The Horrors of American Slavery
Imagine being dragged from your home in the middle of the night. You're chained and jammed into a crowded ship where you would remain, among the diseased, scarcely being fed enough to live, for the next several months. 12 to 13% of those who embarked on the voyage would die. You would never see your family or home again. You are no longer considered human. This, in essence was treatment of American slaves during the 16th through 19th centuries. Arguably one of the most horrific times in the entirety of American history, slavery took the lives of millions. Today, animals are treated better than that. Yet, little over a century ago, Americans were treating other humans that way. It was simply accepted that colored people were inferior. This misconception would affect the country for hundreds of years to come.
Was Escape an option?
Slaves endured harsh treatment on the Plantation. They had very little sleep, minimal food, and were beaten if they lagged behuind in their work. With treatment like this, it is not suprising the slaves made plots to escape North to escape the harshness of their Masters. They hid messages about escape in the chorals that they sung to pass the time while working in the fields. In about 1840, the Underground railroad sprang up. It was a system of secret routes and safe houses used by dedicated abolitionists and former slaves to aid the escaping of slaves. About 100,000 slaves were believed to have escaped via the railroad. However, escaping was dangerous and slaves were severely punished if they made an escape attempt. Posters were put up describing the slave and the reward the capturer would receive if a slave were to escape. Also, law enforecment and slave catchers were always on the lookout for escaped slaves.
The "End" of Slavery in the U.S.
Meanwhile, tensions were escalating between the North and South. The North was entirely against slavery and the spread of it while the south thoroughly depended on slavery to fuel its economy. Therefore it was no suprise when in 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union and form the Confederacy. Ten states would follow. In 1861 the first shot was fired by the Confederacy at Fort Sumter, North Carolina beginning the bloodiest war in all of American History. By the time the war ended four years later, it had claimed over 620,000 lives.
Just a few Racism Statistics
Even 150 years after Slavery was eradicated in the United States, obvious racial tensions linger. Though you may not witness racial bias in your community, the fact that it exists is not debatable. For example, African American men's prison sentences were averagely 20% longer than Caucasian men's prison sentences after being convicted of very similar crimes. Juveniles who receive life sentences, in Florida for example, are disproportionately black as 84% are African-American. Some might argue that this is because African-Americans commit more crimes. This, however is a meaningless stereotype. Caucasians and African-Americans use drugs salmost identically. However, blacks are arrested three times more often. These are only some statistics from the Criminal Justice system alone. However, racism is apperent in the job market, schools, and almost every aspect of our society.
Why does Racism still exist?
Even though slavery was eradicated over 150 years ago, the legacy of slavery remains. What people don't understand scares them and sometimes it is easier to blame a group of people for your faults rather than blame yourself. Parents pass on their misguided beliefs by teaching their children to be intolerent and racist. This endless cycle has been happening for years. However, prejudice spreads through racist groups and meaningless steroetypes. What you may think is a harmless joke, could really hurt someone. It is important to remember that everyone is different, so our differences make us similar.
How can we stop Racism?
Racism is a problem that impacts all of our lives. It can only be stopped if we as a society decide to stop this abhorrent discrimination that has lasted more than a century. That is a decision that starts and ends with all of us. My plan to eliminate racism is to input tolerance into the Common Core, so that if students are taught intolerance or prejudice at home, at school they can learn about racial equality. The new material would be taught at a very young age. Hopefully, this new approach will inspire the new generation to be the generation that finally ends prejudice once and for all.
Alexandria Summers, PHD, is a student at Shore middle School at Mentor, OH. She and other students at her school are fighting racism through making fliers like these on Smore.com.
This is a picture of a map of a slave ship demonstrating the cramped conditions slaves endured.
Racism is a decision we make a society. Stopping racism is a decision that takes all of us.
Map of Union
This is a map showing which states were Union and which were Confederate,