Essay on Slavery in the Antebellum Period

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Even though slavery was already declining in popularity in the antebellum period and had long passed its heyday, slavery in this period was perhaps in its most brutal form as ever as the reluctant slave was met with waves of abolitionism and anti-slavery crusaders. Though there have been several myths and misconceptions about slavery in this period mainly derived from embellished folklore and legend, there are somewhat factual accounts that narrate the firsthand account of slavery from the period. One such example is an autobiography by a former slave named Henry Bibbs who after several attempts finally managed to escape slavery and live as a free man in Canada. Though such accounts are sometimes also embellished to be more interesting or to pass a certain message to the audience, the accounts are authentic and are based on factual events from a firsthand perspective about slavery.

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There are certain similarities between the game Flight To Freedom and the Henry Bibbs autobiographical account of escaping slavery, titled the life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave. In the game, if one is unable to complete a chapter and is recaptured, one has to start the chapter all over again. In slavery, every attempt to escape was met with brutal punishment and sometimes the slave would even be sold from his family and would have to start reorganizing their life afresh. In the game, one also has to complete all the chapters at least once to be successful. In Henry Bibbs account, he had to succeed at getting away enough from slavery just once with a view to guarantee the success of his emancipation effort. Any failure before he reached his target of freedom would cause him to be punished as it had done several times already and he would have had to restart his plan to reach freedom. However, the game is essentially different from the account in Henry Bibbs autobiography in one fundamental aspect. While in his account his actions had an impact on other slaves apart from himself such as his wife, in the game there are no such interdependencies accounted for between slaves hence ones actions are detrimental only to oneself.

Deducing from the game Flight to Freedom, Henry Gibbs autobiography and the Myths and Misconception Section in Chapter 11, slavery in the antebellum period is found to not be essentially different in principle and practice from the slavery taught in class. Though slavery in this period is found to have been more inhumane and brutal in attempting to subjugate or subdue the slave completely, the slavery in this period is much like the slavery that was practiced for much of the 364-year period in which Slavery was practiced in the United States. The Autobiographical account and the Myths and Misconception section present a true picture of the statistics of slave ownership in the antebellum period, the inhumane treatment that these slaves received at the hand of their masters and the various methods, including the underground railway, that slaves used to try and achieve freedom for themselves. The slavery of the antebellum period is therefore not different from the classical slavery taught in class by principle but rather is only modification to allow more control and brutality in the face of a rising wave of abolitionist sentiment.

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