The book Slavery and Public History, describes the events and individuals involved in slavery, and how these events transpire and helps how we, as historians, interpret today. The history begins with how African slaves were used as a cheap labor force to help grow cash crops such as sugar, tobacco, and cotton. Kidnapped Africans were mistreated poorly for the benefit of the white man’s wallet. In order to decipher these racist patterns, editors James and Lois Horton categorize the slaves into different human generations to discuss how their fates as indentured servants and freedmen came to be: Charter, Plantation, Revolution, Migration, and Freedom. These stages of African American status in society detailed their rise from indentured servitude upon arriving in the colonies, to the rebellions and abolitionist causes after the American Revolution, and eventual free status after the defeat of the Confederates in the Civil War. Poetry about the tragedies of slavery is one way for people today to understand how slavery caused such miserable suffering to African Americans and their future descendants, such as the poem Middle Passage written by the poet Robert Hayden. His poem describes how African Americans were ripped from their native homeland, put in chains, sailed across a perilous sea by European traders, and then forced to work on plantations for the rest of their lives. The conditions from their cruel abduction to the hard labor of plantation work was under horrible conditions. If someone got sick on the journey to America and died, their bodies were simply thrown overboard. It is something in history that will never be forgotten as it was both the reason for Atlantic colonial stability with free labor and unimaginable human cruelty to African Americans.
Even before the end of the Revolutionary War, the issue of slaves being free men was being considered the American Congress. American Quakers even attempted to put to a vote to ban their members who were current owners of indentured servants during the American Revolution, and many of the British, along with the Quakers, began putting together a society that would become the first in abolitionism and that was the beginning of the abolitionist movement that would take years and thousands of committed people and a civil war to realize success. Slavery provided both political and philosophical topics to the discussion of race relations, even after the American Civil War. However, it was rarely discussed in schools throughout the United States, certainly not taught in school textbooks. In the south, it was a taboo subject. Novels such as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought to light the true nature of the institution of slavery and exposed its true ugly nature, detailing how awful the slaves in the south were mistreated. Along with public education, private organizations have also put together information now being used by schools today that could help in educating young people and amend bridges between blacks and whites amongst many years of hostilities.
I have read many intriguing facts in Slavery and Public Life, but the life of John Brown was the most influential about learning of the slave trade in America. John Brown was known for being a pro-slaver, having sailed slave voyages, and was put on trial by his Quaker brother for illegally giving arms to slave traders in American ports. The Rhode Island Historical Society eventually claimed ownership of the Brown House in the 1940s, in order to detail one of America’s patriot families, despite their checkered past in abolitionism and slave trading.