How Much Do You Know About Antebellum America?

John Miller

Image: Mississippi Public Broadcasting

About This Quiz

After the War of 1812, a young America settled into a more peaceful era, one in which the country began growing its economy and establishing an identity drastically different from its European roots. From the Spanish moss dangling over Southern plantations to the raucous roar of Northern factories, the Antebellum era lasted for more than half a century … and then everything changed. Can you master our Antebellum quiz?

As the economy and culture of America evolved, it slowly became a nation divided. In the South, farmers used their wealth of land and warm climate to grow crops galore. In the North, industries of all kind began to thrive. These economic realities led to cultural schisms revolving around labor and human rights. Do you know how these issues affected Americans throughout the land?

Southern workers toiled in fields, and wage laborers tried to survive the harrowing conditions of mechanized factories of the North. Politicians catered to the constituents in these vastly different conditions … and frictions were bound to develop. Do you realize just how varied American life was in the North and South?

A Fugitive Slave Act roiled the lands. John Brown took action, and Nat Turner did, too. Presidents Jackson and Polk dreamed of westward conquest while dealing with a fractured political environment. Conflict was brewing.

After decades of growing apart during Antebellum, politics, social norms and economic realities all clashed in irreconcilable fashion. The Civil War was on, and the time of relative peace was smashed forever in the bloodiest conflict in American history. What do you really know about the American Antebellum era?

The Antebellum era refers to which time in American history?

The Antebellum period refers to (roughly) the time after the War of 1812 to until before the Civil War. Antebellum is Latin for "pre-war."

Which social issue slowly but surely increased tensions in Antebellum America?

In the South, farmers reaped huge yields from their fields thanks to droves of slaves. But in the North, anti-slavery sentiments began bubbling, ensuring that there would be future conflict.

Which crop was central to the economy of the South during Antebellum times?

Cotton plants thrive in the heat and humidity of the South. Southern landowners, however, suffered from a shortage of manpower, and many of them resorted to slavery to expand their plantation empires.

What were "abolitionists" known for?

Abolitionists wanted to abolish slavery. The abolitionist movement gained its greatest momentum in Northern states during the Antebellum era.

Which revolution was underway in the North during the Antebellum period?

As the 1800s progressed, the Industrial Revolution began reshaping America, starting in the cities of the North. The rural South, however, continued to rely heavily on agriculture and slaves for its economic might.

Which "destiny" shaped Americans' perspectives during the Antebellum period?

During the early 1800s, the phrase "Manifest Destiny" took hold in popular culture. It referred to the American desire to expand westward to take the land and shape their country's course.

How did the Indian Removal Act of 1830 affect Southern landholders?

The Indian Removal Act of 1830, signed by President Jackson, pushed many Native Americans to lands west of the Mississippi River. Southern plantation owners rejoiced -- it meant they could buy even more land on the cheap.

True or false, did owners of medium-sized Southern farms often have slaves?

In the South, both small and medium-sized farms often had slaves. But it was the sprawling plantations that often had many slaves. Slaves meant wealth, prestige and power.

On March 2, 1807, what did the U.S. Congress outlaw?

The first African slaves arrived in the New World in 1617. Finally, in 1807, Congress put a halt to the importation of African laborers … but it did not put an end to slavery altogether.

Before Congress halted the importation of African slaves, how many of these beleaguered people were shipped to the New World?

From the early 1600s to the early 1800s, businessmen imported about 3 million slaves to the New World. Although the trade was outlawed in 1807, there were still many slaves suffering in the South for decades to come.

During Antebellum times, how did the economy of the North compare to the South's?

The South's economy leaned on agriculture. The North, on the other hand, featured a dynamic economy thriving on industry and healthy imports and exports. The imbalance was sure to cause problems of every kind.

Samuel Slater was the known as the "Father of the ______.

Slater was an Englishman who brought British textiles manufacturing technologies to the States. He was the father of the American Factory System, and he helped spark the American Industrial Revolution.

What was wealth distribution like in the South during the Antebellum period?

In the South, large landowners had all the power and money, while poor whites and slaves had almost nothing. In the North, wealth distribution was more equal.

Early textile mills increased the adoption of _____.

As textile mills increased in mechanization, they required laborers. The mills started the trend of using wage labor in place of indentured servants or slaves.

In 1836, the U.S. House of Representatives instituted a "gag rule" prohibiting the introduction of legislation on which subject?

Slavery was intertwined in American culture, and many politicians wanted to keep it that way. A South Carolina representative (James Hammond) was the first to pitch a "gag rule" meant to stifle all anti-slavery bills before they even started.

True or false, was the textiles sector the only market affected by Industrial Revolution?

False. The Industrial Revolution completely altered manufacturing of all kinds, particularly in the North. Everything from glass to paper to machinery changed in the face of rapidly-evolving manufacturing processes.

The Second Great Awakening pertained to which part of American life?

In the first half of the 19th century, a Protestant revival took hold of the country in the Second Great Awakening. Millions of Americans were swept up in the religious fervor, which affected culture and politics in every corner of the country.

The Second Great Awakening did NOT really include which religious people?

Muslims, of course, were pretty rare in American during Antebellum days. But Methodists and Baptists were really caught up in the Awakening, which often had a supernatural bent.

True or false, could all Americans afford newspapers during Antebellum days?

Newspapers cost just a few cents in this era, but that was too much for most Americans. Only the wealthy had access to hot-off-the-presses printed news.

Cheaper newspapers made the rounds beginning in the 1830s. What were these affordable papers called?

In the 1830s, some editors got smarter, producing cheaper newspapers called "penny papers." The trend was made possible thanks to steam-powered printing presses.

What did a slave named Nat Turner do in 1831?

In August 1831, a Virginian slave named Nat Turner led a rebellion that killed nearly 70 (mostly white) people. The rebellion went on for days. Turner was caught two months later and then executed, his body gruesomely dismembered as a warning to other would-be rebels.

In retribution for the Nat Turner rebellion, how many innocent slaves were killed?

Following the Turner uprising, whites were paranoid and wicked. They killed as many as 200 innocent slaves in hopes of deterring or disrupting other plans for rebellions.

During Antebellum, a "temperance" movement began to gain momentum. What was this movement all about?

The temperance movement addressed the issue of alcohol dependence in America. The movement gradually gained followers throughout the 19th century and then gave rise to Prohibition in the 20th century.

John Brown was an abolitionist who believed in the power of ____ to end slavery.

Brown was an adamant abolitionist who was tired of political games. He took up arms and led groups of men in violent attacks against slavery's supporters, and he led a famous raid on a federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry in 1859, an act for which he was hanged.

During the Antebellum period, President James Polk led a war against which country?

In 1846, territorial disputes with Mexico led to the Mexican-American War. The United States won, a fact that played into Polk's rhetoric of westward expansion.

In 1860, South Carolina became the first Southern state to ______.

In 1860, after years of rising tensions, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. The Civil War was on the immediate horizon, signaling the end of the Antebellum era.

Just before the Civil War, what was the average price of a slave?

Just before the war, slave prices spiked, to around $23,000, a hefty sum even for plantation owners. There were about 4 million slaves in the country when the war began.

What was the purpose of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850?

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a law passed by Congress -- it essentially meant that all runaway slaves must be returned to their masters. The law actually bolstered the abolition movement in the North.

How did the California Gold Rush of the 1840s affect America?

In the late 1840s, gold was discovered in California, and a crush of people rushed to the frontier in hopes of striking it rich. Not many found gold, but their settlements dramatically accelerated the settling of the West.

After the devastation of the Civil War, the South was ruined. A new period of American history began. It was called _____.

As the embers of the Civil War died out, the South was nothing but ashes. The Reconstruction Era began, and it would be decades before regular folks in the South found any semblance of normal life.

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