American slavery was a blight upon the nation dedicated to the principle that “all men are created equal.”
Chattel slavery—in which human beings are bought and sold as property—was introduced to America during its colonial period, continued through the American Revolution, and increased in scope (the slave population was nearly four million in 1860) by the start of the Civil War. Though the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment dismantled legalized slavery in 1865, the specter of Jim Crow, rise of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and proliferation of theories of racial supremacy clothed in scientific rhetoric put off the hope that blacks would be fully included in the American promise for nearly a century.
Though her citizens have not consistently risen to the level of treating every person, regardless of race, as equal human beings and citizens, America is based explicitly upon antislavery principles. Civil rights leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr. instructed Americans to live up to these principles and acknowledge that the American promise includes blacks as well as whites.
In his “I Have a Dream” speech, King told the massive crowds gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed—we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” which applied to “black men as well as white men.”
Unfortunately, glaring disparities between blacks and whites in modern American life have given credence to the view that it is not a rejection of American principles but the adherence to them