African slaves were taken to North America by the European settlers. By the middle of the nineteenth century, there were nearly 4 million slaves in the south. Most of them worked on the tobacco and cotton plantations. They also worked n the homes of the plantation owners and looked after their children.
These slaves belonged to the plantation owners. They had few rights. They could not own their own homes. They could not learn to read and write. Slave families were often separated. Some owners treated their slaves well, but many were cruel. If slaves disobeyed their masters, they could be beaten. Some were killed. The slaves made up songs, called spirituals, about their sad lives. Some slaves ran away. But they were usually caught and killed. In 1865, after the end of the Civil War all slaves were freed. But the attitude of some white people did not change. Black Americans were segregated (separated) from white Americans, especially in the south. They had to live in different areas and go to different schools. They could not go to the same hospitals, restaurants or theatres as whites. They could not vote.

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