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The History of the United States of America: From Founding to Today



The History of the United States of America: From Founding to Today

History of the United States of America

History of the United States of America: Did you know that most democracies don’t last for more than 50 years? It’s one of the many things that has helped the United States of America set itself apart from other countries over time.

The United States of America is on the verge of turning 250 in a few years. That makes it the oldest continuous democracy in the world right now.

It hasn’t always been easy for the country to keep trending in the right direction. United States of America history books are filled with historical milestones that could have knocked the country off-track and potentially even derailed it for good.

But the United States of America has continued to push forward and make even more U.S. history with every passing year. It’s pretty amazing to look back at just how far the country has come since the founding of the United States of America.

The Founding of the United States of America

In August 2019, it will have been 400 years since a group of approximately 20 Africans were transported to the newly established colony of Virginia and exchanged as slaves in return for food. The onset of African slavery in the continental British possessions, which later evolved into the United States, occurred during this period. The events of 1619 are extensively recorded, and they signify the British assuming the role as primary importers of African slaves to North America, thereby marking the commencement of the slave trade in what would later become the United States. However, it is common for the facts to be exaggerated, such as when it is claimed to represent “the commencement of slavery in North America.” The utilization of enslaved labor in the New World by Europeans predates and possesses a greater degree of intricacy than that. Gaining a comprehensive awareness of the broader context is crucial for both historical comprehension and the comprehension of the culture and history of the descendants of enslaved individuals, as well as the enduring origins of racism they have encountered throughout the years. This topic exceeds the scope of a blog entry.

The Europeans who established trade and settlements in the Americas, starting with Columbus’s expedition in 1492, regarded slavery as an essential means of obtaining labor. African slavery had already become an integral part of the social fabric and economic system of Spain and Portugal, and was gradually extending its reach to other regions of Europe. The indigenous Arawak Indians were subjected to enslavement at Columbus’s trading hub located on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The enslavement of indigenous populations in North and South America became widespread, not only among Spanish merchants and settlers, but also among other European settlers who adopted the practice from the Spanish. The Spanish initially subjected the Taino people to enslavement in Puerto Rico during the early 1500s, within the territory that later became the United States. The French and Danish colonizers of the present-day US Virgin Islands also subjected the indigenous population to enslavement. Caribbean and South American indigenous slaves were traded in the British possessions on the continent and acquired through raids conducted by the British on the Spanish. Indigenous people of India were frequently captured and compelled into servitude. Additionally, indigenous people who were captured as slaves during conflicts were exchanged with Europeans in return for commodities.

During the period of European contact, certain indigenous communities in India engaged in the practice of captive slavery, which was prevalent in various regions globally. Historically, it was deemed an act of benevolence to retain a captive acquired in warfare as a slave, with the possibility of eventual emancipation contingent upon their perceived reliability. Due to the infrequent practice of keeping or trading Indian slaves far away from their own communities, there was a possibility for them to seek escape or be repatriated to their people in the event of a ceasefire. Offspring of enslaved individuals did not inherit their enslaved status. The dynamics shifted significantly with the European subjugation of indigenous people, as individuals enslaved were subjected to lifelong servitude, exchanged across vast distances, and even saw the birth of subsequent generations in bondage.

Enslavement of Indigenous peoples by Europeans took place throughout North America and continued until the 19th century. However, it was particularly widespread in the Southeast during the 17th and 18th centuries in the British colonies. The prevalent early type of servitude in the Carolinas, as well as in Georgia where African enslavement was first prohibited, was indentured servitude. During the initial stages of the French settlements in New Orleans and Mobile, it was customary to have both Indian slaves and African slaves in captivity.


When white southerners cling to **that** flag… 🧐 #slavery #ushistory #maga #confederateflag

♬ original sound – Joy Ann Reid

The decrease in Indian enslavement in the Caribbean and Southeast regions was a result of the significant reduction in the Indian population due to the devastating impact of European illnesses. The decrease in population in the American colonies, along with European treaties that compelled the relocation of Native Americans to designated territories prior to the Indian removals in the 1830s, resulted in a reduction in conflicts among indigenous tribes in the eastern region. Due to the fact that fighting served as the basis for Indian slavery, the indigenous population had a limited number of slaves available for exchange with the Europeans.

Curiously, it is probable that the initial African individual to step upon the soil of the United States was a person who was not enslaved and had personal freedom. Juan Garrido, originally from present-day Angola, migrated to Puerto Rico in 1508 as a companion of Juan Ponce de León and established permanent residence there. In 1513, he also participated in the Ponce de León expedition to Florida. The initial arrival of an African slave in Puerto Rico is believed to have occurred in 1513, however the integration of slavery into the island’s labor economy did not gain substantial prominence until the 18th century. While the British colonies are typically regarded as the starting point of slavery in the US, Puerto Rico, often overlooked, is possibly the earliest location within the present-day United States where African slaves were kept.

The African slave trade in the Caribbean and northern South America commenced at an early stage and involved numerous foreign partners. Aside from the Spanish, there were also the Portuguese, French, Dutch, and British. These many players engaged in interactions, such as boarding enemy ships to acquire slaves and other commodities, or engaging in slave trade among themselves. The Caribbean slave trade exerted a significant influence on the establishment of northern colonies in North America by the Spanish, English, French, and Dutch. The slave traders facilitated the acquisition of slaves for enterprises seeking to establish sugar plantations and cultivate spices in the islands. The Danish West India Company had strong opposition from foreign rivals in their quest to acquire Caribbean islands for sugar production. However, they successfully claimed St. Thomas island in 1672, followed by St. John Island in 1694. Later, they acquired St. Croix from France in 1733. These islands eventually became the United States Virgin Islands in 1917.

The initial influx of African slaves to the continental United States occurred in 1526 when the Spanish introduced them as part of their first endeavor to establish European settlement in the region. Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, a Spanish explorer, established the ephemeral hamlet of San Miguel de Gualdape. The expedition embarked from Hispaniola in 1521 with the intention of procuring Indian slaves along the southern coast of North America. However, during their journey, they discovered appealing regions suitable for establishing settlements, which are today part of South Carolina. In 1526, Spanish families were sent to North America with the purpose of establishing a colony and asserting Spain’s ownership over the northern coastlines of the continent, extending beyond Florida.

The settlers were accompanied by a cohort of African slaves. Regrettably, the precise location of the establishment of San Miguel de Gualdape remains unknown. Despite the settlers’ belief that they had traveled south of the region previously visited, it is possible that they were actually located to the north of that location. If their journey indeed took them in a southern direction, it is plausible to speculate that the settlement was located on the Sapelo Sound, which is presently situated in the state of Georgia. The colony had a brief duration of only a few months before it was deserted. The failure can be attributed to a sequence of grave issues, among which was the rebellion and subsequent escape of the slaves. The identities of these individuals remain unknown, as does the specific location along the southeast coast where they embarked on their quest for freedom. Furthermore, their ultimate fate remains a mystery. However, it is crucial to acknowledge and commemorate this courageous collective who, stranded on a foreign continent far from their native land, were forced to rely solely on their own resourcefulness. As we reflect upon the history of slavery in the New World, it is imperative that we do not allow the memory of this resilient group to fade into oblivion.

Saint Augustine Florida was the initial prosperous establishment by the Spanish in what is presently recognized as the United States. In 1565, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles established a Spanish settlement in the area. Enslaved individuals were transported to the newly established colony, while the ship’s crew included a few Africans who were not enslaved. In 1562, a contingent of French Huguenots endeavored to establish a settlement to the north, along the present-day boundary of Florida and Georgia. However, they were ruthlessly massacred by the Spanish, who justified their actions by labeling the Huguenots as heretics and asserting Spain’s territorial claim to the land. The Huguenot colony was one of the earliest to incorporate a small number of emancipated Africans. St. Augustine emerged as a significant hub for the slave trade in the New World. The initial presence of a small number of free Africans in Florida foreshadowed the future, as the state eventually became home to the biggest population of free African Americans prior to their emancipation.

The Chesapeake region witnessed the emergence of a significant population of emancipated African Americans. This is where we encounter the enslaved individuals who were brought to the newly established Virginia colony in 1619. The institution of British slavery was not well established when the first African slaves arrived. The interpretation of its meaning varied among various slave owners and in different communities. The prevailing model that served as a reference for many individuals was that of indentured servants. These individuals were bound by a contract to provide a period of labor in exchange for their transportation to North America, typically lasting seven years. At the conclusion of their service, they were provided with resources such as seeds and a plot of land to commence their new life, which they could cultivate. Therefore, certain slaves, specifically in the Chesapeake region, were subjected to similar treatment and were granted their freedom following a period of servitude. This particular custom, it goes without saying, did not endure. However, the emancipated African slave populations in the Chesapeake and Florida played a significant role in American history by actively assisting runaway slaves in their quest for freedom. An illustrious illustration is Anna Murray, a liberated African American residing in Baltimore, who assisted Frederick Douglass in his flight to freedom and subsequently became his spouse.

The enslaved individuals in the early settlements of French Louisiana were culturally shaped by trade and historical occurrences that attracted a diverse array of people from other cultures to the hubs of New Orleans and Mobile. In 1763, Spain gained control of New Orleans and governed it for a period of 37 years until the city was once again placed under French authority. Under Spanish sovereignty, the French language and culture continued to be the prevailing influence. Mobile underwent several changes in ownership, first under British administration from 1763 until 1780, and then under Spanish control until it became a part of the United States Mississippi Territory in 1813. Consequently, similar to New Orleans, Mobile possesses a multifaceted cultural past. The revolt in Haiti during the 1790s resulted in the arrival of French-speaking people of color who had been granted freedom and were seeking refuge from the turmoil. These individuals had distinct cultural backgrounds compared to the Louisiana-born population. A significant number of emancipated individuals of African descent migrated to this area prior to the abolition of slavery. Over time, a diverse population emerged, consisting of individuals with mixed French, Spanish, Native American, and African ancestries, who are now referred to as Creoles.

The preceding text provides a concise overview of the intricate historical background that we must have in mind, particularly as we commemorate the commencement of African Slavery in the British Colonies in 1619. This remains significant in the present day as we gain comprehension of the identity of African Americans and the diverse origins of their culture. African Americans are sometimes erroneously perceived as a monolithic culture, but in reality, they encompass diverse cultures and histories, encompassing both those whose ancestors were forcibly brought to America and those who immigrated to the United States. Here are some examples of the music and expressions of African American people who are descendants of slaves in the United States. These examples can be found in the collections and online events of the American Folklife Center. Indeed, the instances we can provide are from a time far distant from the origins of slavery. However, the early history can provide valuable insights into the relationship between early ethnographic sound recording and contemporary examples, leading to a more comprehensive understanding.

The histories of Native Americans and African slaves are interconnected. Indigenous people from India and individuals of African descent could potentially be used as enslaved laborers within the same houses or communities. Indigenous people of India, demonstrating empathy towards African slaves, would occasionally provide assistance to escaping slaves, if possible.

In 1675, a vessel transporting enslaved individuals encountered a maritime accident near the present-day location of St. Vincent in the Caribbean. The indigenous Kalinago people of that island saved those individuals and subsequently engaged in intermarriage with them. During the 18th century, both the British and the French made attempts to assert their ownership of St. Vincent. However, they faced significant opposition from the island’s inhabitants, who were well aware that their autonomy was under threat from both European powers. However, the inhabitants of the island were defeated by the British forces, who captured and banished them to the present-day Roatán island, located off the coast of Honduras. Subsequently, they came to be recognized as the Garifuna people. The majority of individuals relocated to the mainland, where they were exposed to and impacted by the Spanish cultural influences. Recently, a few individuals have migrated to the United States. Presently, they continue to communicate using an Arawakan language.

Florida, previously under Spanish rule until its acquisition by the United States in 1822, became a sought-after destination for runaway slaves. As a response to the United States Army’s periodic invasions of Florida with the aim of reclaiming escaped slaves, communities of emancipated slaves established themselves in close proximity to the Seminole Indians (today known as the Seminole and Miccosukee) as a means of ensuring their safety. An alliance was established between African Americans and Indians, resulting in a mutual defense agreement. This circumstance subsequently sparked a series of violent conflicts between the United States and the Seminole tribe, along with their allies. The Seminole exhibited endogamy, resulting in the preservation of unique communities.

The land that the United States of America now sits on was first founded long before 1776. Some historians believe that the first people to ever live on this land arrived right around 15,000 B.C. But the European colonization of this land wouldn’t start until the 15th century.

From there, it would take almost 200 more years for the official founding of the United States of America to take place. In the 1760s, the 13 original colonies that would eventually make up the United States of America were established under British rule.

But within a decade, those living in what would soon become the United States of America began to become unhappy with the way Britain was imposing taxes on them. This would lead to the American Revolutionary War, also known as the War of Independence, and the creation of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Britain didn’t accept the loss of its 13 colonies at first. But they would come around to this idea in 1783 by signing the Treaty of Paris and giving the United States of America its freedom.

The Early Years

Shortly after earning its independence from Britain, the United States of America’s Founding Fathers would go on to create the U.S. Constitution. The country would also elect George Washington to serve as the very first President of the United States of America, and a short time later, the country created the Bill of Rights.

This led to the country growing quite a bit throughout the 19th century. The United States of America purchased the Louisiana Territory from France at the start of this century, and by the time it was over, the country has grown to have 45 states. This included states like California and New Mexico that the U.S. was able to obtain following the Mexican-American War.

The Civil War

Although the 19th century was a great century for the United States of America in many ways, it also featured some of the darkest days in U.S. history. The Civil War, which was and still is the bloodiest war in the country’s history, took place in the 1860s. It featured states from the North, known as the Union, going to war with states from the South, known as the Confederacy, with slavery serving as the catalyst for their ongoing battles.

The Civil War led to the deaths of at least 600,000 Americans. But by the time it ended in 1865, it would help bring about the end of slavery. Slavery was officially abolished in the United States of America when the Thirteenth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution.

The First World War

Following the Civil War, the United States of America would continue to grow in the years to come. The country added territories like Puerto Rico and Guam to the mix, and it also annexed Hawaii.

The United States of America started to take on a bigger role on the international scene as well. This included getting involved in World War I in 1917. Though the U.S. wasn’t a part of the First World War when it started in 1914, the country entered the fray in 1917 by declaring war on Germany and joining the Allied Powers to ultimately help to defeat the German forces and the other Central Powers.

The Great Depression

Despite the fact that the United States of America ended the 1910s by helping the Allied Forces with World War I, the 1920s were a very tumultuous time in the country. The Prohibition Era started in 1920 when the manufacturing and sale of alcohol were outlawed throughout the country. It led to the rise of both bootlegging and organized crime in the U.S.

But that historical milestone would be nothing compared to what the United States of America faced at the end of the 1920s. In 1929, the stock market crashed and started the Great Depression. It would last for close to 5 years and send the unemployment rate skyrocketing all across the country.

President Franklin Roosevelt would introduce his “New Deal” recovery plan in 1933 that would help pull the country out of the Great Depression. This would coincide with the country deciding to make alcohol sales legal again.

The Second World War

Just like with World War I, the United States of America wasn’t involved in World War II when it first started in 1939. It wasn’t until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941 that the U.S. decided to get involved in the Second World War. The country once again joined the Allies in their fight against the Axis, which included Japan as well as Germany and its dictator Adolf Hitler.

The United States of America would also play a very important role in helping to bring World War II to an end. The U.S. dropped a pair of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. It would prompt Japan to surrender and deliver a huge blow to the Axis.

The Cold War

In the aftermath of World War II, the economy in the United States of America was booming. It was actually so strong that it led to a “baby boom” as U.S. soldiers returned home from the war. But all of this didn’t stop the U.S. from getting involved in another global war, which ended up being a war that would play out over many decades.

This war was, of course, the Cold War, which started between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in 1947 after President Harry S. Truman helped introduce the Truman Doctrine. This doctrine pledged U.S. support to any country that felt threatened by communism. The Cold War lasted until 1991 and included many historical moments, including events like the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

About a year after playing a role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while he was riding in a presidential motorcade in Dallas. He was the fourth sitting U.S. president to be assassinated with Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley being the others.

Lyndon Johnson stepped in and become President of the United States of America after JFK’s assassination.

The Desegregation of the United States of America

Even though the United States of America was involved in a standoff with the Soviet Union for much of the 1950s and 1960s, one of the biggest battles the country has ever taken part in happened on American soil during this same time period. It started in 1954 after a ruling revealed that racial segregation in U.S. schools was unconstitutional.

This ruling was one of the many things that led to the fight for civil rights for African-Americans. Those participating in this fight scored a major victory in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. It outlawed any discrimination having to do with race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The civil rights push was dealt a major blow just four years later, though, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War lasted from 1955 through 1975. The United States of America wasn’t involved in this war much for the first 10 years, but in 1964, the country decided to get more involved in an attempt to stop the spread of communism.

By 1969, there were more than 500,000 American soldiers serving in the Vietnam War. This led to a lot of public opposition against the war. But the U.S. continued to take part in the Vietnam War until a ceasefire agreement was reached in 1973, and by that time, almost 60,000 Americans had died in the war.

The Moon Landing

While the United States of America was busy fighting in the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the country was also still waged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. As part of this, the two global powers took part in a so-called “space race” that saw each of them accomplish great things in outer space.

But it was the U.S. that would claim the ultimate victory in this space race by putting a man on the moon. Neil Armstrong became the first person to ever walk on the moon in 1969.

The United States of America’s Global Dominance

Even though the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was largely seen as being unsuccessful, it didn’t stop the country from trying to assert its dominance in other parts of the world throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The U.S. was involved in military activities in Libya, Panama, and Iraq during this time.

The Gulf War that started in August 1990 and ended in February 1991 was the biggest of these military activities. It began after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and it resulted in a decisive victory for American troops.

The September 11th Attacks

There aren’t too many specific dates that hold a special significance to those living in the U.S. But September 11 instantly became one of them following the September 11, 2001 attacks. These attacks, which were planned and carried out by members of the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda, killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

During the 9/11 attacks, four commercial airplanes were hijacked with two of them being flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, one of them being flown into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the final one crashing into a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania.

The attacks sent shockwaves throughout the United States of America and led to the country starting a “war on terror.” This war would include military invasions in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The First Black President of the United States of America

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected to be the 44th President of the United States of America. This was historic for the country because he became the first Black President of the United States of America.

President Obama would go on to serve two terms as President of the United States of America. His presidency was marked by a series of historical milestones, including the passing of a huge healthcare reform bill and the killing of al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The Recent Years

Following Barack Obama’s two terms as President, Republican candidate Donald Trump earned one of the biggest political upsets in U.S. history by defeating Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States of America. President Trump presided over the country for one term, ultimately ushering the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.

But President Trump failed in his bid for a second term, as he was defeated in the 2020 Presidential election by Joe Biden. President Biden had previously served as the Vice President for President Obama.

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