Guest: Grant Madsen, BYU history professor
Of all the aspects of early American history, none seems harder to explain than slavery. In every aspect it seems both wrong and antithetical to how Americans see themselves today. It was based on racism. It required brutal violence to maintain itself. It treated people as property. In short, it violated in almost perfect order the very ideas that animated the American Revolution—the idea that all people are created equal and that governments are instituted to protect the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It took the nation nearly a hundred years (and a bloody civil war) to end the practice of slavery. It took another century to begin the process of undoing the racism that justified it. Today we continue to talk about and live with the legacy of this “peculiar institution” (as southerners called it).