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Slavery And The Making Of America - 4of4

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Slavery And The Making Of America
Episode Four

The Challenge Of Freedom

An 1867 federal law prohibited a descendant form of slavery known as sharecropping or debt bondage, which still existed in the New Mexico Territory as a legacy of Spanish imperial rule. Between 1903 and 1944, the Supreme Court ruled on several cases involving debt bondage of black Americans, declaring these arrangements unconstitutional. In actual practice, however, sharecropping arrangements often resulted in peonage for both black and white farmers in the South.

The anti-literacy laws after 1832 contributed greatly to the problem of widespread illiteracy facing the freedmen and other African Americans after Emancipation and the Civil War 35 years later. The problem of illiteracy and need for education was seen as one of the greatest challenges confronting these people as they sought to join the free enterprise system and support themselves during Reconstruction and thereafter.

Consequently, many black and white religious organizations, former Union Army officers and soldiers, and wealthy philanthropists were inspired to create and fund educational efforts specifically for the betterment of African Americans in the South. Blacks started their own schools even before the end of the war. Northerners helped create numerous normal schools, such as those that became Hampton University and Tuskegee University, to generate teachers. Blacks held teaching as a high calling, with education the first priority for children and adults. Many of the most talented went into the field. Some of the schools took years to reach a high standard, but they managed to get thousands of teachers started. As W. E. B. Du Bois noted, the black colleges were not perfect, but "in a single generation they put thirty thousand black teachers in the South" and "wiped out the illiteracy of the majority of black people in the land."

On February 24, 2007
The Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution Number 728 acknowledging "with profound regret the involuntary servitude of Africans and the exploitation of Native Americans, and call for reconciliation among all Virginians." With the passing of this resolution, Virginia became the first state to acknowledge through the state's governing body their state's negative involvement in slavery. The passing of this resolution came on the heels of the 400th anniversary celebration of the city of Jamestown, Virginia, which was one of the first slave ports of the American colonies.

On July 30, 2008
The United States House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing for American slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws.

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