The United States did not abolish slavery during the American Revolution (1776-1787) and did not succeed in doing so until the Union victory over the Confederate States in the Civil War (1861-1865) more than seven decades later.
One legacy of the failure to abolish slavery during the Revolution was the persistence, and indeed the strengthening of racist ideologies and institutions in American society. The Civil War struck a powerful blow against racism by abolishing slavery, the most important institution of systemic racism in the 19th century. But the Civil War settlement failed to deliver a death blow against racism.
Why? What more might have been done to strike at the institutional and social roots of the persistent racism of American society? What peace terms, had the North insisted upon them, might have done so?
For example, what if all the lands and enterprises worked by enslaved people had been seized by the Union and redistributed to benefit the freed people and others, including landless whites and others? Would not such a redistribution have made a difference? And would not the fact that poor whites, as well as those formerly enslaved, stood to benefit from such a redistribution ensure a broader base of support for the program? Would such a program have given the freed peoples more resources to resist racism and poor whites less reason to be racists?
Or, what if Section 1 of XVth Amendment to the Constitution had read: “The right of every citizen of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State.” Would not doing so have extended the right to vote to women, naturalized immigrants, and free Blacks everywhere in the country, as well as to formerly enslaved Black men? And made the repeal or evasion of the amendment more difficult?
Would such measures have made a difference? Why or why not? What other measures might also have contributed to eliminating racism as well as abolishing slavery?