Slavery Supporters: Racism and Stereotypes of African American Slavery

Before the Civil War there was debate over the issue of slavery. While many people in the South were strong advocates of slavery, people in the North were in opposition. In the modern area, people are against this institution. It is no longer epidemic in American society. Americans can empathize with the system and recognized blatant incidents of oppression and racism. However, during slavery this was not the case. Many Americans were in favor of the institution and found it not only justified, but necessary. By reading the pro-slavery documents of pre-Civil War America, one can observe the myths and stigma associated with African American people and the institution of slavery.

Pro-slavery documents suggest the perspectives and thoughts of the general public. Most of these myths are assumptions created about African Americans all of which are ludicrous and unfounded. Some are basic stereotypes that were echoed throughout this period. This includes that blacks are lazy, simple-minded, and full of mischief. Whites throughout the South thought Blacks incapable of taking care of themselves. These beliefs are iterated by George Fitzhugh when he suggests that without enslavement Blacks would, “freeze or starve”, (Fitzhugh). These thoughts and perceptions make one believe that Blacks cannot survive if not under the care of others or “master”. It goes back to historical documents by Fitzhugh stating that the “Negro is but a grown up child”. The idea that Blacks were considered children provides reasoning behind slavery. It insinuates that Blacks cannot self-sustain.  Due to this perceived disability in the African race, Whites felt it was their responsibility to help Blacks and the survival of the Black race through the institution of slavery. Whites were blinded, living in a society were acts of inhumanity was acceptable. They lived abundantly as a result of slavery due to is profitability, requiring reasoning to justify the system. It is evident through their understanding and accounts of the institution. Some claimed that slaves were more happy and free because of it. “There is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment”. This is because they are well taken care of by their masters. These ideas are stereotypical and untrue for the slaves of Colonial America.  

Slavery supporters also use religious reasons and white supremacy to justify slavery and racial superiority. Both James Henry Hammond and George Fitzhugh claimed that, “the Negro race is inferior to the White race”, (Fitzhugh). Despite this claim, both did not provide valid reasoning to justify this. Some scientists of the era even use biology as a factor, citing differences in brains and skull size as a factor. This was to propagate the notion that Whites were more intelligent. However, with few Blacks given the opportunity to read, write, or practice mathematics, there is limited evidence to prove otherwise. Due to this perceived lack of intelligence, slavery supporters such as Hammond claimed that Blacks were for no other purpose but forced labor. Yet the claims that supporters use to maintain racial inferiority do not justify the practice of it. Religion then became the reason maintain this effort. They claimed that Africans were made for enslavement by God because of the references to slavery in the Bible and people of dark skin. This includes the notion that Abraham had slaves, biblical stories of the Hebrew slaves, and the references made towards “servants” in the Ten Commandments. One slavery supporter says this about African slaves:  “keep him in the position that he learns from the scripture he was intended to occupy, (Disease, 1858).

Whites throughout the South used Blacks for free labor and enslavement. Africans were not enslaved for a lifetime, but for generations including children. Used only for labor and enterainment, White Americans saw no other reason for Africans in America. Therefore, many who supported this had future ideas to export Africans out of the colonies. One author suggests that Africans should be sent to the West Indies or back to Africa, (Disease and Preculrorites). If left free in America, many thought Blacks would take over government, kill women, and commit acts of crime. Otherwise, without enslavement Blacks would create havoc in society and there would be utter chaos. They did not encourage social integration of Blacks into mainstream society, finding them better for trade, farming, clearing land, building, and general labor. Slavery supporters had no vision for slavery in the future. Most only considered the present time of slavery, knowing only that they wanted to maintain this institution. There was no clear answer or suggestion for Blacks in America. At most, Southerners did not want free African’s in America and considered this idea anarchy.

From reading these documents, it is clear that many justified slavery according to their personal use and value. Those who supported slavery found ways to justify the institution weather it was right or wrong. In addition, stereotypes and myths about Africans further substantiated their personal believes. Supporters were bias of the institution of slavery because they were to benefit. The stereotypes and perceptions of the community only fed into the way of life for slavery in the Deep South. There matter-of-factness and determined tone of the writers indicate that they stood strongly behind these beliefs. Many of these myths and stereotypes are present in 21st century America. These are concepts that sustain discrimination observed today. Supporters do not define slavery to an individual but to a whole race. Their racial superiority, religious justifications, and myths are geared toward all Blacks. The individual isn’t lazy the race is lazy, the individual isn’t inferior the face is inferior. Specifying these negative characteristics on the entire race feed into both historical and modern day incidents  racism of African Americans.  

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About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
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