This talk gives an overview of slavery at the time of the American Revolution and explains how the revolutionary era was an important point-a watershed moment-in the history of American slavery. It notes that slavery existed in all the colonies at the time of the Revolution but there were great differences between the colonies in the concentration of slave population. The origins of slavery, how it developed on a racial basis, and the reasons for the differences between the colonies come in for discussion. A distinctive African American culture developed as a means of protecting the identity and dignity of those who were enslaved. Finally, it notes that the natural rights argument for the Revolution brought the first deep questioning of slavery and began its eradication in the seven northern states. The division over slavery between North and South was starting.
James H. Hershman Jr.
James H. Hershman, Jr., served as a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University's Government Affairs Institute from 1997 until his retirement in 2010. From 1995 to 1997, he served on the senior staff at the Brookings Institution. Before going to Brookings, he served as an instructor on congressional affairs for the federal government and earlier in his career held teaching positions at Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia. His Ph.D. in Southern History is from the University of Virginia. He contributed an essay to The Moderates' Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia and his articles and reviews have appeared in Journal of Southern History, Journal of Negro Education, and other journals and online publications. He continues to teach in Georgetown's Graduate Liberal Studies program.