Last week in history class I explored whether or not freedom from slavery was given from the top or the bottom of the social pyramid. My class began this lesson by using Skitch to place speech bubbles on the adult African Americans and Abraham Lincoln in the painting titled Freedom To The Slaves. We then outlined the social pyramid of American society at the start of the Civil War. The rest of the lesson notes were attained by my group analyzing different primary source documents. Our
Although slaves were deprived of their human rights on a daily basis, they still couldnt take any actions to help abolish slavery because of their low social class. General Abrose Burnside wrote a letter to the Secretary of War Edwin Stanton about how many former slaves were showing up at a city that his troops were camped at. He wrote that, “the city is being overrun with fugitives from surrounding towns and plantations— Two have reported themselves who have been in the swamps for five years.” The only way for slaves to escape slavery was to run away because they had no influence at the bottom of the social pyramid to try to abolish slavery.
Unlike the slaves, Abraham Lincoln had power and influence as President of the United States, which put him at the top of the social pyramid. In a letter to Horace Greeley in 1862, Lincoln wrote that, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it.” At this time Lincoln had just taken office and didnt show any desire to free slaves. All that Lincoln wanted to do was to save the Union regardless of what factor slavery had to do with it. No attempts were made to help or free slaves at this time because Lincoln didnt display any desire to do anything about slavery.
|Here is a bar graph that my group and I made displaying what viewpoint each of the documents represented.|
Three years later in 1865, Lincoln issued his 2nd Inaugural Address. Lincoln stated that the real cause of the war was slavery and how it should be abolished. He said that, “One eighth of the whole population was colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.” By this point Lincoln had realized that he should have abolished slavery sooner. Slavery was declared illegal and was enforced now that Lincoln had changed his opinion from his prior letter to Horace Greeley. Slavery was finally abolished because of Lincoln’s high position on the social pyramid, which gave him influence.
Just like during the Civil War, in current day issues the bottom of the social pyramid usually raises awareness for social change, but the top of the social pyramid still has to take action for there to be a substantial change in society. Over the past few months police brutality has caused enormous protests in cities all across the country. These protests are carried out by ordinary people and are usually very successful at raising awareness about injustices that police have committed. The most recent of these protests were in Baltimore where people were rightfully upset over the death of Freddie Gray. After lots of destruction by common people during protests 6 police officers were charged with the homicide of Freddie Gray. Here is CNN’s news article about the incident. The charges placed against these officers were spurred by the harsh responses of regular people, but there couldn't have been any serious consequences for the officers without the power of the people at the top of the social pyramid like court justices. In both current day and after the Civil War social change has been initiated by people from the bottom of society who are forced to influence people from the top of the social pyramid in order to make a significant change in society.