Effects of Enslavement of the African American Male

Effects of Enslavement of the African American Male

In the beginning, African men, women, and children were kidnapped from their lands and separated from everything they have ever known to live a life of slavery. It is my belief that the effects of slavery continue to exist today. In my heart, it is so sad our country was founded on the principle that all men are created equal. However, past and present actions of people in this country have proven many times that is just not the case. Money is the cause of all evil. Greed and white supremacy theories allowed people to subject others to inhumane conditions. When Africans were kidnapped from their lands, they were no longer considered a person in this land. Men could not provide or protect their families. Fast forward to today, in other ways, the African American men remain enslaved.

Originally, blacks in this country were treated as property. In the book Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass, he states, “It was worth a half-cent to kill a nigger and a half- cent to bury one” (pg. 348). During slavery, black men faced unimaginable brutalities. They were beaten for no reason, starved, worked to death, and under the full control of their master. It was against the law to educate a black piece of property in fear that education would cause the property to be of no use for his Master. Living conditions were so horrible that it is remarkable African Americans were able to survive. The result was that many men were just broken. Fredrick Douglas writes, “Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking me. I was broken in body, mind, and spirit” (pg. 364). He continued by stating that he was deprived of his intellect, he could not recognize his body, and he lost happiness and hope in life, and finally he could not recognize his personality and individuality (Gates Jr & Smith, 2014). Therefore, by breaking his spirit, he was transformed from human to an animal. Covey was a specialist in breaking slaves; however, Fredrick Douglas fought back by ensuring he got the education that prospered his life.

Enslaved property could not protect their families or provide for them. A slave woman could be raped by her slave master regardless of her age or even if she was married. Slave marriages were not legally binding anyway. If a master wanted to sell a slave’s wife, he could do so. Harriet Jacobs tells the story of a husband and wife quarreling. It was rumored that one of the children were of the slave masters, but the wife believed if she did what the slave owner requested then he would take care of her family. Ultimately, he ends up just splitting them up and selling them off. (pg. 230) What a sad story of a damn if you do damn if you does not. Not only could Masters split husbands from wives, but also they could sell the slave man’s child. Harriet Jacob’s father attempted to buy his children but was not allowed to (pg. 225). Money was not even the issue; slave owners were clueless and justified their wrongs. Some kind of way, in their mind, they felt they were doing their Christian duty by owning people for the property.

After emancipation, the happiness of new freedmen was short lived (GRAFF, 2016). Violence erupted from the Klan and lynching drastically increased. White supremacists created black codes and Jim Crow laws to keep blacks enslaved. To make matters even worse the economic situation of blacks was devastating. W. E. B Du Bois writes, “To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships” (pg. 692). Du Bois felt he was burdened with the weight of his ignorance, life, business, and humanity. He felt like he had accumulated all the awkwardness of decades and centuries. The country had experienced two centuries that entailed systematic legal defilements of black people, and this meant that the African had lost chastity and experienced corruption from the white adulterers.

Booker T Washington can be referred to as the referee amongst the blacks and whites (pg. 698). He was regarded as the most influential black leader in the 1900s. His intentions were to give immediately blacks the opportunity to support themselves with the Tuskegee schools. Also, he encouraged both races to throw down their buckets and work together (Richardson & Vil, 2015). Besides, he based his philosophy on self-help, racial solidarity, and accommodation. However, blacks resented him for disregarding the oppressions that whites placed upon blacks. He argued that for the time being, the black people should accept the discrimination and oppression from the white and concentrate on the way to elevate themselves. The blacks should work hard and gain material prosperity. Booker Washington believed that when people possess industrial, enterprise and farming skills, education, crafts and virtues of patience they will gain respect from the whites. According to his belief, winning the white’s respect would lead to African American being integrate into the strata of the society.

Charles W. Chestnut was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People whereby he challenged the discriminatory law that was in place and supported the provision of equal education for everyone. The story “The Conjure Woman” by Chesnutt explains how the black people endured the unbearable psychological pressure due to slavery. Chesnutt published his conjure stories during the period when the whites questioned the ability to grant the African American the full and equal civil rights. Similarly, he argued that the black people had confirmed their human dignity, and they were free to qualify for the rights and responsibilities of becoming the American citizens (Kelly, 2016). In one of his essay that was titled “The Disfranchisement of the Negro,” he mentioned that the rights of the Negroes, particularly in the south, were at the lowest point ever in their thirty-five years of freedom. On the same note, he said that their race prejudice was intense and uncompromising.

Civil rights movement was the key to ending segregation and racism among the black population. In the mid-20th century, the African American engaged in ways to find answers to transform the world. They began their migration from the south to the northern cities during the World War I and II, and this empowered the Civil Rights Movement whereby the blacks write and activists tried to push to an end the issue of segregation and racism. What people should understand about the Civil Rights movement is that it was a struggle by the civil societies for freedom that went beyond legal rights and protection. It encompassed the direct action protest, court cases, and boycotts from workers to armed self-defense and popular culture. It was aimed to challenge the whites’ authority and propose the establishment of black ways of handling issues during a crisis. Some of the quotes from Civil Rights movement included the following. Frederick Douglas states that “if there is no struggle, there is no progress” (Gates & Smith, 2014). Similarly, Martin Luther King Jr said that “there is noise as powerful as the sound of the marching feet of determined people” (Gates & Smith, 2014).

Fast forward to today; mass incarceration is the modern day forms of slavery. Quality education is not available to lower socio-economic families. Environments are full of struggle, hardships, and crime. Getting out of poverty is just as difficult as slave men escaping through the Underground Railroad. With so many people under educated, under paid and over populating the prison systems. According to Richardson and Christopher (2015), “Black male joblessness continues to contribute to crime, violence, incarceration, and family disruption.” The prison system has become the new cotton fields of the south. It has been statistically proven that blacks are not more drug users than whites; however our judicial systems helps white drug attics and imprison blacks. Economic issues and imprisonment lead to more single parent households in the African American family (Richardson & Vil, 2015).

In closing, I would like to resort back to the teachings of Frederick Douglass. As a child, he learned the secret of freedom. For it was said to him by his owner “if you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell (insert citation). It was regarded that learning will get the best nigger spoilt, and if he learns to read the Bible, he will no longer be a slave. Therefore, a negro was restricted to knowing nothing and his work was to obey the master. Frederick Douglass was determined by any means necessary to learn how to read “he befriended poor white boys and exchanged bread of food for the bread of knowledge” (Gates & Smith, 2014). Fredrick Douglas tries to explain how education is a useful resource, and it helped the African America to free themselves from slavery. Therefore, when the blacks were deprived of education, it illustrates how the whites had the ultimate power to mistreat them. The ultimate power of the whites took the control of the slave’s body by subjecting them to hard work. Their minds were also washed to think that they were capable of doing nothing.



Gates Jr, H. L  & Smith, V. A. (2014). The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Third Ed. Vol 1. New York: W.W. Norton.

GRAFF, G. (2016). Post Civil War African American History: Brief Periods of Triumph, and Then Despair. Journal of Psychohistory, 43(4), 247-261.

Kelly, B. (2016). Jubilee and the limits of African American freedom after emancipation. Race & Class, 57(3), 59-70.

Richardson, J., & Vil, C. S. (2015). Putting in Work: Black Male Youth Joblessness, Violence, Crime, and the Code of the Street. Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, 3(2), 71-98.

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