Slavery and the Making of America

Dec 19, 2018 in Book Review

Slavery and the Making of America Book Review


The book Slavery and the Making of America was written by James Horton. The book highlights slavery in the United States, a phenomenon, which was based on authority, brutality, dehumanization, and covetousness. The book documents how slavery is central to the past of America. It as well reveals the essential responsibility that the Africans and the African Americans played in the milestone of the American documentation. The author divulges the innumerable familiarities of free and enslaved blacks. He also talks about the values and events that shaped the American culture.

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The book is a four part series summarizing the past of American slavery from its first phase in the British protectorates to its conclusion in the Southern states. Horton has also documented the periods of post civil war renovation. The four series were the downward spiral, liberty in the air, seeds of destruction as well as the challenges of freedom. 

The first chapter covers the years from 1619 to 1739 (Matlock). This was a period when slavery was still in its minimal form. The slaves still had some rights and legal protections. Additionally, the hypocrisy of the Europeans had not been noticed by the Africans. The Africans thought that the Europeans were legally responsible and people of good morals. On the contrary, the Europeans saw the Africans as instruments of trade.

The first episode of the series is the downward spiral. This episode unlocks in the intrigues of the 1620s where eleven African men with mixed ethnicity are introduced. These men were the first to be introduced into slavery in New Amsterdam. They worked side by side with the white servants who had made an agreement with them to lay the groundwork of the Dutch protectorate that would afterward become the New York (Matlock). During that time, there were no set of laws defining the restrictions forced on slaves. Due to the fact that slavery was still in its initial stages, the incarcerated individuals like Frances Driggus, Anthony d’Angola and Emmanuel Driggus could take suits to the courts and earn wages from the sales. They were also permitted to marry. 

However, there were dramatic changes over the next hundred years. There was the transition commencing from indentured servitude and half freedom to the blacks enslavement for life. By the early 18th century, there was a considerable increase in the commerce of African slaves within America. This was meant to create room for the rising agricultural economy, which was experiencing tremendous growth. Since the farmers practicing agriculture were so ambitious, they encouraged the slave trade to provide them with capital to augment their cotton business (Horton & Lois 101-204). 

In the year 1739, there was a succinct, but blood-spattered insurgence in the South Carolina. Known as the Stono Rebellion, it was a violent insurgence led by a slave with the name Jemmy. This uprising made many protectorates to adopt strict ‘black codes’ changing the social system into legal racial based oppression (Sauers). Moreover, it also regulated every phase of slave existence.

The second episode was liberty in the air. This episode took place over the period 1740-1830. It was a time that showed the responsibility of black armed forces in the Revolutionary warfare. It also demonstrated how the agreements of freedom of the new nation were taken on by the slaves in their pursuit for liberty. According to Horton, this episode documents how the institute of slavery was sustained to hold up the economic growth (Sauers). The more the slave populace reproduced, consequently, the less the American cultivators depended on the African slave commerce. This made slaves generations to develop a unique tradition that blended elements of African and American life. 

The episode follows the paths of many blacks, for instance, David Walker, Colonel Tye, Elizabeth Freeman, Maria Stewart and Thomas Jefferson’s slave Jupiter. These are some of the people who responded by violently resisting the rising restraining methods of slavery (Horton, James, and Lois 101-204). The Revolutionary War took place in the middle of the episode. It was an occasion, which revealed the disagreements of a country in search of sovereignty while at the same time denying granting the back populace their much needed independence (Sauers).

The Revolutionary War also triggered the biggest liberation of the American slaves outside the final liberty triumph in the civil war. Most of that emancipation of the American slaves came through escape to the adversary of American sovereignty. Since the blacks were willing to be liberated, they fought with everything they had and went everywhere they would find liberation (Sauers).

Finally, the liberty in the air episode demonstrated the absolute authority of work in the lives of the slaves. It also demonstrated that slavery was the source of wealth and the resistance amongst the slave to their liberation (Matlock). Moreover, the episode shows the process of Christianization amongst slaves and the responsibility of cultural life as a method of survival amongst the rising populace blacks born in America.

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The third episode described the seeds of destruction. The episode starts at the beginning of the 1800s. The episode scrutinizes the increasing slavery in America as the country expands westwards and how cotton replaces tobacco as the nation’s most precious crop (Horton, James, and Lois 101-204). This episode also traces the development of the institutes of slavery and the equivalent abolitionist association from the 1800s to the commencement of the civil warfare. In 1777, the Northern states led by Vermont, adopted the laws to bring an end to slavery (Matlock). At the same time, the slavery in the southern United States entered the epoch of its maximum expansion. 

The episode was linked to the national occasions through the individual histories of two African American slaves. These were Louis Hughes and Harriet Jacobs. The two blacks managed to flee oppression and also uncovered the horrendous intrigues of the slave occurrences in autobiographical stories (Horton and Lois 101-204). The stories of psychological, physical and sexual exploitation fed the conflagrations of a strengthened abolitionist’s movement (Matlock).  A miscellaneous membership comprised of black women and men with some whites led by Sojourner Truth, Amy Post and Fredrick Douglass. These abolitionist movements congregated potency in the North, resulting in the widening gap and threatening the breakup of the country. 

The Europeans used slavery to sexually abuse the blacks. This led to the sale and the separation of families and called for security among the blacks (Sauers). This torture by the Europeans did not make the blacks to give up, but to continue fighting for their freedom. The blacks used abolitionists’ movements to widen the gap and increase the instability of American nation with the help of their two leaders.

The fourth and the last of the series was the challenge of freedom. This episode resulted from the consequences of the Civil War as well as the ascension of the confrontational opposition to black fairness. It also emanated from the Reconstruction through the horrendous experiences of South Carolina slave, Robert Smalls (Horton and Lois 101-204). The series records Smalls’ audacious escape to liberation, his term as a congressman and his soldierly services.

The intricacies of this era in American history are exposed as the proceedings of Smalls’ life discloses. The episode also shows the transformation of the warfare from a small fight for the establishment of a union to a fight for the abolition of slavery. The period also shows the black involvement to the war efforts, and traces the achievement and losses of a recently liberated African American through Reconstruction.

In 1865, the 13th amendment of the American constitution put an end to slavery. The African Americans were guaranteed their civil rights in the 14th and in the 15th amendments. Through 1870s, the former slaves were offered support by the Freedman’s Bureau. However, at the same time, the formation of the martial groups such as the Ku Klux Klan endangered the future of racial egalitarianism (Horton and Lois 101-204). During that period, segregation laws became visible across the country. Unfortunately, the abolition of slavery did not bring an end to the African American tyranny. 

Finally, the fourth series traces how the blacks used civil war to get freedom. They brought militant opposition to fight for their equality among the Americans. The episode also shows how some blacks like Robert Smalls tried to escape in order to find freedom. Smalls went into politics and became an effective state legislator and a United States Congressman. He used military services to fight for the blacks’ liberation. The series also demonstrates the brutal discrimination the blacks faced in the army. 

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The Author’s Argumentation

The author has finely documented how slavery played an important role in the building of the United States. After reading the book, a reader is left with a profound sense of slavery’s harm (Sauers). It also delivers a number of irrefutable gallant survivors of this form of cruelty.  Readers are in a position of fully understanding the intricacies of slave culture and how the slavery in reality destroyed the amalgamation between White and the African Americans. The reader will also understand the rise and fall of Reconstruction and why it happened.

The readers are able to imagine Walker at his desk, Mum Bet in court, Titus on horseback and Smalls at the helm of the ship. The series demonstrate how slavery constructed America into an influential, disastrously defective country (Sauers). In addition, a reader is also able to have vivid ideas of the progress of America and the challenges it confronted. Moreover, the colonial epoch and the earliest century of an American country is portrayed through the torture of slaves who were in search of their liberty.

The series as well put forward an alternative way of perceiving how wealth, liberty, power and property came to be defined in America. Furthermore, it portrays how the liberty of others was bought by the enslavement of other individuals. An individual is also in a position of further understanding the dreadfulness of slavery predominantly in the Deep South and how the slaves struggled to liberate themselves from bondage (Sauers).

The author puts forward a perceptive look on how the slaves got in touch with all phases of culture from the first comings during the colonial era throughout the Revolution. He also talks about the early 19th century fulfillment of Manifest Destiny, the Civil War and the Post Reconstruction (Sauers). Horton also makes a firm argument with powerful supporting proof that Africans and African Americans were the chief players in the colonial and origin of American nation. 

By and large, Horton makes use of various roles of the blacks. For instance, he uses Tubman, Douglass, Smalls, and Harriet among others, to show the tragedies of slavery. He also uses the legacy of these blacks to argue on how the blacks shaped the American culture. Horton also goes further to trace the development of the cotton kingdom and how its expansion increased slavery in America.


Slavery played an important role in the shaping of the United States from 1619 to 1865. The author chronicles lives from freedom in Africa to slavery in America and beyond. He tells an integral story of how the blacks shaped the American culture through torture and discrimination and, lastly, how they got their freedom after several wars. The book is about a dreadful historical story of the responsibilities and the influence that the black slaves made in the shaping the future of the United States of America.

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