13.1 Slavery and Civil Rights
Though the Declaration of Independence had declared that "all men are created equal," slavery was considered to be a legal institution in America, where every circumstance of man and nature tried to promote freedom and equality. The first shipload of Negro slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619, and by 1790 there were 700,000 slaves in the American colonies. Slavery soon spread in the South after the cotton gin was invented in 1795, leading to a rapid increase in cotton culture. However, in 1785, the Northwest Land Ordinance of the Confederation Congress provided that "there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crime..."
The framers of the Constitution were forced to compromise with slavery only on the issue of punishment of crime. However when the constitutional period of grace expired in 1808, the Congress prohibited the further importation of slaves. Yet there were several laws restricting or preventing African Americans from voting, holding public office, serving on juries or joining the defense services.
13.1a The Missouri Compromise
It became evident by 1820 that opinion regarding slavery was sharply divided. In 1819, the Missouri Territory, which permitted slavery, applied for statehood. This gave rise to objections from the free states, as the number of slave and free states were equal at this point. Therefore, the balance would be tipped in favor of slavery, if Missouri were admitted.
Henry Clay then worked out the Missouri Compromise, by admitting
Maine as a free state, thus maintaining the balance. It was agreed
that territories north of attitude 36° 30’ would be free. After
this, states were admitted in pairs, as for example Arkansas in
1836 and Michigan in 1837, Florida in 1845 and Iowa in 1846, Texas
in 1845 and Wisconsin in 1848.
13.1b The Compromise of 1850
At the end of the Mexican war, the U.S. acquired some territory. The issue of the extension of slavery was once raised. In conclusion to several debates, a series of laws referred to as the Compromise of 1850, were approved by the Congress. According to this compromise, California was admitted as a free state. The slave trade was ended in the District of Columbia. The New Mexico and Utah territories were organized without any restrictions on slavery. It was considered to be a federal offense to harbor an escaped slave, under a newly-made fugitive slave law in the South.
Slavery and Civil Rights
Segregation in the United States
13.3 Breaking down Segregation
13.4 The Civil Rights Movement
13.5 Civil Rights for Minorities and Women
13.6 Affirmative Action