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It is ironic that the 1803 Louisiana
Purchase from France
was instigated by one of the few successful slave rebellions
. Toussaint L’Overture
on St. Dominique (now Haiti
and the Dominican Republic) so bedeviled the French that Napoleon decided to sell the Louisiana Territory to the US. This doubled the size of the infant United States and has been heralded as crucial to the American path to becoming the world superpower. It also had profound effects upon African American slaves because the new territory would be organized into states that became the political and sometimes actual battlegrounds that led to the Civil War
. “Bleeding Kansas
” in the 1850s is the most obvious example. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 began the series of political compromises over slavery, each of which ultimately failed. The last failure, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, led to the creation of the Republican Party
and the subsequent election of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln
. The election of Lincoln against the backdrop of a deeply divided nation quickly led to the Civil War in 1861.
The Louisiana Purchase also brought New Orleans
into the United States. New Orleans, with its liberal French culture, rapidly developed a strong community of free African Americans
which provided a living example of black equality of ability. The other parts of the new territory, over the years preceding the Civil War, also attracted free men and women of color who were part of creating the unique African American history of the American west.
University of Washington