Free labor, abundance of people, and lack of common human dignity defines slavery. Slaves were a perfect alternative to indentured servants (whom can become free over a period), which is popular amongst early American business owners, farmers, and solves most common labor problems. American importing of slaves who are of lesser stature than they are creates a gap in human rights and respect amongst people. During the height of the slavery market, thousands of these people are openly bought, sold, and traded on the open market as property, not human beings. With the indentured population diminished, and due to the low cost of African slaves, popularity and widespread slavery grew. After hundreds of years of slave trade, in 1862 President Abraham Lincoln brought about the abolishment of slavery which led to many social, civil, and human rights movements and key activist, none more so than Martin Luther King JR. (MLK). MLK led a part of the civil movement to change long trained beliefs of treating former slaves (minorities), making many memorable speeches to include the “I have a Dream” speech. The “I have a Dream” speech grasps the attention of the nation through hope, history, perseverance, and goal setting. The nation has yet fully responded to the true meaning of the American dream and equality.
In order to understand the size of the opposition during civil rights movement MLK and his allies were embarking on, one must understand the history of the fight. In the late 1600s, Early America was marred with a myriad of controversies; none more so than the birth of slave labor. European settlers to the America were amongst the majority when purchasing African enslaved workers. Many of these people believed African slaves were not their equals and their sole purpose was to serve their superior race. This was taught through normal educational values as well as within their Christian religion (Azerrad). In order to lure these African slaves to the Americas, many were stolen from their home land and/or promised various falsehoods. The Europeans, who employed these slaves, rationalized that they were the superior race to Africans and they were providing a better life for them.
The treatment of slaves was atrocious. Compared to the indentured servant having to endure a period, the slave is lifelong property and receives minimal survival compensation as a result for labor. As property of their European owners, they receive zero rights to humanity. Slaves commonly receive harsh punishment and work under the unfathomable conditions to meet the owner’s demands. Notably, slave owners remove all family rights, resulting in their offspring not always being guaranteed to remain with their parents and commonly were sold to different owners to break up their dependence on relatives. Though slaves were of value to the white man, they were treated less than that of an animal. They were malnourished and received the least amount of sustainment to keep them working. Slaves were given little hope in life and if they questioned their captivity by protest or running away, they would be beaten; frequently leading to their painful death.
Martin Luther King understanding of the history of civil rights did not only require people to see the future, he focusedd people to see the past trials and tribulations. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir” (King). These words ensured every American, white, black, Mexican, Asian, Etc. has every right to a piece of the freedom pie. “When we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual” (King). MLK was effective in directing people to acknowledge and reminisce on the fore fathers writing into the United States of America’s constitution that freedom was for all, not only for a selected few. He wanted freedom to be felt from every point in the nation, thus all of God’s children would enjoy the abolishment of tyranny and reap the benefits of a nation focus on equality. This day and age, we do not have to worry about slavery, but racism has remained. People continue to hold the values of their ancestors, some of true belief and some of stupidity.
- Azerrad, David, PH.D. What the Constitution Really Says About Race and Slavery retrieved from https://www.heritage.org/the-constitution/commentary/what-the- constitution-really-says-about-race-and-slavery
- Henretta, J., Brody, D., 2009. America, A Concise History. Boston, NY: Bedford/Saint Martin’s