During the 1800s, time passed with the issues of presidential elections, trade, and other troubles facing America. In this same time frame, another problem seemed to be in the shadows of these American conflicts: slavery of the nineteenth century. Although issues of slavery had been occurring much earlier, many milestones, such as rebellions against white Americans, had set this century apart from the others. Many attacks happened due to slaves banning together to announce that they have had enough. The daily pain they had to endure was excruciating and included rape, beatings and torture. The worst part was that no one was held accountable for these actions. To most white Americans, if you owned a slave, they were your property and you could do what you pleased with them. Through all of this anguish, slaves still found a way to have hope, a way to say strong.
Harriet Jacobs is one of the woman who remained unbroken. She was born into slavery, with a master who continuously tried to rape her. Even past that, when she was separated from her children, living in a hopeless situation, she kept pushing towards the better. She went to the extreme to see her children, by living in a small attic, where she was barely able to roll from side to side. This demonstrated the true mind set of a hopeful slave. Some masters could hurt their ‘property’ physically, but not mentally. Due to this positive thinking, Harriet Jacobs seemed to be a role model for others facing the same suffering. “Did white people have total control over the slave population? […] Here is Jacob’s answer: ‘My master had power and law on his side; I had a determined will. There is might in each.” (Ripper, Pg. 226)
Many slaves facing this lifestyle were disgusted by their ‘masters’ and anyone else who saw owning a person as proper. One iconic rebellion, or slave resistance, was headed by a slave named Nat Turner. Leading about sixty other slaves, in August 21, 1831, his group first killed Turners masters, then they went on to massacre around 60 white people. This act made white people fear slaves like never. Sadly, it did little to help other slaves out of their bonds. “Although Nat Turner meant to free his fellow bondsmen and women, slavery became more entrenched, not less. Turner’s insurrection may have backfired by spurring white southerners to defend their way of life.” (Ripper, Pg. 232) Once Turner and his followers were caught, the ones who had not yet been shot and killed, were tried in court, and eventually hanged. Many Black people who had not participated in the rampage were hung, as well. Although there was a tragic ending, I believe this rebellion inspired others to fight back in ways they could. “Most slaves resisted their owners’ authority in myriad subtle ways.” (Ripper, Pg. 232)
Even though slavery was a large deal, not everyone participated or agreed with it. During the 1800s, the northern states were mostly against slavery. Most of the slaves who had earned their freedom lived in the north, where slavery was not as much accepted. Troublingly, even if you were free, people could get away with kidnapping and selling you back into slavery. This had happened to Solomon Northup, which started his painful journey of being a slave for 12 years when he wasn’t even born into it. He was able to keep hope and eventually he saw his family, and once again became free.
Slavery left emotional, physical and mental scares on the people of the nineteenth century. Even when it seemed impossible, slaves were able to push on to the next day, but how is the question. Harriet Jacobs used her will to be reunited with her children, but what other things kept slave’s hopeful enough to carry on through the pain?