Throughout history, African Americans have continually had to fight for equal treatment, a very controversial issue. Without early abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman, Dred Scott, and Frederick Douglass, African American rights would not have been established as soon as they were. As well as early freedoms, the foundation of African American civil rights of the 50’s and 60’s was based upon the initial defiance of African Americans. Their forward thinking, drive for reform, and progressive nature built the basis for equality within American society.
The Underground Railroad1 is one of Tubman’s most prominent accomplishments. She spent countless hours freeing hundreds of African American slaves from the south, helping them to escape to the North. Tubman was a guide of the Underground Railroad, which was a network of people that helped African American slaves escape to the North and Canada. The secret route consisted of safe houses in which the slaves would hide during the day. The safe houses were typically about twenty miles apart, forcing the slaves to keep a steady pace in there journey to freedom. Although Harriet Tubman is well known for her involvement in the Underground Railroad, she also spent numerous hours aiding the Union during the Civil War. She was the first woman in American history to lead a military expedition. She served the Union as a nurse, cook, and spy as well. Her humanitarian ways granted her the nickname “Moses”. Later, Frederick Douglass named her the “great American”, stating “ I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people”. Tubman was constantly challenging the ways of American thinking in order to gain equality among American citizens. Tubman was born into slavery which propelled her to expose the cruelty and ridicule in which slaves were forced to cope with. This was a major milestone in African American history. It displayed the emergence of freedoms that African American’s would demand be granted to them.
Another extremely influential African American was Dred Scott. He was born a slave like Tubman, but instead of escaping his slavery, he attempted to fight it politically. Dred Scott as well as his family had been moved by his owner from the slave state of Alabama to the free state of Illinois. In hopes of gaining his and his family’s freedom, he appealed to the Supreme Court. In March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court declared that all African Americans, both slaves and free, would not be permitted citizenship within the United States. Along with this, the court declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, allowing slavery to invade the north.2 The court case Dred Scott vs Sanford, was an exceeding breakthrough for African American’s even though he lost the case. Many African American’s, slave and free, were angered by the Supreme Court’s decision. Abolitionists both African American and Caucasian were propelled to expose the wrongs of inequality, even more than before. Frederick Douglass, an African American journalist, saw the case’s decision in a positive light. He saw the decision as a way to bring attention to the subject of slavery, and ultimately destroy the evil. This protest would foreshadow the events that would eventually lead to the gaining of the passage of the 14th Amendment.
Frederick Douglass was an addition to African American abolitionists that made a difference. Douglass escaped to freedom in 1838, and his aim was to promote freedom to all slaves in the United States. He focused on educating himself, attending abolitionist meetings. One meeting that influenced him extremely was William Loyd Garrison speech at the Bristol Anti-Slavery Society. Garrison’s passionate protest against the unacceptable treatment that African Americans had dealt with thrust Douglass into his first affair. He had become literate during his life as a slave, so he created his first newspaper, the North Star. It was centered in Rochester, New York.3 It did not simply denounce slavery, but it addressed issues in which minorities such as women, African Americans, and the like were managing during the time. His newspaper circulated to people of the United States, the Indies, and Europe, which allowed these affairs to be contemplated by more than just the United States. His main goal was to obtain emancipation for the African American population within the United States. It was considered the most influential African American newspaper of the antebellum era. The drive that Frederick Douglass possessed not only created abolitionist opinions, but built a passageway for reform thinkers and journalists.
African American civil rights was a war fought throughout the majority of American history. Beginning with Harriet Tubman and her escapes to freedom, and ending with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. Abolitionists allowed for free thinking and reform. It also propelled the speed in which the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were put into effect. Equality was fostered by abolitionists whose drive and yearn for equality allowed African American’s to finally attain what they wanted.