Animated map depicting the growth of chattel slavery in America between 1789 and 1861.  Animated map by Golbez with animation by Kenmayer, online courtesy Wikimedia Commons.  License:  CC BY 3.0


Before the colonies fought their War of Independence with England, some American families taught their slaves how to read and write. African-born Phillis Wheatley, captured at a very young age, was sold to such a Boston family.

Although a household servant, Phillis had a gift for writing, especially poetry. Freed as an adult, Phillis Wheatly was the United States' first African-American poet. She could not get her work published in the States, however. She had to go to England for that.

One of her many books, Poems, on Various Subjects, Religious and Moralhighlights her love of freedom. Influential people, like Benjamin Franklin, were among Phillis' supporters. 

In 1789, Franklin urged the abolition of slavery and the "relief of free Negroes" who were unlawfully incarcerated. Franklin noted:

Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature...

But instead of ridding the country of slavery, Congress enacted numerous laws that made "owning" people a "legal" American institution. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 is just one example.

When the American Revolutionary War was over, some African-Americans believed they would also be free.  America's first-published Afro-American poet—Jupiter Hammonaddressed his fellows (in 1786), urging hope and conversion:

...That liberty is a great thing we may know from our own feelings, and we may likewise judge so from the conduct of the white people, in the late war. How much money has been spent, and how many lives have been lost, to defend their liberty.

I must say that I have hoped that God would open their eyes, when they were so much engaged for liberty, to think of the state of the poor blacks, and to pity us. He has done it in some measure, and has raised us up many friends, for which we have reason to be thankful, and to hope in his mercy.

The new nation, however, had other plans for the country's slaves.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Mar 01, 2015

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"FREEDOM - BUT NOT FOR SLAVES" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2002. Feb 15, 2019.
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