Module 3 – Conquest and Slavery


The contacts between European (Dutch, English, French, and Spanish) colonists and the people they called “Indians” (but who had their own names for themselves) resulted in the decimation of Indian (or Native American) nations. By 1890, the federal government could declare that the Indian Wars on the plains were over and the continent had been settled. The Indians themselves had lost their land and been confined to reservations.

The contacts between Europeans and Africans on the African continent and in the “New World” being settled by European colonists resulted in the creation of a slave system in a nation that proclaimed freedom for all. Africans and their African American descendants who were kidnapped, sold, or born into slavery provided the labor that enriched slave owners in the South and those who profited from the slave trade in the North. Until gradual manumission in the early 19th century, New Yorkers owned more slaves than residents of any other Northeastern state. Eventually, the eroding political compromise about slavery that had allowed the creation of a nation would fuel the Civil War that ripped it apart.

Suggested Activities

Activity 1:
To learn more about Native Americans and their special status in relation to the federal government, go to: Notice in particular the lists of “Tribal Issues” listed on the right. Are you aware of any of these issues in New York State?

Activity 2:
Historically, one of the issues in the evolving relationship between the federal government and Native Americans was about crimes involving whites and Indians. However, the Crow Dog case brought the federal government into cases involving Indian victims and offenders. Watch the video about the case. What do you think about the decision on the part of the federal government to intervene in the Crow Dog case?

Activity 3:
To learn more about the experience of slavery, go to the PBS website for the video “Slavery in the Making of America.” How did slave owners defend what is now perceived as the injustice of slavery?

Activity 4:
Watch this clip of a dramatization of a conversation between escaped slave and abolitionist Fredrick Douglass and white abolitionist John Brown, who would eventually lead a failed attempt to incite a slave rebellion. What do you think of the argument made by Brown about the use of violence in ending slavery?