In Search of African America:  One Collector's Experience January 17-March 21, 2004

The first slaves arrived in the southern colonies in 1619 and increasing numbers sustained a plantation economy of tobacco, indigo and rice. They protested their bondage, but to little avail; the black man remained in chains throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

The injustice of slavery was most evident at the time of the American Revolution and the emergence of the new nation. Blacks were among the first to give their lives in the cause of liberty, but their sacrifice was not rewarded. The only mention of slaves in the new Constitution was to count each of them as "three-fifths" a person for the census and to abolish the slave trade after 1810.

In spite of their servitude, African Americans made substantial contributions to American life. Phyllis Wheatley became an acclaimed poet on two continents. Benjamin Banneker surveyed the new city of Washington. Richard Allen became the first ordained black minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church. These were but three of thousands who made America a better nation.

Freedom was elusive. Appeals by anti-slavery advocates were ignored; advocates of colonization had only modest success. Acting out of frustration, some slaves rebelled. Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, David Walker, and the legendary Nat Turner all led rebellions that sought to win freedom by force.

It would take the abolitionists-blacks and whites working together-to force the issue. From 1820 to 1860, there was a steady beat of protest from the pen and the pulpit. Former slaves such as Frederick Douglass and Solomon Northrop gave vivid accounts of their lives. And courageous women such as Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman led slaves to freedom following the Underground Railroad.

This barrage of protest-assisted by a popular novel entitled Uncle Tom's Cabin-changed public opinion. Citizens in the north came to the conclusion that this country could not stand half slave and half free. In 1860 they elected Abe Lincoln of Illinois to sort it all out.

The Burden of Slavery,
1619-1861

The Burden of Slavery exhibit section

In this photo:
--"The Burden of Slavery"
section of the exhibit

 

This exhibit is divided into 10 sections

1. Introduction
--The James Hicks Collection

2. The Burden of Slavery, 1619-1861 (you are here)

 3. The Civil War, 1861-1865
4. The Price of Freedom: Reconstruction, 1865-1877

5. Say Hello To Jim Crow, 1878-1897

6. Up From Slavery:
The Self Help Period
1898-1919
7. The Harlem Renaissance, 1920-1946
8. The Civil Rights Era, 1947-1968
9. The Black Power Movement, 1968-1980
10. The Turn of the Century, 1981-2004
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