Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America, Volume II: The Civil War to the Millennium / Edition 1

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Hard Road to Freedom tells the story of African America from its African roots to the political and social upheavals at the end of the twentieth century. It interweaves the experiences of individual black Americans with an analysis of the nation's pursuit of its fundamental principles, of freedom, and civil rights. The book begins with African cultures and the African people who withstood the horrors of the slave trade and slavery to help shape a new multiracial society in North America. The American Revolution brought freedom to some, but most remained in the grip of slavery. African Americans and their allies continually raised the cry for freedom, building determined black communities and dedicated antislavery organizations that contributed to the abolition of slavery. The precarious freedom after the Civil War brought new opportunities, but also new dangers and the limitations of Jim Crow. The wars and the depression in the early twentieth century found black Americans forging new alliances, creating a cultural renaissance, and fighting for democracy and freedom abroad. At home, they struggled against the denials of freedom and citizenship that still barred their full participation and that tarnished America's standing in the eyes of the international community. Throughout the social and political turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s and the political and cultural backlash that followed, African Americans continued to raise their voices in often eloquent and always insistent appeals that the nation live up to the promise of its principles. This book tells of America's unsteady advance along the road to freedom, the triumphs and hope, as well as the failures and despair, from the vantage point of the African Americans who resolutely played a critical role in that story.

About the Authors:
James Oliver Horton, the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at the George Washington University, directs the Africa American Communities Project at the Smithsonian Institution.

Lois E. Horton is professor of sociology and American studies at George Mason University.

They are coauthors of several books, including In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 and Black Bostonians: Family Life and Community Struggle in the Antebellum North.

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Editorial Reviews

An extraordinary contribution to the literature on the African American experience. The Hortons most assuredly will be compared to such influential writers on the subject as John Hope Franklin and C. Eric Lincoln. This academic yet readable work highlights the contributions and struggles of black people in the U.S. from their arrival from Africa to the new social order of the multicultural twenty-first century. . . . The book ends optimistically: 'blacks will continue the struggle along the hard rod to freedom, justice, and equality,' a point that the Hortons have proved with their careful discussion, telling illustrations, and exhaustive research.
[The authors] describe such familiar events as Nat Turner's revolt, the Underground Railroad, and the March on Selma, as well as familiar personalities like Crispus Attucks, Sojourner Truth, and Fannie Lou Hamer. But they also include some less familiar facts: in the 18th century New York City was the largest urban slaveholding center after Charleston; by 1810 almost 58 percent of the nation's free blacks lived in the southern states; and the Depression, which reduced white incomes by as much as 50 percent, devastated already-scant black incomes by 75 percent. . . . A useful and readable record of the African-American experience.
The Hortons present an up-to-date survey of African American history with its contributions to the growth and development of the U.S. an aspect of America's story that is often neglected, ignored, or downgraded. Their summary of the long and difficult passage of African Americans from slavery to freedom and the continuing struggle for civil rights moves from the beginnings of the slave trade in Africa and the growth of slavery in the Western hemisphere to the dashed hopes of freedom during the American Revolution. Then the growth of the cotton industry in the South, the struggles of freed blacks in the antislavery movements, and the Civil War receive serious consideration from the African American perspective. The new-won emancipation is tested through Reconstruction, westward expansion, and the Jim Crow era. The Hortons detail the effects of Populism and the growth of labor unions with the denial of full economic and political participation by people of color. Active military service during wartime did not afford improved social or economic conditions for most returning black soldiers, as indicated in the chapters covering the first half of the 20th century. These years saw the mass migration of rural blacks to the northern urban centers. The tremendous cultural contributions of African Americans, sparked especially by the Harlem Renaissance, helped move the accomplishments of black Americans in literature, music, and the other arts into the wider public arena. In the postwar civil rights era the Hortons focus on the major initiatives and many key leaders that shaped the movement. Even as African Americans made numerous economic and political gains in the sixties and seventies, theauthors point out the backlash of the eighties and the struggle to maintain achievements right down to the closing days of the Clinton administration. The Hortons have set out to tell the "story of black people in America as an expression of one of the nation's fundamental principles: the pursuit of freedom." (p.4) Each chapter opens with a timeline and includes a representative figure from the period who exemplifies the spirit of the era. Excerpts from letters, speeches, and pictorial works add depth to the panorama of how African Americans and their struggles for freedom are an integral part of the American story. Recommended to update materials in all social studies programs in high schools and colleges. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Rutgers Univ. Press, 406p, illus, notes, index, 24cm, 00-025568, $22.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Mary T. Gerrity; Retired Libn. Upper Marlboro, MD, May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
James (American studies and history, George Washington U.) and Lois (sociology and American studies, George Mason U.) trace the story of African America from its African roots to the political and social upheavals at the end of the 20th century, interweaving experiences of individual black Americans with analysis of the nation's pursuit of freedom and civil rights. As in their 1997 , they emphasize the contributions of African Americans to American culture as an integrated whole. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Hard Road to Freedom: From the Civil War to the Millenium by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton

Copyright information: http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/press_copyright_and_disclaimer/default.html
By the 1847 national black convention, debates were more pessimistic, more militant, and even more bellicose. Educate your sons in the "art of war," urged one resolution. Calls for patience and faith in rational debate were replaced by arguments favoring the use of violence to discourage slaveholding and the kidnapping of free blacks. The next year in Cleveland, the convention passed resolutions advocating women's rights and the right of violent self-defense. The delegates supported speakers who urged that additional committees of vigilance be formed "to measure arms with assailants without and invaders within."1 Ohio blacks reinforced that message in 1849 when their meeting urged "the slave [to] leave [the plantation] immediately with his hoe on his shoulder" and made plans to publish five hundred copies of a volume pairing Walker's Appeal with Garnet's 1843 address.2 Even Frederick Douglass, previously opposed to violence in the antislavery cause, could see justice in slaves' killing slaveholders. In the winter of 1849 Douglass asked, "Who dare say that the criminals deserve less than death at the hands of their long-abused chattels?"3
Events during the 1850s confirmed blacks' growing conviction that the federal government was unlikely to support the cause of freedom. The U.S. victory over Mexico brought large tracts of land under federal authority, again raising the inflammatory question of whether the new lands would be open to slavery.This issue had broad political consequences, since the common wisdom among northern white working men was that their labor was cheapened and their opportunities severely limited in regions that tolerated slavery. Although most white workers would not disturb slavery in the South, they were strongly opposed to allowing slavery in the western territories, fearing it would deprive white working people of access to the new lands that were the core of the American future. White southerners agreed that the nation's future lay in the western territories but asserted their right to bring slavery, an institution basic to their way of life, into that future. To forestall a clash between regions, Kentucky representative Henry Clay engineered a political compromise in Congress. California would be admitted as a free state, but the other southwestern territories taken from Mexico would be organized without a decision on slavery. For the antislavery forces the compromise promised the abolition of the slave trade in the nation's capital. For proslavery interests, the compromise offered the strictest fugitive slave law ever enacted, far stronger than the 1793 provision. This measure was so harsh that even President Millard Fillmore, who signed it into law in the fall of 1850, questioned its constitutionality.4
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 infuriated African Americans, who considered it definitive evidence that proslavery forces had taken over the federal government. This new law made it easier for slaveholders to retrieve runaways who sought asylum in the North. They were not even required to bring accused fugitives before a court but could take possession of their human property simply by presenting an affidavit drawn up by a southern court, with a physical description of the runaway, to any federal commissioner. Further, any bystander who refused to help recover a fugitive could be fined one thousand dollars and sentenced to up to six months in jail. This law not only struck down northern states' personal liberty laws, which prohibited the use of local and state officials or facilities in the capture of fugitives, but it even threatened the freedom of blacks who were legally free. Since alleged fugitives could not speak in their own defense, free blacks could more easily be kidnapped into slavery. Thus, even where abolitionists were strongest, no African American was beyond the reach of the slave power.5
Free blacks immediately swore to defy the new federal law. Meeting in Chicago only a few days after its passage, African Americans strongly denounced it. The city council in Chicago called it unconstitutional, deemed its supporters traitors, and refused to order city police to enforce it.6 At Boston's Faneuil Hall abolitionists vowed that no fugitive would be taken from that city, and Frederick Douglass asserted that the streets "would be running red with blood" before the law could be enforced in Boston.7 Pittsburgh blacks, stating their intention to make the recovery of fugitives in that city a costly proposition, bought one store's entire inventory of handguns and knives.8 In Cazenovia, a town in the middle of New York State, abolitionists and fugitive slaves met defiantly in a "Fugitive Slave Convention" and called for slave rebellion. Anticipating a confrontation, leaders in Ohio and Massachusetts called for the formation of black military companies to be ready to take up arms against slavery.9 Despite such strong reactions, the federal government, prodded by southern political pressure, was determined to enforce the law. James Hamlet, who was arrested in New York City and taken to Baltimore, had the dubious distinction of being the first to be returned to slavery under its provisions.
The New York abolitionists, who had been unable to prevent his capture, collected the eight hundred dollars demanded by Hamlet's master, bought his freedom, and returned him to the city. Others were not so fortunate and were returned to slavery from northern cities during the early 1850s. Many, even those who had lived in the North for several years, fled to Canada. Commu- nities closest to the South felt this emigration most acutely. According to contemporary accounts, small towns in southern Pennsylvania were "almost deserted of black fellows, since they have heard of the new law. It is supposed that more than a hundred have left for Canada and other parts." The black population of Columbia, Pennsylvania, decreased by more than half in a matter of months.10 One observer in Pittsburgh reported that "nearly all the waiters in the hotels have fled to Canada." According to his tally, "Sunday 30 fled; on Monday 40; on Tuesday 50; on Wednesday 30 and up to this time the number that has left will not fall short of 300."11 Fugitive or free, blacks not well known in their local communities were especially vulnerable to capture or kidnapping. 12 Things were not much better farther north-in Buffalo one black church lost 130 members of its congregation, Rochester's black Baptist church lost 114 members, and Boston's Twelfth Baptist Church and Albany, New York's, Hamilton Street Church each lost one-third of its members to Canadian migration.13 Shortly after the fugitive slave provision was signed into law, the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada estimated that between four and five thousand African Americans had crossed the Canadian border, and many of them were free blacks.14
Most blacks, however, did not go to Canada. Free blacks were critical in the fight against the Fugitive Slave Law, and the historical record is filled with their defiance of authority, as they endangered themselves and their property in attempts to prevent the recapture of fugitives. Before the passage of the new law, William Craft and his wife, Ellen, had escaped slavery in Georgia. They had made their way to Philadelphia and then to Boston, using an ingenious disguise, with the light-complexioned Ellen posing as an ill young white man and the darker William as her slave attendant. After their escape they traveled widely as antislavery speakers, mesmerizing audiences with their story. While in Boston, the couple stayed with Lewis Hayden, the escaped slave and active abolitionist. Though one of the best-known centers of antislavery activity in the country, Boston was not beyond slavery's reach. In early November 1850 the Liberator warned of "the appearance of two prowling villains . . . from Macon, Georgia, for the purpose of seizing William and Ellen Craft, under the infernal Fugitive Slave Bill, and carrying them back to the hell of Slavery."15
Abolitionist pressure led to the temporary arrest of the slave hunters, but eventually they descended on Hayden's home intending to recover the fugitives. Hayden confronted the slave hunters on the front porch of his house where he had placed barrels of explosives. He made clear his intention to blow up the house and anyone who might enter rather than allow the fugitives to be taken back to slavery. Meanwhile a number of Boston's blacks met to consider their course of action, and it was the overwhelming sense of the meeting that the fugitives would not be taken without a fight. Yet, realizing it was only a matter of time before the federal government would prevail even in Boston, abolitionists raised funds to send the Crafts to England, where they were taken in by British abolitionists and remained safe from capture.16
In Springfield, Massachusetts, John Brown, a deeply religious-some said fanatical-white activist, organized the U.S. League of the Gileadites. This group of black men and women armed themselves and intended to act as a guerrilla force to defend fugitives and attack slavery. Defiant abolitionist action spread across the North, but federal officials grew more determined as resistance increased. When an integrated group of abolitionists successfully rescued a fugitive named Shadrach Minkins from a Boston courtroom, President Filmore ordered the prosecution of the rescuers. Eight Bostonians, four blacks and four whites, were arrested, but none was convicted. In Syracuse, New York, in a case that became known as the Jerry Rescue, William ("Jerry") McHenry, a fugitive from Missouri, was arrested, but abolitionists rescued him from authorities and delivered him to Canada.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps vii
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1 Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade 6
Chapter 2 The Evolution of Slavery in British North America 26
Chapter 3 Slavery and Freedom in the Age of Revolution 52
Chapter 4 The Early Republic and the Rise of the Cotton Kingdom 76
Chapter 5 Slavery and the Slave Community 104
Chapter 6 Free People of Color and the Fight against Slavery 126
Chapter 7 From Militancy to Civil War 150
Chapter 8 From Reconstruction to Jim Crow 176
Chapter 9 Populism, Industrial Unions, and the Politics of Race 200
Chapter 10 The Harlem Renaissance between the Wars 226
Chapter 11 Depression and War 248
Chapter 12 The Postwar Civil Rights Movement 268
Chapter 13 From Civil Rights to Black Power 294
Chapter 14 Conservatism and Race in Multicultural America 322
Chapter 15 Race-ing to the Millennium 340
Notes 357
Index 389
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