Impact of Slavery in America


Slavery affected not only slaves and the people who owned them, but those who were against slavery. Because the northern states had become more industrialized than the south, the north did not hold slavery as a positive development for the nation. The market revolution along with the Industrial Revolution from England convinced the north that free labor would be better for the country. Slavery was not only morally wrong—it was not as economically sound as it once was. Slave narratives impacted the way the nation perceived the institution of slavery.

Often people viewed slavery in terms of the institution. Slave narratives helped to shift the focus from the system to the personal. Former slaves such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs were able to escape their slave masters and write their stories. The slave narratives were a rallying force for those who opposed slavery. The descriptions included were to shock those who either did not know about the effects of slavery or those who did nothing to stop it.

Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacobs, in her narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, acknowledged that those who were not acquainted with slavery would be in disbelief by stating: “I am aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible; but they are, nevertheless, strictly true. I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery; on the contrary, my descriptions fall short of the facts” (Jacobs 439). Abolitionists were strongly opposed to slavery and appreciated the slave narratives that assisted their cause.

The North and South

As the nation progressed, the north and the south developed with differences. One example of the division between the north and the south on the issue of slavery would be the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The land that was west of the Mississippi River and east of the Appalachian Mountains was to outlaw slavery. This was crucial because it helped establish the idea of Free states and slave states. Another example would be the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which was created to solve the dispute over what would become of the states in the western part of the nation. The compromise allowed Missouri to join the nation as a slave state and for the state of Maine to be a free state.

Great Compromise

Throughout the early part of American history, compromising was considered a virtuous trait and the nation valued the ability to solve differences of opinion peacefully. However, these compromises would not last when the nation engaged in the Civil War. These attempts at compromising illustrates that slavery did cause divisions between different regions of early America.

Slavery was Important

Slavery played a critical role in the development of early America. Slavery came after the use of indentured servants and was a way for the new nation to advance economically at the expense of thousands of people. From the Middle Passage to the institution itself, slaves faced terrible abuse and mistreatment. Slavery was morally wrong yet it was allowed to continue because it was grounded in the belief that without slavery these individuals would not be Christians.

The Social Impact

The social impact slavery made on the nation could be seen in the slave uprisings. White slave owners maintained the fear that slaves would rise against their masters. As time went on, racist views became apparent as people instilled values of racial superiority in the whites. This idea of whites being better than blacks would persist long after slavery ended. Slavery caused the rift between the north and the south in post-Civil War America. Samuel Watkins, a confederate soldier from the Civil War, summarized the division between the north and south accurately when he stated: “The South is our country, the North is the country of those who live there. We are an agricultural people; they are a manufacturing people” (Watkins 7).

Differences of the North and South

The northern part of the country was becoming industrialized and did not need slavery like the agrarian south did. The south wished to maintain slavery and the north, influenced by former slaves and the growing understanding of the institution, was willing to oppose it. Slavery had influenced the beginning of post-Civil War America and would continue to impact it as the nation entered the Civil War.


Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. New York: Signet, 2002. Print.

Sprigs, Elizabeth. “Complaint of an Indentured Servant (1756).” Voices of Freedom 1(2008): 66-68. Print.

Watkins, Sam. Company Aytch. New York: Plume, 1999. Print.