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The foundation for black participation in the Civil War began more than a hundred years before the outbreak of the war Blacks in America had been in bondage since early colonial times In 1776 when Jefferson proclaimed mankinds inalienable right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness the institution of slavery had become firmly established in America Blacks worked in the tobacco fields of Virginia in the rice fields of South Carolina and toiled in small farms and shops in the North Foner and Mahoney report in A House Divided America in the Age of Lincoln that In 1776 slaves composed forty percent of the population of the colonies from Maryland south to Georgia but well below ten percent in the colonies to the North The invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 provided a demand for cotton thus increasing the demand for slaves By the 1800s slavery was an institution throughout the South an institution in which slaves had few rights and could be sold or leased by their owners They lacked any voice in the government and lived a life of hardship Considering these circumstances the slave population never abandoned the desire for freedom or the determination to resist control by the slave owners The slaves reaction to this desire and determination resulted in outright rebellion and individual acts of defiance However historians place the strongest reaction in the enlisting of blacks in the war itself Batty in The Divided Union The Story of the Great American War 1861-65 concur with Foner and Mahoney about the importance of outright rebellion in their analysis of the Nat Turner Rebellion which took place in 1831 This revolt demonstrated that not all slaves were willing to accept this institution of slavery passively Foner and Mahoney note that the significance of this uprising is found in its aftermath because of the numerous reports of insubordinate behavior by slaves 8 Individual acts of defiance
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