Simple English Listening

The Story of AMERICA pt. 2 - Slavery - Civil War (Pre-intermediate)

September 02, 2021 Tristan Palumbo
Simple English Listening
The Story of AMERICA pt. 2 - Slavery - Civil War (Pre-intermediate)
Show Notes Transcript

(Pre-intermediate) Birth of the USA - Civil War - Slavery
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Here, I speak in SIMPLE English about HIGH-INTEREST topics. The best way to learn is to listen to as much English as possible which is ONE level above your level. This way you pick up maximum amounts of new language and pronunciation naturally. 

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Movie recommendations:
'Glory' - 1989
'Amistad' - 1997
'Lincoln' - 2012
'12 Years A Slave' - 2013

Hello everyone and welcome, welcome. Today we will do part 2, part 2 of the American Story. 

In this episode, we will look at slavery (when Africans were brought to America as slaves), the American civil war (when the northern states fought the southern states) and we'll look at mass immigration to America. 333 million people live in America right? It's the largest western country by far! Who are they, and how did they get there? But, let's review part 1 quickly. You can listen to part one and all other podcasts on Simple English Listening, on Spotify, Apple, Facebook - there are all our podcasts and videos there. And, please give us a five star rating on Apple of Stitcher if you can, if you enjoy it.

So, Europeans started settling in America in the late 1500s: English, Dutch, French, Spanish.

There were many battles between these peoples and between native Americans. The European settlers made 13 colonies on the east side of America, which were controlled by the UK. These settlers wanted freedom, independence from the UK and there was a War of Independence. America Vs the UK. And, America became it's own country, a new country in 1776! These 13 colonies became the first 13 states and George Washington was the first American president.

The USA then purchased (then bought - 'purchased') all France's American lands in 1803, and became twice as big! These included states such as Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas. It was called 'The Louisiana Purchase'.

Then, American peoples started moving west, trying to find gold. Then, we had the wild west: Cowboys, battles with native Americans and Mexicans, gun fights, sheriffs, bandits etc.. like in the movies. There was a two year war with Mexico between 1846-1848 and America took new states: Texas, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and other south-western states. 

Slavery is a significant (an important - 'significant') part of the American story, also because it was the main reason for the American Civil War. 

Slavery, is a noun. This is when someone must work by force (without being paid) and cannot leave. Someone who does slavery is a slave. 'Slave' is the noun for the person who does this. 

There has been slavery around the world for all of recorded history, in many civilizations, but most famously, from Africa. The largest known movement of slaves was the transatlantic slave trade, from Africa to the Americas - about 11 to 20 million slaves. But, also, Africa was bled of human resources, also, 15-20 million Africans were also sent to the Middle East, to Asia and beyond via the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the trans-Saharan caravan route - which is across the Sahara desert.

From the 1400s, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to take slaves from the west coast of Africa and other countries followed, Spain, France, the UK, the USA. There would be raids on small villages and towns on the west African coast.

Actually, the first Atlantic slaves of this time were the native people of the Canary Islands. So, the Canary Islands are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote etc.. parts of modern day Spain. These Canary Islanders were forced to work in sugar and wine production there, and sent around the Mediterranean by the Spanish.

Slaves were either sold or just randomly captured, or were sent into slavery as a punishment by their local government. People from west and central Africa were put on big ships in horrible conditions in chains. Many of them died in the journey to the Americas and elsewhere with disease, and sent to work as slaves, sold in markets, sold like animals, basically. Separated from their families. Their jobs were usually picking coffee, tobacco, cocoa, sugar, cotton, to work in gold and silver mines, to work in rice fields and other grains, and to work as house servants. 

A very dark period in American history and great movies about slavery are Amistad and 12 Years A Slave. 

The Transatlantic slave trade to the Americas lasted for about 350 years. The UK made slavery illegal in 1807 across the British Empire, sending 25 ships to West Africa to fight slave trading ships. They captured 1,600 ships and freed 150,000 Africans. One by one, other countries followed until the final slave trading ship arrived in America in 1859. The last country to ban slave trading was Brazil, in 1888. But, the damage to humanity was done, leaving a scar of shame, which is still with us today, of course.

Lots of the USA's economy came from the transatlantic slave trade. 

Around the 1850s, In the state of Kansas, there were often fights and small battles between pro-slave and anti-slave supporters. People such as John Brown wanted slaves to rise up and fight their owners. The northern states of the USA wanted to end slavery but the southern states wanted slavery to continue. In the south especially, their economy relied heavily on slaves to work. 

There were many new American states such as Texas, Kansas, California. Should slavery spread to the new American states in the west of the USA? What kind of America do you want in the future? That was the question.

One-by-one, the southern slave states left the USA to form their own country, the Confederate States of America, or The Confederacy, for short. With their own country, they could have their own politics - pro-slave politics. After southern states shot and threw bombs at a US fort in South Carolina, there was total war! Total war between the north and the south.

The American civil war between the northern and southern states was four years long! And, about 750,000 soldiers died, and nobody knows how many civilians died.  Many freed slaves fought with the north, becoming soldiers, led by Abraham Lincoln. There's a great movie about this starring Morgan Freeman called 'Glory'. A movie about the black soldiers in the civil war. I've recommended lots of movies, right? I'll write the names of all the movies that I've recommended in the description of this podcast! Remember to watch them first with subtitles in your own language, then watch them a second time with subtitles in English to learn the maximum amount of new language.

The northern states won the civil war.

After this bloody war, President Abraham Lincoln ended slavery across all of the USA. Suddenly, four million African-Americans were free, and were now citizens of the USA, and allowed to vote, finally. Another great movie about this is called 'Lincoln', with my favorite actor Daniel Day Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln. 

If you watch all the movies I've recommended, you'll get a better feel for American history. Because lots of work was put into the research and the costumes and the setting of these movies. I do recommend these movies.

Unfortunately, in the southern states there continued to be racist laws called the Jim Crow laws. These laws tried to limit the freedom of black citizens, keeping black and white citizens separate as much as possible. Blacks and whites had different schools, restaurants, jobs, bathrooms, they had to sit on different parts of the bus, whites at the front, blacks at the back. They had to go to different parts of hospitals, drink from different water fountains. This was called segregation. It's something I was taught about at school. These Jim Crow laws were finally stopped fully only in 1964, thanks to the great Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

After the civil war, America then took The Phillipines, Puerto Rico, Guan, after a war with Spain! It was here in 1898, that historians say America became a world super power. By 1916, it had become the richest country in the world, richer than the UK whose Empire covered 23% of the Earth's surface at the time. So, it was the largest empire ever, and America was making more money than that!

Now, we enter the 20th century! America entered an age of mass-industry, mass-production and economic progress. Especially from the 1920s, we had different sub-cultural movements such as the jazz age, the golden age of cinema, so American culture started to become famous around the world and movies and music. The invention of cars, mass produced cars by Henry Ford.  Many people started driving with affordable cars.

In world wars 1 and 2, America fought with the British Empire and France against Germany and her allies, and against Japan in the Second World War.

After these wars, America fought political wars, especially against Communism, going to war in Korea in the 1950s, and Vietnam in the 60s. They said, to try to stop the spread of communism, and to try to put capitalist systems there, like you see in South Korea today! That's why we see a divide between North and South Korea today - because of the Korean War. But, we don't see the same divide in Vietnam. Why? Because America lost that war, so the whole country became communist because the north won.

Many of the first English settlers in America were refugees ('refugees', people escaping persecution + going to new countries for safety) They were escaping religious persecution. They were being bullied and being punished for their religious beliefs in England, so they went to America. These early settlers fought to create a new country, with new laws and new ideals.

Since the USA's independence in 1783, hundreds of millions of people have moved there, from all over the world: Irish, Italian, British, German, Norwegian, Chinese, everywhere. They moved to America for a new life, frustrated with the old ways of the old countries.

Especially after World War 1 and 2, which left Europe and much of Asia destroyed. This has helped shape the American passion for ideas such as freedom, new beginnings, opportunity, equality and exploration. These ideas have become popular worldwide perhaps, perhaps inspired by American movies, perhaps not. I mean, these ideas have always been there, somewhere.

There's that phrase - 'The American dream'. What is the American dream? The phrase seems a bit ridiculous now, maybe because so many societies share this dream. And what is it? What is the American dream?

From what I gather, it's this: that it doesn't matter what religion you are, it doesn't matter what your background or ethnicity is, or your social level, or your caste, or economic background, or whatever, compared to many other countries and their societies and corrupt politics back then. In America, the idea is that you're free to make the life that you want, you have the opportunity to go for it! You can be as successful as you want, if you work hard, and nothing can stop you!

I mean, hell, you can even be the president, right? Abraham Lincoln grew up very poor, in a one bedroom wooden cabin, with a dirt floor. President Jimmy Carter was a farmer, a peanut farmer. He's not the only president who used to be a farmer, also William Harrison. These were just every day people.

Of course, it's different now, right? It's sad, but it seems only the rich, the very wealthy can be president nowadays.

The 'American dream' seems like a silly phrase nowadays, because I mean, many countries offer these opportunities. But, the idea at the time was very appealing to people in countries destroyed by world war and destroyed by poverty, with governments where their freedom of choices were limited.

Also, other 'new world' countries, offered new opportunities, represented new opportunities - Canada, Australia, South Africa, South America, Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand, all received mass immigration over the last few hundred years. The USA, just happens to be the biggest of these, with the biggest population by far.

My parents both moved from Europe to Canada, after WW2, Europe was all destroyed. There lacked opportunity and jobs, especially in Italy where my father is from. There, from Napoli, their families left to start again with thousands of others who shared the same dream. My Dad was 5 years old when he left Napoli in Italy in 1955. First they went to New York, and then they settled in Montreal, in Canada, where there lived some cousins and extended family. Many of his family members in Italy, he never saw them again. My mother moved from England in the 1960s with her family. For those who don't know, my mother is English and my father is Italian, which is why I look so sexy. Only joking.


When I was a kid, about 7 years old, my family moved from Canada, to England, where I grew up and was raised, which is why I speak like this, with a posh English accent.

OK, that's enough for today! Hope you've learned something interesting, and improved your English at the same time! Pleas subscribe and like! To help this podcast grow, please tell your friends about us if it helps them improve their English, and their ability to understand new information and better join the world's conversation. And, 55% of all of the internet is in English, remember that. The most important reason to know English is so you have all of this wonderful information at your fingertips.

Ok, all the best my friends. It's a pleasure and catch you you next time!