150 Years of Racism

Andrew Brey

How did slavery begin?

Slavery started with European merchants kidnapping African Americans and trading them to the U.S. as part of the Triangular trade. The kidnapped Africans were put on slave ships, which were in horrible condition. The slaves were kept in the bottom of the ship in a very tight space. 15 to 30% of the slaves on the slave ships died due to unhygienic conditions, such as dehydration, dysentery, and scurvy. Slaves were needed because Americans founded plantations to exploit all of the resources that it had, which included sugar, tobacco, cotton, rum, and other profitable items. There were more slaves in the southern part of the country because the south had to trade there resources to get items that the north produced in factories. The invention of the cotton gin only made slavery worse, the United States produced about 750,000 bales of cotton in 1830. By 1850, that amount skyrocketed up to 2.85 million bales. With that being said, larger cotton farms meant a larger amount of slaves were needed.


Slaves in America were treated horribly, whipping, execution, and sexual abuse of women, including rape, were common. The slaves weren't allowed to learn how to read or write, because if they could read or write they could possibly rebel. Slaves worked continuously day after day for 16 to 18 hours, only getting about 6 hours of sleep. Slaves did not get much to eat, they got pork or fish, and corn meal. Slaves did not go to school, they worked all day everyday. Slaves who weren't already married were allowed to get married, and have kids if they chose to. If the slaves didn't obey their master he would do whatever he wanted to do to them, most likely whip them. Most slaves most likely wanted to escape because they were so miserable, but they knew if they got caught they would most likely get killed.


It took until 1865 for slavery to be illegal in the United States with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. constitution. President Abraham Lincoln and the Republican party were not against slavery, they just didn't want it to spread into any of the new states. Lincoln even said "if I could save the Union without freeing a slave, I would, and if I could save the Union by freeing every slave, I would." Obviously, during Lincoln's presidency, his main goal was to preserve the Union. Even after the Civil War and the end of slavery, African Americans were still not treated equal. They didn't even get the right to vote until 15th Amendment gave them the right to vote in 1870.

Improving Race Relations in America

There are still problems with racism in the United States today because of prejudice. If you hear that someone robbed a bank or killed someone, most people would think of an African-American; if you hear about a really rich guy who doesn't play sports, most people would think of a white person. If you hear about a superstar NBA basketball player, most people would think of LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, etc. but no one would think of Kevin Love or Dirk Nowitzki, because there is some belief that African-Americans are better basketball players or just athletes in general. Even though its not necessarily racist, its still a prejudice against them.



Forgetting our country's history of supporting slavery is hard to do when there are still believers in it. Racial groups like the KKK, who don't think that African-Americans are equal to white people, and still believe that they shouldn't be allowed to have the same freedoms that white people have, are always trying to remind people how it used to be. And people who just think that African-Americans are just bad people (another prejudice) are also reasons why we can't seem to forget about slavery. Like when former Clippers owner Donald Sterling made a racist remark during an interview, it was all over Sports Center and all over the news. Even though they weren't supporting him, it still reminded everyone of what America used to be.


My plan to improve race relations in America is to make a documentary starring athletes from all over the country of different races. The documentary will be called "All In", the reason for this title is to let everyone know that athletes are 'All In' on getting rid of race relations. The documentary would be full of interviews with the athletes, talking about how hard they worked to get where they are today. They would also tell you about all the adversity that they had to overcome to succeed in their life. I know it doesn't seem like that would improve race relations, but it would show people all around the country that nothing was handed to them because of their race, it would that they all had to work hard and overcome adversity to get where they are. The point is there was no prejudice to get them where they are, that African Americans and all other races had to work just as hard to make it in their sport.

Andrew Brey