Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

April 2003


For many years, the historical experience of slavery has occupied a unique niche in the minds of Americans. For some, the presence of enslaved Africans, while unfortunate, did not necessarily mean that American democracy was flawed (after all, they argued, American slavery was not all that bad). Others were repulsed by the institution and labeled the United States Constitution an immoral document for protecting the horrors of slavery. Regardless of their view, many Americans turned to the words and experiences of slaves themselves to support their arguments.


Reprinted from Magazine of History, Volume 17, Issue 3, April 2003, pages 44-50.
Publisher URL:

NOTE: At the time of publication, author Damon Freeman was affiliated with Indiana University. Currently December 2006, he is a faculty member of the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.



Date Posted: 21 December 2006

This document has been peer reviewed.