Posted on May 20, 2019
Emancipation is such a better word than enslavement!
|Arab slavers transporting enslaved|
people across the Sahara Desert.
There's been slavery all over the world, from ancient times until the present day. In ancient civilizations such as Sumer, Ancient Egypt, and Ancient China, slavery was common. People who went into debt might pay back the debt by a period of enslavement. Some criminals have been punished by enslavement, and there are many examples of prisoners of war and populations that lose a war being enslaved.
During the Dark Ages and Middle Ages, slavery (sometimes in the guise of serfdom) was common in Europe, and during the growth of the Ottoman Empire, many Christians were enslaved. Within Africa, before Europeans got involved, many peoples enslaved other peoples.
However, the African slave trade to the New World created a particularly horrible sort of slavery: one that passed down from generation to generation, one that was based on the color of one's skin and the assumption that one "race" was inferior to another, one that ripped people away from their relatives and friends and culture and language and homeland and shipped them far, far away. The Atlantic voyage was horrific, and often deadly, for Africans who were enslaved by Europeans or European Americans. The buying and selling of slaves, and the splitting of families, was dehumanizing and cruel, and the treatment of most enslaved people was dreadful.
The Republic of Ragusa (located in what is now Croatia) was the first European nation to outlaw the slave trade, way back in 1416. The first European nation to abolish the slave trade in modern times was Denmark-Norway, in 1802.
Abolition movements are different than merely banning the slave trade or freeing one particular group of enslaved people. Abolition means outlawing ALL slavery. Period.
And abolition movements began to happen in Europe in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. Here are some dates in the history of emancipation:
The British Empire eliminated slavery in all colonies and territories in 1834.
France abolished slavery several times (slavery was outlawed in 1794, but Napoleon reintroduced slavery; in 1848 Victor Schœlcher again abolished slavery in French colonies, and this time it stuck!
Various states in the United States abolished slavery at different times. Vermont in 1777 and Pennsylvania and Massachusetts in 1780 were the first to outlaw slavery. By 1804 most Northern states were free (although some emancipation was gradual, so a few enslaved people still lived in the North for a couple of decades).
In 1862 slavery was ended in the District of Columbia. D.C. celebrates April 16 as Emancipation Day in commemoration.
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 supposedly freed all the slaves in the Confederate States of America - but of course it took until after the Civil War was finished in 1865 for that to be enforced!
On May 8, 1865, enslaved people in Mississippi learned of their freedom, and Emancipation Day is called Eight o'May.
On May 20, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was read publicly in Florida; today is Florida's Emancipation Day in commemoration of that event.
June 19, 1865, the announcement of the abolition of slavery was made in Texas. Juneteenth is the name of the day of commemoration, in Texas and elsewhere.
And on August 8, 1865, enslaved people in Kentucky learned of their freedom. So that state has yet another Emancipation Day!
The 13th Amendment took effect in December, 1865, ending all slavery in the U.S., including among Native American peoples.
Slavery is now against the law everywhere. Unfortunately, that hasn't completely stopped the practice, since some people are still enslaved by human traffickers. (It's similar to murder - making it illegal hasn't completely stopped it!) But still, outlawing slavery everywhere is a huge and crucial step to eliminating it entirely.
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