Slavery in America


December 1st, 2003

"The right to freedom is the gift of Almighty God, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave (Adams 1)." The history of African Americans differs from generation to generation. In America in the 1700\'s thought the 1860\'s, Africans experienced the American culture in enslavement. The reason that Africans were brought to America was simple, the early colonist wanted profit and power, and the quickest way the colonist could achieve that was through slavery. As late as 1680 the mainland colonies knew few cases of slavery. Most people in the colonies only knew of indentured servants, which was a less sever case of slavery. Indentured servants are people who go to America as workers for the people who paid for their voyage to America. They would work for their owner for as little as five years, until they paid what they owed. After the five‑year contract expires, the servant would be let free and be able to by land. But as time went on indentured servants wanted to work for less time and make a salary (Becker 7). But the land owners really didn’t appreciate this, which then led to a decline of indentured servants, and a higher demand for labor (Butler 36). This is when the idea of slavery was introduced to the colonies.

The reason Africans were the desired race for slavery can be focused on three main causes. First, Africans were much easier to obtain. The Royal African Company eagerly exploited the growing market, which sent captured Africans in large bulks to the colonies (38). Most of the Negro slaves came from an area bordering a 3,000 mile stretch on the west coast of Africa. They came chained two by two, left leg to right leg, from thousands of villages and towns (Africa 1). Secondly, perceptions of the African culture were that of heathens and because of the different skin color they were thought as inferior. Finally, what made the Africans so appealing to the colonist was that they didn’t know the land, which made it that much harder for them to run away from their owner (Butler 39).

Death and agony characterized the African experience in the mainland colonies. The experience of slavery for Africans begins with the deaths of compatriots and kin in local wars. Then more of it came in the infamous "middle passage" from Africa to America, where ten percent of slaves packed aboard a vessel died regularly and where entrapment on a ship fraught with disease. Then death stalked Africans in America. Typically, a slave survived less than five years. The causes: a lack of resistance to American disease, unfamiliar foods, poor housing, and depression and anomie, which produced sufficient suicides (Butler 41).

The agony centered on slave holding itself. The slave laws of each colony were not uniformed but were all very brutal in the ways they dealt with slaves who misbehaved. Most of the time slaves were just whipped. But in extreme cases like South Carolina Africans were more readily put to death or punished by cutting of their ankle cords and castration (42).

Most slaves worked on plantations and farmed for their masters, some plantations owned up to fifty slaves. Men, women, and children worked. Women cut down trees, dug ditches and plowed. Older men and women fed poultry, cleaned the yard, mended clothes, and cared for the young and sick (Africa 1). Most men worked in the fields, where day after day the dug ditches to drain the fields, patched eroded land, built fences, plowed, planted, and picked and harvested. (Schneider 115). On most plantations a bell sounded around four in the morning and the work day would last till the sun went down. But some harsher masters worked their slaves seven days a week, and far beyond the usual 12‑14 hour days (116).

After being taken from their home and forced into slavery, the African view on life and religion was the one thing that claimed their own identities. "Africans clung to remnants of their African memories and customs. Slaves established families, created churches, selected community leaders, and carved out a small realm of independent economic activity. An elaborate network of kinship with its own