In Chapter 9, “Slavery Without Submission,” what actions did the U.S. government take to support slavery? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Zinn makes the point that slavery had become a practical reality in the new nation and thus impossible to repudiate.  The opening of Zinn's writing demonstrates this:

The United States government's support of slavery was based on an overpowering practicality. In 1790, a thousand tons of cotton were being produced every year in the South. By 1860, it was a million tons. In the same period, 500,000 slaves grew to 4 million.

Such a reality made it fundamentally impossible for American capital to develop without the presence of slaves.  It was in this light where Zinn asserts that slavery could not be demolished as it had become such an ingrained part of the economic culture and future of the United States.  Zinn suggests that legislation like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 helped to continue the practice of slavery as it lessened restrictions on slaveowners who wished to recapture escaped slaves.  At the same time, the lack of recognition of rights for people of color made it easier to continue the practice of slavery.  This denial of voice happened on social, economic, and political levels.  Zinn makes the argument that as long as the American government denied voice to people of color and needed slavery to continue its economic advancement towards prosperity and dominance, slavery was always going to be supported in a manner that would prevent its dismantling.


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