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Historical Essay Example: African American History of Reconstruction

6 pages
1569 words
Sewanee University of the South
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Slavery started in the United States in the early 1600s, and as at 1800, the business was still booming in parts of the country despite the differences between the northern and the southern states. Notably, while the North had abolished slavery at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the southern states were still using blacks as workers on their farms, and this raised intense debates. Former Vice President and Senator of the United States, John C. Calhoun, was one of the politicians who supported slavery and he even went ahead to state reasons for his pro-slavery during the February 1837 speech at the congress. For example, he argued that slavery was not evil, but a good system which ensured that the society was shaped and moved towards the right direction. However, in 1861, Harriet Jacobs who had grown up as a slave published her autobiography titled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. In this novel, Jacobs narrates about her experience as a slave, although she managed to learn about her situation at six after the mother died. Contrary to John Calhouns opinion, it is vital to assert that slavery was evil, and the best example is in the novel, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, as Jacobs becomes disables during her plight as a refugee.

First, during the congress speech of February 1837, Senator John Calhoun claimed that slavery was not evil, but a good project that impacted positively in the lives of the African Americans. However, there are several details from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs which prove that slavery was indeed evil. First, at a tender age of twelve, Jacobs was sold to Dr. Flint, who took her after the death of Horniblow who was previously the familys mistress. Although the Jacobs family was treated well by their first masters, Dr. Flint is different and proves why slavery business was not good during that era. For example, Dr. Flint makes sexual advances to Jacobs as soon as she comes of age and even goes ahead to threaten her life since she declines his progress. Contrary to what Senator John stated, captivity would only be a good thing of the masters did not make sexual advances to their slaves. Moreover, the senators statements about slavery were not correct because it is because of bondage that African Americans were forced to pursue early marriages even when they were not ready. As Dr. Flint continues to demand sexual favors from Harriet Jacobs, the young lady does not have another option but to get into a relationship with a white man, with intent to get impregnated so that Dr. Flint can stay away.

Second, the novel disapproves the sentiments which are borrowed from Calhouns speech since most of the slaves were mistreated and put on hard labor. Evidently, when Jacobs who is Linda in the book rejects Flints demand, he decides to send her to work at his brother farm, and she describes it as hard labor. The need to put Linda under hard job was not a form of employment, but it seems like punishment for refusing to engage him in sexual activities. John Calhoun sentiments would only be real if the masters provided the blacks with reasonable duties which they could handle. Furthermore, it is likely that the slave masters also held underage children in their farms. When Jacobs shows that she is disinterested to work at the farm, Dr. Flint threatens her that he was going to put her two children under hard labor.

Third, the details of the senators opinion are not right because slavery was evil, and Harriet has depicted its sinful nature severally. Since Linda could not continue to work on the farm where Dr. Flint sent her, she escapes and tries to find a way in which she could migrate to the northern states which had abolished slavery. After running away from the plantation, Linda decides to hide for about seven years in an attic craw where she can neither sit nor stand. The authors decision to remain in a situation for seven years proves that slavery was evil and that is the reason why Linda feared to come out of the attic crawl. Moreover, she went out of her hiding place when disabled as she could neither sit nor stand.

Moreover, it is important to highlight that Senator John Calhoun declared that slavery was the best structure for shaping up the society. According to him, the blacks were neither well-mannered nor civilized, and that is the reason why it was essential to take them through such hardships for a better future in the United States. Contrary, it is evident that his sentiments are not reliable since African Americans have displayed civilization in the book, and have proper conduct. For example, it is Linda who cares for Mr. Bruces children after the death of their mother. Unlike the white mistresses, Linda does not mistreat them but shows the youngsters motherly love. Importantly, it is unrealistic to claim that the society is well shaped through slavery, as it worsens the situation as the book highlights. Linda provides that they were whipped by their masters whenever they failed to meet their daily work target in the plantations. It is impossible to achieve a straight society where other people mistreated in front of children. Moreover, it would only make sense if all races were engaged in hard labor if that is the tactic for shaping the community. Nonetheless, Harriet writes that it is just the blacks who worked the fields and lived under poor conditions.

It is essential to note that there are several situations in the book where Harriet, now as Linda, tried to escape from her slave masters together with the children so that they could move to New York City. The main reason for moving to New York was that some states had already abolished slavery. Abolishment of bondage by some regions attests that it was not a good thing for the society as Senator John tried to put it in his speech. The United States was one of the countries that had the urge to develop a real culture in the nineteenth century, and if slavery were one of the possible ways of achieving this strategy, then the other states would not have eradicated the practice.

Whereas some people complained against Senator Calhoun arguments citing that slaves lived under conditions, he went ahead to state that the situation of the slaves was just similar to what was being witnessed by factory workers in the North. Contrary, the novel in the discussion showcases that the livings standards of the slaves in the South was entirely different from that of the factory workers in the North. While laborers who worked at companies in the northern states enjoyed freedom, it was different since the southern slaves were purchased and sold just like other commodities. For instance, Jacobs is sold to the Flints after the death of the family mistress. Subsequently, Dr. Flint sold Linda and her two children, Ellen and Benjamin, to a broker who was related to Mr. Sands.

In brief, slavery existed in the United States for many years as white masters used African Americans in their plantations as laborers. However, northern states started abolishing this practice in 1750, and as at 1804, all the stated had eradicated captivity. Nonetheless, the situation was different in the South, and that is why Senator John Calhoun shared his controversial pro-slavery sentiments. According to Calhoun, slavery was positive since it benefited the blacks, and also offered the best form of labor for the country. Calhouns views are not correct, and it is possible to disapprove him by using Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, a novel which was authored by an ex-slave, Harriet Jacobs. The narrator of the reading claims that she went through hardship while growing up as a slave since her master Dr. Flint pursued her for sexual favors. Subsequently, she has to do the worst so that she can avoid Flints advances, and that results in her relationship with Mr. Sands. The sexual advances of Dr. Flint are the reason why the opinion of the senator was wrong, as it displays mistreatments of the slaves. Additionally, unlike Calhouns statements regarding the positive nature of the trade, the information in the books highlights its evil side. Linda who is the protagonist in the novel is forced to move to her grandmothers place and hide in a limited space for more than seven years. As she recounts, Linda could neither sit nor stand during that period, hence becoming disabled when she left her hiding place. It is important to note that Senator John Calhoun also argued that the trade was a good form of labor and shaping the United States society. Nevertheless, both Benjamin and Linda try to escape the southern side so that the can move to the northern states since the North had abolished trade. The North would not have repealed the business if it was right for the country.



Colimore, Edward. "Rutgers professor's book examines full scope of slavery." McClatchy - Tribune Business News 23, no. 12 (2014): 123-145.

Furst, Randy. "John C. Calhoun, namesake of a Minneapolis lake, beat his slaves and trumpeted slavery." TCA Regional News 3, no. 5 (2015): 33-45.

Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself. New York: BookRix, 2014.



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