would eventually cause the breaking apart of the nation into the North and the South.
Where in the North slavery was becoming illegal and in the south slavery was only expanding. Episode four, The Challenge of Freedom, begins with the story of Robert Smalls and his crew along with women and children commandeering a confederate ship in the Charleston Harbor to Fort Sumter for freedom. Robert Smalls would later become a politician and serve under Abraham Lincoln where he pushed for him to allow African Americans to serve in the Union Army. This episode focuses mainly on the Civil War and mainly the Reconstruction that would follow.
In 1865 the 13th Amendment abolishes slavery and then it is followed by the 14th and 1 5th amendment which guaranteed black civil rights. Also during the sass’s the Freedman’s Bureau offered aid to former slaves, which include compensation and small areas of land so they could begin to form and live in society. But although blacks began to become free after the civil war and were given these rights and freedoms militant groups such as the Klux Klux Klan would not allow for racial equality to happen. Race segregation became a huge problem and a new way to keep blacks from being equal in society to whites.
This would show that although blacks had finally been freed from slavery they had not yet put an end to black oppression. In conclusion, the series Slavery and the Making of America breaks down and shows the movement and progression that the United States would go through for even a slight move towards equality. By showing different inspirational stories of African American slaves and other key individuals of the times its places a perspective on exactly what hardships needed to be overcome and how they overcame and endured.