Today promises to be a new day if the new law proposed by congress proves to be any good. It will be a new dawn for me, my family, my clan, indeed, my entire race. For me, the only country that I have ever known and called home has been the United States, but the fact that my skin color is different from that of my master compounded with the reality that I am a slave suggest to me that this has not always been my home.
According to the tales that my grandmother constantly barrages us with as we sit late into the night by the fireplace, our home is a place called Africa, a land thousands of miles across the great ocean on the east. Our forefathers were the victims of the exploits of one John Hawkins, the British sea merchant and voyager whose act of acquiring slaves off the Guinea Coast and selling them off to the Spaniards formally introduced the English to slave trade, a phenomena which invariably led to an influx of slaves to the new world (Conrad 11).
In the earlier days of colonial America, the need for black slaves was minimal since the native Indians and the settlers provided all the labor that was required by the colonists. However, with time the natives succumbed to plagues such as smallpox which were brought to their land by the new arrivals.
The fact that a Negro was more resistant to these ailments and could do the work of four or five natives greatly appealed to the new world which had a deficit of human labor. And that has been the fate of my family through three generations. We have toiled in the fields of Master Smith who acquired our great grandparents for a pitiful sum of money from the slave ships. Our task has been to ensure that his vast cotton fields are well tended and to attend to the needs of his household.
Through the years, I have witnessed my relatives die off from diseases which are mostly as a consequent of the overworking and the poor living conditions that we are subjected to. Our days begin at five o’clock in the morning and we’re ill dressed for the biting cold which greets us. In the summer, we have to work through the scorching sun under the pitiless eyes of the slave drivers.
However, all our misery and hardship promises to be a thing of the past. Today is the 8th of April 1864 and the news around town is that a bill has been passed by congress under President Abraham Lincoln which formally abolishes slavery. The new amendment declares that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States and congress shall have power to enforce this law through its legislative arm (Holcombe 121). As such, I can consider myself a free man as from today.
No longer shall the traditionally established notion of the inferiority of the Negro which has up to this point been used to justify slavery and its inherent cruelties be used as a basis to enslave me.
In anticipation of the opposition that is no doubt bound to arise following our freedom, the Union army has been mandated to offer protection to us ex-slaves from our masters and anti-slavery abolishment activists who will go to great lengths to undermine this law (Rochester).
I reckon the days ahead are going to be hard as we try to make a living as free people with no money and little support from our white neighbors. However, I am optimistic that someday we will prosper and shall coexist peacefully with our former masters as brothers in harmony. In that time, our history as slaves shall be as a tiny drop in the ocean of memories, all but entirely forgotten.
Conrad, Cecilia. African Americans in the U.S. economy. Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. Print.
Holcombe, G. Randall. From liberty to democracy: the transformation of American government. University of Michigan Press, 2002. Print.
Rochester. Life After The 13th Amendment. 2006. Web. 2 Feb 2010. http://www.history.rochester.edu/class/douglass/part5.html