Slavery is an old phenomenon that began in the ancient world. Slavery was prevalent in the Roman Empire and ancient Egypt. The Greeks are also known to have practiced slavery. In Asia, slavery was rife especially in places where Islam was properly established. Various mechanisms were employed in recruiting slaves. For example, lonely and vulnerable individuals could be easily kidnapped and enslaved. Secondly, war prisoners could be subjected to slavery, and auction centers for slaves were established in various commercial centers. Slaves served in construction projects, industries, and they also offered military services.
Slavery reached and became instituted in the Trans Atlantic region earlier than in England. The British Empire adopted slavery in 17th century, when it occupied America. The ancient slavery was different from the one that was later adopted after European occupation of America. The latter version of slavery was based on racism than the former. For instance, black slaves were introduced in America due to insufficient laborers in the plantations. In America, plantation farming was particularly boosted by slaves. “Before the civil war, English colonies of Britain were scattered along the eastern seaboard, North America, and through out the Caribbean” (Morgan 7). The extra colonies of Britain that had slaves were located around the Indian Ocean. In the second phase of the 17th centaury, Britain used its territories as potential markets. Britain also derived some raw materials from the territories that were under its control. The Transatlantic Trade also thrived during this period, and the British slave trade was further intensified in the 18th century.
Many business individuals got engaged in selling slaves because it had lucrative returns. In this case, the pricing of slaves was determined by the supply and demand for slaves. In Bristol slave trade introduced new prospects for commercial development. For example, industries in Bristol provided products that were substituted with slaves. North America also relied on European supplies. Bristol merchants campaigned for the abolition of monopoly control. “This is because they wanted to be part of the slave trade” (Morgan 36). In America, interstate slave trade had a positive impact on the economy of the seaboard states that had remained poor for long. As the demand for cotton increased, many plantation owners acquired more slaves that they used in producing more cotton. Since the red Indians could not put up with the harsh working conditions, the Europeans decided to exploit the Africans who were strong enough to work for long hours in their farms and industries. In America, many slaves were transferred to the Deep South where agricultural production was thriving. As slaves migrated, they broke links with their families and friends, and this was extremely upsetting to most of them.
Trans Atlantic trade is still recognized as one of the main trading activities that took place from the beginning of the sixteenth century all through to the eighteenth century. This business was unique in the sense that it involved the selling of human beings as one of the prime commodities from Africa. This trade is also commonly termed as triangular trade. This is because it involved three continents. In this case, Africa, America and Europe exchanged goods from one region to another. The beginning of this trade goes back to the fifteenth century. The advancement in marine technology was significant during this time, because it facilitated the travelling of Europeans. Hence, they finally reached Africa.
“Slaves were treated inhumanly right from the time they were captured until they reached Europe and other destinations” (Morgan 83). Up on reaching their destinations, slaves that attempted to escape were either tortured or murdered. This discouraged them from trying to resist.
The living conditions of slaves were influenced by the places where they worked. For example, those who operated in farms were overworked as compared to those who worked in homes. The slaves that operated in plantations were subjected to long working hours, and they mostly served under precarious conditions. Plantation slaves were given very bad meals, which sometimes were not even good for animals, and in some cases they could be starved. They were mainly given corn meal that was complimented with pork or fish.
Plantation slaves lived under deplorable conditions, which were characterized by poor housing, and clothing. For instance, they lived in small crowded shacks with no furniture. Their poor terms of service were further aggravated by the harsh overseers who harassed and whipped them. “The overseers were paid to get the most work out of the slaves; therefore, overseers often resorted to whatever means was necessary” (Freeman and Grant 27). Plantation slaves often responded to harsh treatment by rebelling against the overseers.
Slaves that served in their master’s residence were fairly treated in many ways compared to the plantation slaves. Domestic slaves were given better housing facilities and meals. They were also not over worked since they could handle most of the domestic chores without much straining. Another significant development among slaves was the emergence of class system among them. Domestic slaves rarely interacted with plantation slaves, and they often avoided marital relationships with them.
Slaves did not have the chance to have families because this could distract their attention. The few married slaves faced myriad challenges in their relationship because they could sometimes be separated from their family members. Moreover, some slave masters had power cancel marriages. “Treatment of slaves primarily involved: cruelty, degradation, executions, and rapes were also common” (Morgan 86). In South Carolina, serious penalties were always meted on errant slaves. Slaves were also not allowed to hold religious meetings because this could make them conspire to escape. Blacks especially in the South were not allowed to attend church meetings. Slave codes existed in various states, and they were used for guiding how slaves interacted with their masters.
Slaves used various tactics to emancipate themselves from forced labor and inhuman treatments that they faced in the hands of their masters. “The American Civil was crucial to the life of slaves in the sense that it led to the abolition of slavery” (Berlin 178). The banning of slavery was also championed by various scholars who felt that it was not economical to use slaves in farms and factories. Secondly, many humanitarians felt that slavery was extremely brutal. “President Lincoln took a decisive step towards eliminating slavery by mentioning his emancipation proclamation to members of his cabinet in 1862” (Morgan 166).
Slavery had profound impacts on the Afro Americans. The psychological outcome which institutionalized slavery and discrimination has had on the blacks to some extent can be blamed on the low level of success among many Black Americans. Du Bois was among the critics of slavery and the discrimination that was accompanied by it. Several African Americans still experience inferiority complex that stems from their extrication from their original identity. Their history and achievements were regarded as barbaric, and it was substituted with the doctrine of black inferiority. Negative psychological conditioning was enhanced by their masters and the white society that treated them harshly.
“Forced labor practices which were characterized by lack of payments dragged the blacks further into the psychological quagmire of self-loathing and depression” (Stovall 89). This made the blacks to develop the perception that they deserved the treatment that was meted on them. In this case, the slaves were conditioned to believe that the inhuman treatment they were subjected to was good for them. The dignity of slaves was affected by malicious practices like castration and other forms of body mutilation which were done to them by their masters as away of proving to them that they were lesser humans (Kolchin 378). Slaves could sometimes be subjected to battle royals, which led to the death of many of them. All these practices were meant to make them accept their low status in the society. In other words, they were made to believe that they resembled animals.
The psychological breaking in that was experienced by slaves was perpetuated through various mechanisms which are still evident at present. At present, “the iron chains of servitude have been substituted with economic repression and racial discrimination” (Freeman and Grant 119). Economic repression has brought several challenges among the blacks especially in the South, and this can best explain why there is the high level of unrest and crime among the blacks.“The suppression of Black accomplishments in America has helped to keep blacks in a state instability, confusion, and self-loathing” (Davis 320). Therefore, the problem of racism will never be eliminated if African Americans are not given proper reparations for the damages and injuries they sustained during and after slavery.
The psychological outcome of slavery is still manifested by the residential isolation of blacks from the white community. Slavery has also been regarded by some scholars as blight on the American history. Many whites are still guilty of their actions during slavery, while many Africa Americans are still trying to resist oppression. “This can be justified by Michael Eric Dyson’s statement that the effect of slavery continues to exert its brutal influence in the untold sufferings of millions of everyday folk” (Stovall 312).
Although African Americans have been associated with all sorts of negative things, to some extent, they have made some positive contributions that have enriched the American culture. For instance, some Blacks have been greatly honored for their ingenious inventions that have enhanced the culture of the Americans. Maya Angelou emerged as a prolific writer in the 1920s and her works received a wide readership in various American institutions. Her works mirrored the experiences of Blacks during slavery, and she also narrated her experiences as a Black woman. “Other famous Afro American writers include Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison” (Stovall 327).
The cultural contributions of Afro Americans are also exhibited in different music genres, such as soul, jazz, and rap. “Popular artists whose origins are linked to the Black race are Michael Jackson, Sammy Davis and Nicholas brothers” (Morgan 341). Different hair styles were also introduced by the slaves. For example, hair braiding and dreadlocks are foreign hairstyles that were brought in America by the Blacks.
“There is an important link between Africa and American cooking since several ingredients used in African American cuisine came from Africa” (Berlin 400). A part from these contributions, various Blacks became successful experts in various careers. Blacks have also made significant contribution in both politics and democracy. Lastly, Barack Obama made an incredible achievement in 2008, when he managed to get a position nobody ever thought a Black could get. All these achievements indicate that the African Americans have influenced all spheres of life of the Americans in one way or another.
Slavery had profound effects. This is why it has formed part of the historiography of many territories that were affected by it. For example, slavery was unfavorable on the side of Africans. “On the other hand, the Europeans gained from the slave trade” (Morgan 187). Hence, the subject of slavery has been approached differently by various scholars. Slavery faded off gradually especially towards the end of the 19th century.