Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

The Cotton Revolution

In the American Yawp textbook, chapter 11 sheds light on one of the most influential revolutions in the south. The introduction to cotton revolutionized the global economy all together. The new version, Petit Gulf cotton, “slid through the gin…and grew tightly, producing more usable cotton than anyone had imagined to that” (Wegman). The South continued their more “traditional” practices like slavery and agricultural lifestyle because of the implementation of cotton. Of course, it was no surprise that when it started in Mississippi in 1820, merchants, planters and even botanists developed their own cotton as well to produce an abundance of profit from their plantations. According to the chapter, by the end of the 1830s technological advances made cotton “the primary crop” not only of the southwestern states but of the entire nation” (Wegman). By that time, “the five main cotton-producing states-South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, produced more than five hundred million pounds of Petit Gulf for a global market stretching from New Orleans to New York and to London, Liverpool, Paris and beyond” (Wegman). Their range was endless, and the economy was undeniably booming. Behind all that success and triumph, resided the agonizing truth of how the South maintained their “cotton kingdom”. Without slavery there would be no cotton, no capital. They were dependent of using slaves to produce massive amounts of Petit Gulf every day. Slavery was “seen as the backbone of southern society and culture” (Wegman). Cotton and slavery were so intertwined in the south that any idea of change could implode their entire economy, also being that cotton was the only major product that they could sell internationally.

While reading this chapter, I questioned the very sanity of the people in the south. How could they allow the foundation of their whole state rely on using enslaved people to do their dirty work. It’s no wonder that the Cotton Revolution, a time of capitalism, lead to competition. A product like that made every planter want to be the best and would often get into massive amounts of debt because they were actively working against everyone else. Wealth has a tricky way of manipulating people into getting more of it, making people capable of unspeakable deeds. Owners would do anything to make more cotton and enslaved people was the only thing they needed. Resistance would only cause them unimaginable pain. To them, the slaves weren’t people, they were just tools or a means to an end. Never once did they stop to question their cruelty.

Nikole Hannah Jones’s essay “America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black People Made It One,”

In reading Nikole Hannah Jones’s essay “America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black People Made It One,” from The 1619 Project, New York Times, Aug. 14, 2019, my attention was captured by the way in which the author exposes the important aspects that were left out of American history through the analyzation of historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. For example, the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[1] The Declaration of Independence expresses the desire of forming an independent American nation from the British monarch due to arising conflicts; excessive taxation being one of the many. Colonists were providing cheap raw materials to the British mainland at the expense of their hard labor just to be met with harsh taxes in return. In light of these inequalities and unfairness, colonists proceeded to revolt, obtain their independence, and to gain the rights they believe they deserved. It is interesting to see how when the colonists are forced to lift a pinky, an entire war is commenced to address and resolve the issue. However, when it came to the institution of slavery, were the circumstances not like those of the colonists? Were the inequalities and unfair treatment that enslaved Africans faced not enough to start some commotion? It is baffling to see how enslaved Africans were in support of the revolution and even gave their lives for a cause that would not have an effect on their lives. Jones proceeds to explain how the “we” and the “men” used in this declaration is merely referring to white colonist men and not to the enslaved African Americans as they were regarded as a “separate race” according to the 1857 Dred Scott decision (Jones 5). The rightful equality and the granting of unalienable rights would not apply to enslaved African Americans as a result. The only way in which African Americans were regarded was in an indirect and obtuse manner. For instance, instead of being regarded as the individuals that they were, they were mostly regarded as property. In the U.S. Constitution, the Fugitive Slave Clause, Article IV, Section 2 states, “No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due”.[2] Slaves were only regarded in the Constitution as property to be returned if “lost” or to express their lack of status. In reviewing Jones’s essay, it is concerning to see how the American school system is teaching history to students in that it is a story told without considering all the narratives. The narrative painted in our textbooks has gaps and fails to consider the actual role of African Americans on the development of the United States as a country. In conclusion, Jones is successful at opening the eyes of readers and portraying how the glorified historical documents that have founded our country are implicitly pro-slavery.







Blog 2

America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black People Made it One by Nikole Hannah-Jones discusses the supposed ideals of American democracy during its creation and its hypocrisy. Mainly white leaders constructing a nation that is suppose to be the land of the free but building off the backs of slaves who have virtually no freedom. Slaves were a huge part of the American economy. Used to pick cotton which was a huge part of the economy and also being seen property in the eyes of the government helped bolster the success of many white owners in America. Nikola Hannah discusses that Americas greatest profitable trade was manufactured by slaves. Jones also brings up that one of the main reasons colonist wanted to gain independence from Great Britain was to hopefully keep ownership of their slaves. Although it may have only been one of the many factors to lead to independence it should not be dismissed as a reason. Jones also mentions that it is because of African Americans that democracy works as well as it does. The hypocrisy of Thomas Jefferson not including black people in the declaration of independence when he penned “all men are created equal”, despite he himself being against the international slave trade.

The main thing I’ve taken away from this reading is how much history can be rewritten by the people with power. And even when there are other historians who discover that there might be more to the story than initially believed by the public there are others who will quickly dismiss it or even try to actively say its incorrect and misleading. This reading had made more aware of how relevant this problem is today in the news today as each outlet will tell their own version of the story and political parties using these stories to strengthen their own politics off the emotions of the public who blindly support them.

Blog Post #2 Nikole Jones

In Nikole Hannah Jones 1619 essay, “America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black People Made It One” Jones highlights the idea that America wouldn’t be as advanced if it wasn’t for slavery. There were “12.5 million Africans who would be kidnapped from their homes” to go through the middle passage which led to “almost two million” people passing away due to inhumane conditions. African slaves were just seen as property to the white slave owners to use however they wanted and to expand their own business. In addition, slaves couldn’t be legally married to each other but slave owners had the ability to “rape or murder their property without legal consequence” and when the slaved women fell pregnant it was a good sign because that means that slave owners would get more workers for his business. If the child was born half white and half black it would become a slave because the child wasn’t purely white. Kinship between a mother and her children was not allowed because they held no right over their children. The slave owners would decide what to do them wether that being them making the children work or were put “behind storefronts that advertised Negroes For Sale”. Through time slaves were the ones who “lugged the heavy wooden tracks of the railroads that crisscrossed the South and that helped take the cotton they picked to the Northern textile mills, fueling the Industrial Revolution”. If it weren’t for the slaves labor America wouldn’t have been able to expand in the market. What stood out to me was the irony in “all men are created equal” but yet white men felt that they were superior to black people. Even if they weren’t born to be a slave if a black person family had a history of being in slavery, that person would be considered as inferior to a white person.

Blog Post #2 Thavolia Glymph – Kaylen Su

Thavolia Glymph dives into the roles white mistresses played on a plantation household.  She states that many historians perceive these plantation mistresses as not having social power over the slaves. These mistresses were characterized as calm, women who created a loving household and cared for their slaves. Thavolia Glymph argues against this stating that there are indeed many claims from former slaves proving this false, she questions the traditional portrait that labeled elite southern women as “fragile flowers”.  She points out records of slave accounts where mistresses indeed used violence, stating, “This narrative… has been told for the most part as if there were no other, as if Lulu Wilson’s, Harriet Robinson’s, or Harriette Benton’s did not exist. … Robinson said that her mistress was the ‘meanest woman I ever seen in my whole life,’ ‘a nigger killer.’ Harriette Benton, although a slave for only seven years, remembered her mistress as ‘a debil in her own way.’” (p.20). This just goes to show not only how the narrative on violent plantation mistresses has been manipulated and almost ignored, but also how almost insignificant and invisible women were although the opposite. The violence from these mistresses, if ever talked about, was deemed as being done through the husband’s request showing white women to have no authority.   Thavolia Glymph clearly shows the usage of power the southern white woman had against slaves. We see how narratives from actual slaves were disregarded, for example as stated by Harriet Robinson, “meanest woman I ever seen in my whole life”. This just goes to show that plantation mistresses did not use their power and authority over slaves shyly. These so-called “fragile flowers” that were described to be hardworking, devout, and a mother who tried to live up to the expectations set by men, do not show the fact that these women did indeed have some power over their slaves. Thavolia Glymph also mentions that feminist historians have added on to this portrayal of a hardworking, self-sacrificing southern lady by stating things like, suffering from patriarchal authority to which “slaves were subjected”(p.23), or things like “white woman who tried to live up to responsibilities of her position.” (p.23).  Of course, some of this is true, women in the past were living in a patriarchal society, but Thavolia Glymph helps to reveal that although this may be true, white women, specifically plantation mistresses had power over slaves despite accounts that say this wasn’t the case. Thavolia Glymph then goes on to state how former slave testimonies that show plantation mistresses abusing slaves are simply not the norm and that violence from mistresses was seldom.


This reading definitely added to my knowledge of women’s power, and how manipulated stories can be.  I have always thought women had power over their slaves and never really heard otherwise. Seeing how even feminist historians change the story or put excuses to violent actions done by women is crazy to see.  A question that arose after reading this was that I wonder if other things in history were manipulated to show a better light on certain actions taken. I definitely know it’s not impossible for stories to be manipulated, and Thovia Glymph does a good job defending this.


Blog Post #2

The author Thavolia Glymph explains Slavery in the book “The House Of Bondage” and that slavery was when African Americans were enslaved for labor. She explains how slavery was an evil time. She shares different experiences that people had with slavery. Thavolia Glymph explains what these people had to go through and that it was horrible. Thavolia Glymph did an interview with Lulu Wilson, who was a former slave. Lulu Wilson explains that she knows a lot about slavery and goes into detail that slaves were treated unfairly. Their masters had all the power and saw slaves as property, the text states “He beat and starved the few slaves he owned and kept up a steady pattern of selling her mother’s children.”(page 18). The reading gave me more knowledge on slavery by having the different points of view that people actually experienced. And that female slaves were utilized. They were abused because they were seen to have no power. Women’s life was terrible and had the classic role of being a housewife or housemaid. The text states that “Difficulties arise, however, when the stories of women of different backgrounds encounter one another. The plantation household was just such a site of con- tact between women whose access to power, privilege, and opportunity, much less food, clothing, and citizenship, was vastly unequal.” (page 21). I learned that slavery during this time (the 1930s) was brutal. There were black and white women in plantation households. White women were slaves to their husbands. All women either a slave or not were only seen as an object. Women didn’t have equal rights to men, even if they were wealthy. This makes me question if the roles were reversed between men and women how would things be the same or different?  Also, if capitalism is a modern form of slavery? 


Blog post #2

In the 1619 project, America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black People Made It One by Nikole Hannah. Hannah argued that America has been ran by white leaders in order to keep people of color inferior and not equal to white people. Arguing that slavery was the direct cause to democracy in America. In early America people of color were used as product for land, cotton picking, and expanding America to the status it holds today. Jones argues that America gains extreme expansion due to the buying and selling of slaves. In fact, she tells that “America’s greatest profitable trade was manufactured by slave.” She continues to argue that many of America’s early achievements came from the work and progress of African Americans. One of her major points was that in early America slaves were not seen as people but as property. Meaning they were seen as business to expand; Jones also makes a point that slaves were intentionally left out of the Declaration of Independence. She points out the hypocrisy of the phrase “all men are created equal” as the people of color were not seen as equal to white people.  

Jones begins another point that the key reasons the colonies wanted to gain independence from Great Britain was to keep slaves. Another writer Gordon Wood rejects this claim arguing that while it could have been “one factor” it wasn’t the only factor in fact he believed “The Stamp Act” was the nail in the coffin for the colonies. Wood continues to disprove many of Jones points from “The 1619 Project” in order to give the right information. Jones revised her piece changing “the key reason” to “one of the key reasons” still believing that it was a major factor in the American Revolution.  

This reading made me wonder if the information fed to us as children has been watered down and distorted over time. As today racism, prejudice, and discrimination still exist in America. Many Americans look over the fact that people of color were a giant part of the success of early America and should be talked and taught about more today. 


Blog Post #2

Thavolia Glymph set a strong tone as she talked about slavery. Slavery is a hurtful topic for most people to talk about as Glymph explains it through her historic text. She takes account of many perspectives in her writing, which shared their own experiences through slavery. Glymph helps the reader understand how they dealt with the many cruel actions. Slavery was a time where African Americans were forced into labor. This reading opened up my mind to more information about why slavery was cruel and what type of impact it had on the people who were forced into it. 

               Glymph talked about the experiences of many other African American slaves who were a part of slavery. Lulu Wilson, a slave during the 1930s said that slavery was very cruel because of the way she and others were treated unfairly. They were told to do a lot of labor and it was often tiring. One slip up would mean they would have to hear from the slave master, which was the last thing they would have wanted. It’s hard to escape this harsh feeling about slavery. I was able to open my mind up to different points about slavery and see why it was so cruel. Wilson, the master was “jes’ mean,” but the mistress “studied ‘bout meanness”(Glymph 19). This helps understand the level of cruelty that was experienced with the brutal slave masters. The slave masters were freemen who owned property including slaves. Yes, the slaves were also identified as property that the slave masters would own. Without any sympathy or emotion towards the slaves, he made them work so much to take care of his house. Unlike the slave masters, the women are supposed to be delicate, but some are not. The slaves must have had a very rough time getting through this. 

This helps me see all the disadvantages of being a slave and having to do hard labor. Times were horrible and scary for adults and children because of the harsh treatments from the slave masters. Thavolia Glymph widened my thought process about slavery because I can imagine how they have felt. In other words, I can put myself into the slaves’ shoes and see that it was very unfair to have to be a part of those uneasy to forget events.

Blog Post 2

In the Gordon Wood article you can see the errors many people made through history and their errors. Like in the 1619 Project and makes claims that there isn’t any evidence in some of the statements said in the project.  In the long run the Project will lose its credibility, standing, and persuasiveness with the nation as a whole. This caught my attention because he already  knew the project was not going to go well. In addition it states, fear that it will eventually hurt the cause rather than help it. We all want justice, but not at the expense of truth”.  He knew all these things were going to happen at one point. So what i thought was before doing this why didn’t he think of what would happen after the years. The errors people made through this history was when he said “how could slavery be worth preserving for someone like John Adams, who hated slavery and owned no slaves?” “If anyone in the Continental Congress was responsible for the Declaration of Independence, it was Adams. And much of our countrymen now know that from seeing the film of the musical “1776.”Like they said they ignored his people for independence can only undermine the credibility of your project with the general public. Furthermore he stated I have spent my career studying the American Revolution and cannot accept the view that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” In my opinion I think he just ended because slaves were going to die in the war. So they thought who would do the work after.  Also he probably didn’t have enough power to defeat the other side.


Blog post #2 Nikole Hannah- Jones

Award winning author Nikole Hannah- Jones makes a remarkable impression of the topic of Slavery; Translating the 1619 project. With the lenses of an African American.Jones mentions the genesis of slavery. Jones states” In August 1619, just 12 years after the English settled Jamestown, VA … The Jameson colonists bought 20 to 30 enslaved Africans from English pirates… Those men and women who came ashore on that August day were the beginning of American Slavery.” Thus furthering, The evolution of International slave trade in The Americas. As Jones voices for the slaves; It is also of interest to know that the African Americans “Grew and picked the cotton…was the nation’s most valuable commodity accounting for half of all American exports and 66 percent of the world’s supply”. Moreover, Jones Informs the reader that America’s greatest profitable trade was manufactured by slaves. 


Further in the text, Jones touches on the topic of ‘The history of the world’s greatest democracy’ claiming “The United States is nation founded on both an ideal and a lie” she explains this theory by a vivid demand amongst the constitution that “All men are created equal””endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights”. However, Jones mentions how independence from the English wasn’t applied to the thousands of Black Americans of the midst. Which voiced aggression towards to constitution being written vaguely during the time of slavery. 


In cognitive, Jones gives the reader an illustration of impacts for Slavery in the Americas during the time of American Revolution and prelude of independence for the 13 colonies. To further the discussion about African American slaves in American democracy. Jones mentions “The Constitution protected the “property” of those who enslaved black people” which is reflecting on the fact that Slaves were viewed as property therefore, It gave black slaves absolutely no right to ‘Life,Liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.  All in all, despite the amount of reinforcement of American independence. None of these constitutional rights applied to Black people solely because the founding father were Slave owners themselves. Therefore, only a commendation for white men.

“the endemic racism that we still cannot purge from this nation to this day.”