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Social class and segregation on the basis of race has had a mark in the history of United States of America. Throughout 19th century, racial segregation was order of the day. This was witnessed until towards the mid of 20th century. However, the years prior to and including 1865 remain important in the history of United States of America. In U.S, racial and social segregation had been rife for long.

However, this practice has significantly gone down since the mid of 20th century. It is also imperative to note that the issue of race and social class in the United States has myriad of dimensions. For example, this problem has been blamed on varied reasons. Most interesting is the fact that the media are part and parcel of groups blamed for divisions based on race and class. On the other hand, the media has always taken a firm stand that it has been advocating for social equity against the common belief that it has been supporting some form of pure-white race management.

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However, this has changed over time as it is evident when Barrack Obama was elected as US president in 2008. This paper specifically explores the period before 1865 and why it remains an important era in the history of US especially on matters of race and social class.

The period until 1865

The period prior to the year 1865 is characterized by both developments and negativity. The positives are contained in the kind of industrialization that happened in the period. However, there are some negative attributes about this period. Specifically, race and differences in social classes have tended to define the period (Horsman, 1981).

Initially, there was growing perception among the Americans that certain races were more superior and well placed than others. In addition, racism was also a very close element that affected social class. Most importantly, differences in race and social class resulted into misuse of perceived inferior group residing south of United States of America. For example, in civil wars, some races were used to win the wars. In the discussion on this issue, there are a number of things that help put forth the arguments.

These are the cultural and economic changes, sovereignty debate, abolitionism, Lincoln-Douglas debates, and end of confederacy.

Race, class issue and cultural and economic changes

Social class can best be understood as grouping of cultural and economic segments of any given population (Horsman, 1981). Emphatically, classes are best known by their cultural background as well as economic power. For instance, the white race in America has been regarded for long as the group that leads affluent life. On the other side, people perceived to be from a different culture other than the American mainstream culture could be perceived as belonging to lower classes. The period before 1865 had lots of these notions. For example, the lower class people were mainly slaves who had been obtained from other countries.

In the year 1845, these slaves were used in the development of the economy; whose fruits were enjoyed by people of higher class. This means that while people who belonged to lower classes worked hard to develop the economy, it was the upper class people who enjoyed the fruits of these efforts. The history in this is that people in the United States of America would always regard the era as a dark period. That is, it was a period when people of different races could not cooperate and a division existed based on social classes.

Race and social class & Sovereignty debate

The popular sovereignty debate was introduced by Lewis Cass.

This was a debate that sought to hold Congress together so as to continue dividing people along sectional rather than party lines. Cass was of the view that the most affected people in the slavery debate were the slaves themselves, and were suppose to be allowed to design their destiny. Slavery during the late 1840’s was common and sought to give the slave master overall authority over the slaves (Horsman, 1981). However, with efforts such as the sovereignty debate, it came a little bit clear that there were some issues that were projecting the American society in bad light.

However, in the year 1848, Cass was defeated. This occurrence was indeed an impetus that assisted in reversing the old rule that was being practiced on slavery.

Abolitionism, race and social class

In 1850’s, the debate on the extension of slave trade went a notch higher. As a result, some saw slavery as having a reason or an affront to God.

There were other arguments and thinking of abolitionists who generally tended to advance an argument to oppose continuity of slave trade. According to Horsman (1981), slave trade in America and especially during the 19th century period as well as part of the 20th century has become a mark and history for the American land. There were some people who were generally fighting to contain the slave power conspiracy. People who did not belong to the mainstream culture and affluent social class largely depended on the mercy of the wealthy for their living. Mostly, blacks in the country had become slaves in the south of the country. 95% of the blacks in the country were living in the south due to the economic hardships. In the census of the year 1860 in the US 4.

8% of the people in the South were whites, meaning, they were the minority because the area was inhabited by low class people.

Lincoln-Douglas debates

These were debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas and were held in 1845. Lincoln was seen to belong to what was referred to as Black Republican Party (Horsman, 1981).

Douglas in his debate, argued that the Negros were not to be allowed to operate freely in the country unless as slaves. He detested the idea that people of lower class and different from the mainstream culture would enjoy as much freedom as those of the mainstream culture. However, Lincoln on the other hand sought to advance the rights of the Negros or the black people who generally were people of the lower class. This was a fight between those who thought that the Negros had rights and needed to be recognized just like others, and those who thought that people of lower class and black origin should remain as slaves.

Lincoln was against anything that seemed to deprive the rights of the slaves and generally the black people. Considering the developments that have happened in America, Lincoln was on the right side of politics while Douglas was on the wrong side.

End of confederacy

The end of this political period was by far and large, significant in the landmark of U.S history.

The end of confederacy took place in April 17, 1865. This was when the confederate government collapsed. The end of confederacy was also a landmark signal that the dangerous decades and tumultuous times for the black Americans and the lowly placed persons in the United States were to come to end. Hence, the fighting in areas such as North Carolina ended and a start of new era was put forth. The period also saw the end of bloody warfare and significantly, it turned a leaf to participation for all. Most importantly, the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln who was viewed as the fighter for the lowly placed persons in the society and generally the black people was seen as triumph for the black people.

To recap it all, it is imperative to note that the United States of America has a history of its own, and some of the important aspects of this history are the end of racial segregation and divisions based on social class. The period before the year 1865 could best be described as tumultuous period for people in Southern parts of United States of America, and therefore has formed an important part of history in the country. Before the year 1865, there existed racial segregation and divisions that were based on social classes. There was little that could be qualified as cooperation between people of the black origin and the whites who were of the mainstream white culture.

This paper has indeed discussed some aspects of this history and why it is important up to the present day.


Horsman, R. (1981).

Race and manifest destiny: the origins of American racial Anglo-Saxonism. Boston: Harvard University Press.


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