• Tag Archives: Slavery

    Civil War Beginnings

    The mid-1800s were a time of intense conflict in the United States. Northerners believed passionately that a free country could not practice slavery. Southerners believed they had a right to decide for themselves what would happen in their states.


    Many Southerners wanted to secede from the United States. Northerners (and some Southerners) believed this would weaken both the North and the South.

    • In 1818, Missouri asked to join the Union as a slave state. At this point, every state north of Delaware had made slavery illegal, while southern states still allowed slavery. Northerners did not want another slave state. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed Missouri to become a slave state if Maine entered the Union as a free state, which maintained a balance between free and slave states. Lawmakers hoped this compromise would prevent a crisis; it only delayed it.
    • In 1850, California was set to become a state. Northerners and Southerners argued over whether the state would be a free state or a slave state. Speaker of the House, Henry Clay argued that if California entered the Union as a free state, then the people living in other territories, such as New Mexico and Utah should be allowed to vote on the issue for their own states. Daniel Webster gave a rousing speech for the compromise and it was approved. Like the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850 only delayed conflict.
    • The Fugitive Slave Act of 1795 required escaped slaves to be returned to their masters. Most people in the North ignored this law; The Compromise of 1850 strengthened it. Slave owners could go after escaped slaves; anyone caught helping the slaves faced punishment.
    • In October, 1869, abolitionist John Brown led a raid on an arsenal in West Virginia. He hoped to arm slaves with weapons and start a slave rebellion. Brown and his men were stopped by Colonel Robert E. Lee. They were later hung for their crimes.
    • Senator Stephen A. Douglas suggested that the citizens in the Kansas and Nebraska territories should vote to decide whether their states would allow slavery. People who believed in slavery moved to these territories temporarily so they could vote “yes” for slavery. Free-soilers, people who believed the new territories should not allow slavery, were very angry. In 1856, fights broke out in Kansas. Over 200 people were killed.
    • In 1857, a slave named Dred Scott sued the Supreme Court for his freedom. Scott’s owners had moved from the South to the North, bringing him with them. Dred Scott argued that since he was now living in a Northern state where slavery was illegal, he should be free. The Supreme Court declared that slaves were personal property to be taken with their owners anywhere. Southerners could now legally take slaves into free states.


    1. Secede: leave the nation and form a new country
    2. Rousing: spirited

    Learn More

    Visit Scholastic to see a map of Union and Confederate states.

    Heading Toward Civil War: The North

    Even before the Revolutionary War, the North and South had cultural and geographical differences. As the years went on, these differences became larger. From the 1820s to the 1850s, bustling cities sprang up in the North. Workers came to these cities to work in factories making cloth, furniture, watches, tools, and other items.


    Many people in the North opposed slavery. By the end of the 1700s, slavery was illegal in most Northern states. Over 250,000 free black people lived in the North. Some of them had been born free or given their freedom. Others had bought their freedom or escaped from the South.

    Fun Facts

    • Men became wealthy building factories and railroads. Most of the railroads built during this time were built in the North, which gave the North an advantage over the South. Factories in the North could ship their goods to people living in the West and Midwest.
    • Factory workers – many of them, young women – came from farms to the cities. Initially, many factory owners took good care of their employees, offering them safe, clean housing and education. Company owners became greedy though and wanted to keep their profits. Factory workers often worked long hours in unclean and unsafe conditions.
    • In Ireland, a potato famine caused widespread suffering and death. Thousands of people immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland and Germany. These people were desperate for work and accepted the low wages and poor conditions found in the factories. If someone complained, they were fired.
    • Abolitionists passionately wanted to end slavery. Abolitionist and writer, Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel that depicted life for Southern slaves. The book sold 300,000 copies in just a few months and motivated Northerners to fight more vocally for an end to slavery.


    1. Oppose: to fight against or disagree
    2. Abolition: movement to end slavery
    3. Immigrate: to permanently leave one’s country to live somewhere else

    Questions and Answers

    Question: Did white people welcome free blacks to the North?

    Answer: Some did, even going so far as to offer safety and shelter to slaves escaping from the South. But blacks were often discriminated against in the North. They created their own neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and churches where they would be safe.

    Learn More

    Visit the Civil War Trust to learn more about the differences between the North and the South.

    The Rise of Slavery

    Plantation owners in Virginia and other Southern states originally used indentured servants to work in the fields. After Bacon’s Uprising, plantation owners realized that freed indentured servants posed a risk. They began importing slaves from Africa to work on their plantations.

    The idea of slavery wasn’t new. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all kept slaves. In fact, slavery has been practiced all over the world for thousands of years. Slavery was a common part of life in Africa, where slaves were treated relatively well. They could marry, gain an education, and interact in everyday society.

    Ironically, slavery in America allowed the young country to prosper economically and achieve freedom from Great Britain. Many of the Founding Fathers kept slaves. Of course, the benefits of freedom weren’t extended to the slaves themselves, who often suffered terribly.

    Fun facts of slavery- Image of The Rise of Slavery

    Fun Facts

    • In the 1600s, Europeans brought slaves to the New World. Many of these slaves were kidnapped by African slave traders. The terrified men, women, and children walked hundreds of miles across Africa to the Gold Coast in north-western Africa.

    • They were then chained and loaded so tightly onto boats that they could barely move. As many as 25 percent – approximately 2 million Africans – died during the voyage. Many became sick and died from disease. Others jumped overboard.

    • The ships sailed from Africa’s coast to the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea. Here, the slaves were inspected to make sure they were healthy. They were trained and sold in auctions. They were then loaded on boats bound for America.

    • Europeans traded salted fish, guns, rum, and iron bars used as money for the slaves.

    • Most of the slaves brought to America lived in the South, many of them on plantations. Field hands worked long hours under grueling conditions on the plantations. Household slaves had it better. They cooked, cleaned, sewed, and kept the gardens. Some slaves learned trades, such as carpentry or tanning. Some slave owners were kind, but many were very cruel.

    • Slaves in New England were usually treated better, although they weren’t free.

    • As the numbers of slaves in America grew, slave owners worried about uprisings. They made laws stating that slaves were to be treated as property. Slaves weren’t allowed to marry, although many did. Their children and spouses could be ripped away from them. It was against the law for a large group of slaves to gather in one place.

    • Slaves tried to keep their own culture alive. They created gospel music by mixing traditional African rhythms with Christian themes. They told stories and made art.


    1. Prosper: to thrive, flourish, do well

    2. Benefit: an advantage or gain

    3. Grueling: exhausting

    Questions and Answers

    Question: Why didn’t the Founding Fathers and early colonists understand that slavery was wrong?

    Answer: That’s a good question with a complicated answer. First, some colonists did believe slavery was wrong but felt powerless to stop it. Unfortunately, slavery and other forms of oppression were common in many cultures. For hundreds of years in Great Britain, people lived under a feudal system, in which a few people owned most of the country’s land and wealth while the rest of the people lived in poverty. Children and women had few rights and were often poorly treated. Human life, in general, wasn’t highly valued. Slave traders and plantation owners were blinded by their own greed.

    Learn More

    Visit Scholastic to learn more about what it was like to be a slave.