Slavery in Colonial America

Slavery is the situation where people are held against their wish and thereafter treated as other people’s property and forced to work. This practice not only predates written records, but also existed in many countries and cultures. Conditions that can be deemed as slavery include indentured servitude, forced marriage, child soldiers, serfdom, and debt bondage.  In the colonial America, the origin of this practice is complex. As a result, there are various theories that true to explain slavery. Nonetheless, the impact of slavery on the American society can still be felt many years after the abolition of slavery. In fact, the slavery era is arguably the darkest years in America’s history considering that this country could have been built on the backs of millions of slaves.

It is believed that slavery in colonial America commenced in the year 1969 after a group of 20 African slaves were sold to the settlers of Jamestown by a Dutch trader. As compared to those slaves that were brought later in the colonial period, the first slaves experienced less mistreated and restrictions. This means that first slaves in colonial America were introduced as indentured servants rather than slaves. In colonial America, most planters, farmers and shopkeepers experienced various problems when hiring workers because of limited cash. Moreover, it was very easy for a worker to set up his or her own home. To resolve this problem, these farmers and planters resorted to providing food, training, housing and clothing to these indentured servants in exchange of work. As the years progressed, slave labor replaced indenture servitude in colonial America. The need for more workers and cheap labor in huge plantations of valuable cash crops such as sugar, cotton, tobacco and coffee led to the introduction of slave labor in place of indenture servants. At this time, slaves were compelled to work in gangs on vast plantations of sugarcane, cotton and other high value cash crops.

There were several legal differences between slaves and indentures servants. For instance, all indentured servants were still free by law because they still enjoyed some basic civil rights. Moreover, they were free to leave and establish lives of their own after serving their agreed term with the masters. On the other hand, slaves had no civil rights whatsoever because they were considered their owner’s property. Moreover, slaves were supposed to serve their masters for life. Indentured servants were liable to some basic provisions such as clothing, food, and housing. By contrast, slaves were treated as animals. They were abused severely by their masters and be killed in some instances. Note that killing of an indentured servant was not allowed but killing a slave was considered legal by the masters.

The forced journey of Africans from their continent to North America was a horrific experience for those who lived to tell it. Thousands of kidnapped Africans would be sold by African warlords, kings and private kidnappers to slave merchants in exchange of manufactured goods from Europe.  After trading, the slaves would be taken to slave ships, which typically contained 30 crew members and several hundred slaves. Depending on weather conditions, the voyage back to Europe and South America took approximately six moths. To save space, the right leg of a male slave would be chained with the left leg of an adjacent slave. Women and children were kept away from men. While in transit, these slaves fed on corn, palm oil, yams, beans and rice. Most slaves never made it to their destination because of the harsh treatment they received on the way. Malnutrition, overcrowding and diseases were the key causes of their death. Those who could not endure this misery resorted to hunger strikes and suicides. After the strenuous 3700 mile journey, the slave ship would eventually dock in North America.

A majority of Southerners justified this evil and inhuman act by terming it as an excellent system for agrarian nation. They also justified slavery because they considered it to be cheap and easily replaceable labor. The southerners also justified this act by quoting the Bible. They were of the opinion that the Israelites were not only slaveholders, but were also enslaved in Egypt despite the fact that they were God’s chosen nation. They also held that all blacks were inferior to whites because all men are not equally created. Racism was not a southern phenomenon per se, but a widespread ideation all over America. A majority of the white populace believed that blacks were inferior; therefore, they were better of as personal properties

Racism is a continuous controversial subject that will continue to exist within the American society for many years to come. This culminates from the longstanding hurt feelings and hatred that eats away at the bold efforts and good intentions that most Americans are trying to promote. Although most Americans would argue that they are not racist, many of them are just trying to be politically correct or making fools out of themselves. People of color and thousands of minorities continue to experience high unemployment rates, poverty, school segregation, police profiling, and repressive incarceration. Despite the fact that the ascension of a black president to the White House is a huge achievement for racial relationships in America, more needs to be done. All Americans should improve their efforts to fight racism if they want to attain the civil right objective of equality for all.

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