This I Believe
The institution of slavery will forever tarnish the reputation of America. This country is known as the land of the free and the home of the brave. In the 18th and 19th centuries the brave were not free, rather enslaved. In 1776 when America finally became a free country, the institution of slavery was peaking. Slave labor fueled the economy. It is the reason America prospered in the early 1800s, and the reason America continued to prosper for almost 100 years. I believe that America was built on slavery more so than freedom.
I never thought about slavery and the beginnings of America together as one before. In History classes I learned more about the economical and political aspects of slavery instead of the institution itself. For instance, when being taught about agriculture in America, slaves were mentioned as the ones who picked the cotton and tobacco. The focus of this lesson was not on the harsh treatment of the workers, rather the wealth that would come from it. The political struggles around slavery were focused on during the lessons on the three-fifths compromise. After the Civil War lessons were over and the thirteenth amendment was passed, slavery was not really mentioned again. Slavery happened, it was abolished, and now America was moving foreword.
I was taught in the North, and Northerners and Southerners have varying thoughts on the subject. I always placed blame on the South, because that is where slaves were used. My young simplistic mind thought that the slave owners were the ones doing wrong. Slavery didn’t happen where I lived, and I was detached from it. However recently I learned many new facts about slavery. I learned that Maryland was the state with the most slaves. I saw an actual cabin where slaves lived, and heard personal stories of what some slaves had to do to survive. Now, living in an area so rich in history in regards to slavery, I have a fuller understanding and appreciation of what slavery was like. This led me to draw new conclusions. The South was not to blame; it was the whole country.
The institution of slavery in America cannot be forgotten. It is a major cause of the race issues that exist in America today. The country’s reputation will be forever stained. James Monroe Whitfield makes this point in his poem America.
America, it is to thee,
Thou boasted land of liberty,—
It is to thee I raise my song,
Thou land of blood, and crime, and wrong.
This poem points out a hypocrisy in the image of America. Now America may be a land of liberty, but in the beginning it was far from that. The abolition of slavery in America is something to be very proud of. Americans took notice of something that was unjust, and fought for justice. I am proud of my country for that, and I think America has come a long way.