The Young Republic Era

Edmonia Lewis
The Old Plantation, c. 1790. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

The Young Republic Era spanned from 1789-1814. The unrest in the colonies over British rule led to war in 1775. The struggle between the British and American forces was equally matched since the stakes were high for both sides.  The colonists had leverage over the British forces and were able to defeat their mother country in 1781, when the British surrendered at Yorktown.  The Revolutionary War officially came to an end on September 3, 1783 with the Treaty of Paris.  Written two years prior, the Articles of Confederation of 1781 declared each state would have sovereignty, freedom and independence within the confederation of states. Unfortunately, the liberty sought after and won from the British did not extend to the poor, the landless, women, Native American or African American people who inhabited the newly formed states. The air was ripe with liberty, freedom and justice for select landowning white men who now could chart their own destiny, as well as, the destiny of everyone else.

During this time, the Protestant Christian church experienced the Second Great Awakening, where biblical truths were employed to curb avarice and human corruption. Nevertheless, the opportunity to expand westward and increase personal wealth fluttered before the eyes of war weary veterans.  African American women remained enslaved and lived precarious lives of producer and reproducer with greater urgency since the international slave trade was formally abolished in 1808. The early abolition of enslavement throughout the New England area afforded black people in that region of the country the ability to cultivate themselves through educational, religious and cultural means. In 1809 the African Female Benevolent Society of Newport, Rhode Island was founded.  The organization sought to provide financial and moral support to widows, orphans and other distressed women.


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