CHANGE AND TRADE IN AFRICA Africa also was swept up in revolutionary tides, as increased domestic and world trade—including the selling of African slaves—shifted the terms of state building across the continent. The main catalyst for Africa’s political shake-up was the rapid growth and then the demise of the Atlantic slave trade.Abolition of the Slave Trade Even as it enriched and empowered some Africans and many Europeans, the slave trade became a subject of ﬁerce debate in the late eighteenth century. Some European and American revolutionaries argued that slave labor was inherently less pro-ductive than free wage labor and ought to be abolished. At the same time, another group favoring abolition of the slave trade insisted that trafﬁc in slaves was immoral. In London they cre-ated committees, often led by Quakers, to lobby Parliament for an end to the slave trade. Quakers in Philadelphia did likewise. Pamphlets, reports, and personal narratives denounced the trafﬁc in people. (See Primary Source: Frederick Douglass Asks, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”) In response to abolitionist efforts, North Atlantic powers moved to prohibit the slave trade. Denmark acted ﬁrst in 1803, Great Britain followed in 1807, and the United States joined the campaign in 1808. Over time, the British persuaded the French and other European governments to do likewise. To enforce the ban, Britain posted a naval squadron off the coast of West Africa to prevent any slave trade above the equator and compelled Brazil’s emperor to end slave imports. After 1850, Atlantic slave-shipping dropped sharply. But until the 1860s, slavers continued to buy and ship cap-tives illegally. British squadrons that stopped took the freed captives to the British base at Sierra Leone and resettled them there. Liberia, too, became a refuge for freed captives and for former slaves returning from the Americas.
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Frederick Douglass Asks, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” Frederick Douglass spent the ﬁrst twenty years of his life as a slave. After running away in 1838, he toured the northern United States delivering speeches that attacked the institution of slavery. The publication of his autobiography in 1845 cemented his standing as a leading abolitionist. In the excerpt below, taken from an address delivered on July 5, 1852, Douglass contrasts the freedom and natural rights extolled in the Declaration of Independence and celebrated on the Fourth of July with the dehumanizing condition—and lack of freedom—of African American slaves.
Fellow-Citizens—pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I rep-resent, to do with your national indepen-dence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embod-ied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the bene-ﬁts, and express devout gratitude for the blessings, resulting from your indepen-dence to us?. . . But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasur-able distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of jus-tice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. . . . Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slave-holders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their govern-ment. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the state of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be) subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of these same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the ac-knowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being. The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that southern statute books are covered with enactments for-bidding, under severe ﬁnes and penalties, Frederick Douglass Asks, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” Frederick Douglass spent the ﬁrst twenty years of his life as a slave. After running away in 1838, he toured the northern United States delivering speeches that attacked the institution of slavery. The publication of his autobiography in 1845 cemented his standing as a leading abolitionist. In the excerpt below, taken from an address delivered on July 5, 1852, Douglass contrasts the freedom and natural rights extolled in the Declaration of Independence and celebrated on the Fourth of July with the dehumanizing condition—and lack of freedom—of African American slaves. the teaching of the slave to read or write. When you can point to any such laws, in reference to the beasts of the ﬁeld, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cat-tle on your hills, when the ﬁsh of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!
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