The Age of Slavery illustrates how black lives changed dramatically in the aftermath of the American Revolution. For free black people in places like Philadelphia, these years were a time of tremendous opportunity. But for most African Americans, this era represented a new nadir. King Cotton fueled the rapid expansion of slavery into new territories, and a Second Middle Passage forcibly relocated African Americans from the Upper South into the Deep South. Yet as slavery intensified, so did resistance. From individual acts to mass rebellions, African Americans demonstrated their determination to undermine and ultimately eradicate slavery in every state in the nation. Courageous individuals, such as Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen and Frederick Douglass, played a crucial role in forcing the issue of slavery to the forefront of national politics, helping to create the momentum that would eventually bring the country to war. Below you can find the transcript to check the last two days of your class notes.
Douglass finishes his speech.
00:08:19Garrison leaps up and says to the audience, "Do we have here a chattel, or do we have a man?" and the audience responds, "A man." "And should this man be returned to slavery?" and the audience roared no.
00:08:32Frederick Douglass was launched.
00:08:34Yes. He was invited to join the Anti-Slavery Society as a lecturer.
00:08:38They hired him on the spot.
00:08:40They hired him on the spot, man.
00:08:44GATES: Douglass began to travel the North giving speeches, living proof of our nation's fundamental hypocrisy, showing audiences that a black person was every bit the equalof a white person.
00:08:58BLIGHT: Frederick Douglassgave us a critique of the United States that's unique and as powerful as any we've ever had.
00:09:09He's speaking to history, to the nation, to the world about the meaningof the United States and how it has betrayedits promise.
00:09:20There's no better voice of that story and that pain and that promise than Douglass.
00:09:30I mean, he's the Martin Luther King and then some of the 19th century.
00:09:36GATES: Douglass and his allies in the North forced slavery into national politics, making it an issue of intense debate.
00:09:44In the South, slaves pressed the issue themselves by running away whenever and however they could.
00:09:54Their stories filled a growing abolitionist press, giving rise to rumors of a vast network for escapees soon called the Underground Railroad.
00:10:07Part folklore, part propaganda, the Underground Railroad was never as large as we often imagine, but it was real.
00:10:17A loosely organized network of safe houses in the border states helped more than 20,000 runaways make their way to freedom.
00:10:27The network was run by free blacks and sympathetic whites, and it required immense courage from them all.
00:10:36This is one of the fewdocumented safe houses on the Underground Railroadand the site of at least one remarkable escape.
00:10:48WOMAN: Mary Corbett heard a knock on the door and it was an enslaved man who was fleeing, and the sheriff was after him, and he pleaded to her to help him.
00:10:57So, she brings him into the house and they go all the way up to the attic area, and she points to a very, very, very small, little door in the eaves and suggests that he try to crawl in there and hide himself.
00:11:11LARSON, VOICE-OVER: There's a pounding on the door.
00:11:12The sheriff and his posse are with him, and she opens the door and lets them in, and she tells them they're welcome to search any room in the house.
00:11:24Stop. Turn around.
00:11:25And here's the cupboard that Sam hid in.
00:11:29That? Yes. Mary Corbett brought him up here and he-- and he squeezed himself in there.
00:11:35My God. It's just so tiny.
00:11:36LARSON: And the sheriff decided not to look, because they didn't think that a man could fit in there.
00:11:41They would've just caught me.
00:11:42Ha! I'm too claustrophobic to go in there.
00:11:44I just said, "Look, let's make a deal." But if the sheriff is after you with his dogs and guns, you might find a way.
00:11:51No wonder they didn't look there.
00:11:57GATES: Infuriated by all the runaways, southerners pushed for harsh laws to stanch the flow, culminating in the notorious Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a watershed moment in American history.
00:12:18The law required northerners to help capture anyone even accused of being a runaway slave...
00:12:27turning the north into a police power for the south.
00:12:32It also placed every free black person in terrible danger.
00:12:37WOMAN: Every time you walked on the street, you were subject to being claimed as a slave.
00:12:42You're living every day afraid and watching over your shoulder to make sure that you're not being watched by someone who was looking for you or someone else and would happily take you if they can't find the someone else.
00:13:02GATES: As bounty hunters flooded northern cities, black people began to look for freedom in ever-more-distant places.
00:13:10Small numbers had been running away to Canada since the Revolutionary War.
00:13:15Now they began to come here-- to Niagara Falls on the Canadian border--in droves.
00:13:24Why Canada? No slavery.
00:13:28And no slavery meant no slave catchers.
00:13:30In Canada, a black person could serve on a jury.
00:13:35A black person could vote.
00:13:36A black person could own property.
00:13:39A black person could become a citizen.
00:13:42Canada was for black people what the United States was for white people-- the land of the free, the home of the brave.
Friday we stopped here:
00:13:52Over 10,000 African Americans fled to Canada in the 1850s, including the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad-- Harriet Tubman.
00:14:06Tubman settled here, in the tiny town of St. Catharines, and joined this church, which became a hub for runaways.
00:14:16There are black families still living in this town who trace their roots back to those runaways, people whose ancestors took an almost unimaginable risk.
00:14:27WOMAN: Here is just one portion of the descendant wall from 1838 all the way to today.
00:14:34This is portions of the Cassiel family...
00:14:36You had to get out of the south, and you were on your own.
00:14:39What did you have? You didn't have a map, you didn't havethe education, you had nothing.
00:14:43So, you had to be able to rely on the north star, and yourself.
00:14:49I want to point out my immediate family.
00:14:52So, this is all my mother's side.
00:14:53This is the home team. Yeah.
00:14:55This is my mom's mom.
00:14:56And then, bounty hunters are after you.
00:14:59So, there was a lot at risk, and not many would do it and those that did, I mean, it's documented-- you had to be a little bit bent.
00:15:08You had to be... ha ha ha!
00:15:10You had to be totally crazy.
00:15:12Yeah. Ha! Yeah.
00:15:14When I was a youngster, we knew of the stories, but I never appreciated any of it, never looked back or even thought about it, until I was grown, and then it's like, "My God, my people did that?
00:15:27That's how we got here?" GATES: The very existence of these families, an entire community of people descended from escaped slaves, is a testament to their strength.
00:15:41BROWN: When I think about the Underground Railroad, it makes me want to claim slaves, right, as my ancestors, because they were genius in order to pull something off like this.
00:15:55I think about this and I think, wow, you know, slavery is not a shame on me, because my ancestors were some of the most creative, resourceful people in the history of the United States.
00:16:06That's a shame on the slaveholders.
00:16:08But there's no stigma that I bear by being descended from people who could do something like that, you know, who could pull something like that off.
00:16:18GATES: Unfortunately, the Underground Railroad was out of reach for almost all slaves.
00:16:24Only a fraction ever made it to freedom.
00:16:30Their stories are inspiring, but their experience was not typical.
00:16:37As the Civil War drew near, almost 4 million slaves remained trapped in a nation still struggling to resolve its most fundamental contradictions.
00:16:49Their lives were desperate, and the choices they faced are hard to contemplate.
00:17:06Covington, Kentucky-- the northern border of the slaveholding south.
00:17:14In January of 1856, an enslaved woman named Margaret Garner lived here on a farm.
00:17:22Margaret was 22, she was married, with 4 children.
00:17:27Freedom lay just 5 miles away, so she and her husband decided to run.
00:17:37They traveled by night and made it here, to the banks of the Ohio River, at dawn.
00:17:44This was the barrier between slave Kentucky and free Ohio.
00:17:49It was a quarter-mile wide and frozen solid.
00:17:55WOMAN: They got here just before sunrise.
00:17:57GATES: They must have been exhausted and terrified.
00:18:01And cold, yeah, and they look over there, and there's nothing but ice.
00:18:06A natural foot bridge.
00:18:07A natural foot bridge to freedom.
00:18:15GATES: The Garners walked across the river, risking their lives with every step.
00:18:22And then, they arrived at a small house in Ohio, owned by a free black man.
00:18:29But their triumph was short-lived.
00:18:32Within hours, federal marshals had tracked the family down.
00:18:38They got a big block of wood and start ramming in the door.
00:18:41They try to go into the windows, and outside, a crowd is gathering, just to see this scene taking place.
00:18:48Inside, there's mayhem, there's alarm.
00:18:51People were hysterical at the thought that they were so close to freedom, and had only enjoyed it for two hours, and now, you know, it looks like they're gonna be returned into bondage.
00:19:05GATES: Barricaded in the house, Margaret Garner did something unthinkable.
00:19:10TAYLOR: As the marshals were battering in the house, Margaret Garner decided, rather than return to slavery, she would kill her children.
00:19:21[Door creaks] GATES: When the marshals finally broke in, they were confronted by a horrible scene.
00:19:38Margaret had slashed the throat of her daughter Mary.
00:19:43Mary lay on the floor dead.
00:19:47Hiding in the next room were her two young sons, still alive, but bruised and bleeding.
00:19:55Margaret, knife in hand, was quite clear about what she'd done and why.
00:20:02The only direct quote we have from Margaret Garner about the murder was she says, "I did the best that a mother could do, "and I would've done better and more for the rest.
00:20:15I've done the best I could." Meaning "I would've killed them all...
00:20:19Right. If I could've." And for her, she said, she said this to a couple of visitors who saw her when she was in jail, that this was freedom.
00:20:28She called her deceased toddler a bird for having flown into freedom.
00:20:39GATES: Margaret Garner quickly became a legend, celebrated and condemned across the country.
00:20:47What she had done became fodder for both sides of the slavery debate.
00:20:52Southern whites claimed that Margaret showed that black people were subhuman, capable of monstrous deeds, and in need of their master's paternal care.
00:21:03Abolitionists claimed that Margaret revealed the essential inhumanity of bondage.
00:21:09Margaret Garner stood for powerful ideas, images on both--all sides, and perhaps not enough for her own side.
00:21:24Just like "I'm not a poster child for abolitionism "and I'm not a defective mother, "but I am a woman who knows what it feels like, looks like, means to be a slave, and I don't want that for my children." GATES: Margaret Garner's story had a final tragic turn.
00:21:57An Ohio court ruled that as a slave, she was property, and couldn't be tried for murder.
00:22:05So, she was given back to her owner.
00:22:08And here, on a riverboat heading south, Margaret made one last decision about her family.
00:22:17She let her infant daughter Celia slip into the icy water and drown.
00:22:30If Celia had only lived 9 more years, she would've been free, but Margaret couldn't have possibly known that.
00:22:39Margaret preferred to kill her own children rather than to allow them to live the social death of slavery.
00:22:48It was a horrifying decision, but it tells us something about the America of its time.
00:22:56Slavery was so deeply embedded in the nation that violence seemed the only way to end it.
00:23:04And much more violence was coming.
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00:34:27[Birds chirping] With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, African Americans, like the country itself, were plunged into chaos.
00:34:41Their freedom at stake, they risked everything for victory.
00:34:475 years later, slavery was over, but what would freedom really mean?
00:34:55Reconstruction brought another period of roiling uncertainty, but never did African Americans relinquish their quest for the real prize--freedom and the rights of citizenship.
00:35:09The lengths they would go and the price they would pay make this one of the most inspiring stories in American history.
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