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Ira Berlin, Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Maryland, describes how the complex interplay of regional and generational factors shaped the development of slavery in the antebellum United States.
Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence invokes the ideals of democracy and freedom. Yet he remains a slaveholder for his entire adult life, and (unlike George Washington) does not free his slaves in his will. Jefferson’s own struggles, moral and political, to reconcile his position as a slaveholder and a democratic idealist earned him admiration on the one hand and a deep distrust on the other. Recent DNA evidence has shown it likely that Jefferson fathered at least one child by his slave Sally Hemings. In...
Slavery played a prominent role in America’s political, social, and economic history in the antebellum era. The “peculiar institution” was at the forefront of discussions ranging from the future of the nation’s economy to western expansion and the admission of new states into the Union. The public discourse in the first half of the nineteenth century exposed the nation’s ambivalence about slavery and race. Politicians were increasingly pressured to make their opinions known, and Abraham Lincoln was no exception....
Of the 10 to 16 million Africans who survived the voyage to the New World, over one-third landed in Brazil and between 60 and 70 percent ended up in Brazil or the sugar colonies of the Caribbean. Only 6 percent arrived in what is now the United States. Yet by 1860, approximately two thirds of all New World slaves lived in the American South.
For a long time it was widely assumed that southern slavery was harsher and crueler than slavery in Latin America, where the Catholic church insisted that slaves had a right to marry, to seek...