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 persons."(Primus 554).
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.