Racism and Inequality in the North Prior to the Civil War

Civil War States Mapby Bruce Gourley

From its earliest days, the colonial experience in the New World was infused with human inequality.

Theocratic colonies through both government institutions and establishment churches refused to allow freedom of conscience or religious liberty. Many poor whites were indentured servants and many blacks either indentured servants or slaves. White women were denied political, religious, economic and social equality.

Some minority and radical dissenting groups, such as Baptists, demanded freedom of conscience and religious liberty for all persons. If they were lucky, they were largely ignored. But in many instances they were beaten, whipped, jailed or otherwise persecuted for exercising freedom of conscience and advocating for religious liberty. The Rhode Island colony, founded by Baptist Roger Williams and the charter written by Baptist John Clarke, enacted freedom of conscience and religious liberty for all and thus became a refuge for Baptists and other dissenters — to the chagrin of the surrounding theocratic colonies.

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