The Declaration of Independence and Slavery: Black History Month, Part 5

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Episode Description:
The Declaration of Independence asserted that "all Men are created equal" and yet enslaved African Americans had been systematically deprived of their rights since at least 1619. Today we learn about the passages condemning slavery that were deleted from the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence and Slavery: Black History Month, Part 5

60-Second Civics, Episode 4247: February 5, 2021

The Declaration of Independence and Slavery: Black History Month, Part 5



When the American colonists declared independence from Great Britain in 1776, they wrote that “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. 


However, at the time of the Declaration, there were hundreds of thousands of enslaved African Americans who were denied these “unalienable rights.”


Despite the fact Thomas Jefferson was himself a slaveholder, he originally included this passage as a complaint against King George III:


“he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.”


This passage and others related to slavery was removed by the Second Continental Congress.


Thomas Jefferson later claimed it had been removed due to pressure from delegates from South Carolina and Georgia and acknowledged that Northerners also had financial interests in keeping slavery alive. 


All of this foreshadowed later compromises on slavery in the drafting of the Constitution. 


This has been 60-Second Civics, where civic education only takes a minute. 


60-Second Civics is a podcast of the Center for Civic Education. 


My name is Mark Gage.



Copyright Center for Civic Education

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