Segments in this Video

New York Conspiracy of 1741 (05:27)


In 1741, a slave named Quack approached New York’s Fort George attempting to see his wife, the governor’s cook. Quack was later accused of burning down the fort; he and 12 other black men were burned at the stake, and 17 were hanged. Four whites were also hanged. (Credits)

System of Exploitation (01:59)

By the 1750s, 5,000 Africans were being brought to American docks each year. A quarter million slaves allowed their masters to amass extravagant wealth. “Slavery was an extraordinary goose that laid the golden egg,” Duke University’s Peter Wood says. “You had workers that you didn't have to pay, and you owned their children as soon as they were born.”

Thomas Jefferson and Jupiter (02:33)

Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Jupiter, grew up together on the Shadwell plantation in Virginia. Jupiter was trained to be his personal valet when Jefferson went off to study. “Jupiter's status and work conditions were privileged compared to most other slaves at Shadwell,” narrator Morgan Freeman says. “But for all of them … it would be endless work, from sun-up to sundown.”

Slave Resistance and Culture (03:24)

Slaves found covert ways to rebel: arson, poisoning, running away. They also resisted by hanging onto their cultural and religious traditions. “New African arrivals mixed with American-born slaves to shape a new culture,” Freeman says.

Family Separation (02:39)

Slaves fell in love and formed families; but, in the creation of family units, they gave plantation owner more leverage over them. Family members were often sold off as a form of punishment.

Titus Runs Away (02:39)

The Revolutionary War began in 1775. A slave named Titus hoped his quick-tempered master, John Corlies, would release him on his 21st birthday, as other Quakers were starting to do. Titus escaped his captivity after Corlies refused to do so.

Mum Bett Overhears Colonist Plotting (03:06)

Domestic slave Mum Bett worked in the home of John and Hannah Ashley in rural Massachusetts. She received severe burns on her forearm while defending her sister from being attacked with a hot coal pan. She would have been present when a position paper was written at the Ashley home demanding rights for colonists.

Slave Petitions and the Declaration of Independence (04:51)

Revolution and the rhetoric of liberty were in the air, and many slaves would have read pamphlets that circulated among colonists, demanding liberty from the British. Several slaves petitioned colonial governors for their own freedom but were dismissed. Meanwhile, Jefferson – the owner of more than 250 slaves – began writing the Declaration of Independence.

Colonel Tye and Black Soldiers (03:19)

Open warfare broke out in April 1775. Some 5,000 black men fought on the side of the patriots in the North. The royal governor of Virginia offered freedom to blacks who fought for the British. Titus, eventually known as Colonel Tye, joined Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment; the unit plundered plantations for the Brits, freeing friends and family in the process. Tye was shot and died in 1780.

"Central Cause of Freedom" (02:01)

Dunmore’s Proclamation coupled with the chaos of war led to a mass exodus from Southern plantations. Some fleeing slaves were duped; patriots raised British flags on their ships to trick runaways into coming aboard and being recaptured. Other slaves were freed for their military service.

Mum Bett Sues for Freedom (01:55)

In 1780, the new Massachusetts constitution was read aloud in every village, including Sheffield where Mum Bett ran errands. She successfully sued for her freedom and announced she would thereafter be known as Elizabeth Freeman. Her case helped pave the way for the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts two years later.

Slavery in the Constitution (02:20)

The Founding Fathers did not include the words “slave” or “slavery” in the United States Constitution. The most politically significant deal embraced by the framers was the Three-Fifths Clause which allowed southern states to count their enslaved population as three-fifths of a person in determining representation in congress.

Emancipation Movement (03:06)

An emancipation movement began with the founding of the first black, Christian churches; and some slave owners, inspired by the values of the Great Awakening, began freeing their slaves. While Jefferson argued against the “great political and moral evil” of slavery, he never used his power to free slaves, including during his presidency.

David Walker's Appeal (07:31)

David Walker was born free in the 1790s in Wilmington, North Carolina. Walker was exposed the ideas of Denmark Vesey, who attempted to organize a slave uprising in Charleston; and, in 1829, he distilled he called for the end of slavery in “An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World,” one of the most important abolitionist documents of the 19th century.

Maria Stewart Speaks Out (06:03)

Walker was found dead in the doorway of his Boston home in 1830. One of the people who responded to his appeal was abolitionist Maria Stewart who became the first black woman to address a mixed audience of men and women about political issues.

Credits: Liberty in the Air (00:46)

Credits: Liberty in the Air

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Liberty in the Air

Part of the Series : Slavery and the Making of America
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Slavery continued to support economic development from the 1740s to 1830s; but the Revolutionary War revealed the contradictions of a nation seeking independence while denying freedom to its black citizens.

Length: 55 minutes

Item#: BVL166807

Copyright date: ©2004

Closed Captioned

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