African American Slavery Essay, Research Paper
African American Slavery
America is a racial country, which consists of many different nation people. In the period of 17th and 18th century, Africans were the main colonials in American. By the American Revolution, 20 percent of the overall population in the thirteen colonies was of African descent. The legalized practice of enslaving blacks occurred in every colony. ‘ American’s Journey Through Slavery, the first comprehensive television history of the international events leading to the growth of racial slavery in the United States. Expected to draw more than 20 million viewers nationwide,’ (African In American) The economic realities of the southern colonies, however, perpetuated the institution, which was first legalized in Massachusetts in 1641. During the Revolutionary era, more than half of all African-Americans lived in Virginia and Maryland. Most of these blacks lived in the Chesapeake region, where they made up more than 50 to 60 percent of the overall population. The majority, but not all, of this African-Americans were slaves. In fact, the first official United States Census, taken in 1790, showed that 8 percent of the black populace was free. ‘Black people, both enslaved and free?’ (African American) Whether free or slave, blacks in the Chesapeake established familial relationships, networks for disseminating information, survival techniques, and various forms of resistance to their condition. ‘Revolution (1750-1805) while the American colonies challenge Britain for independence, American slavery is challenged form within as men and women fight to define what American will be. When the War of Independence is
won, Black people, both enslaved and free, seize on the language of freedom even while the new nation’s Constitution codifies slavery and oppression as a national way life. (African In America)
The majority of blacks living in the Chesapeake worked on tobacco plantations and large farms. With the success of tobacco planting, African slavery was legalized in Virginia and Maryland, becoming the foundation of the Southern agrarian economy. Since the cultivation of tobacco was extremely labor-intensive, African slave labor was used, despite questions of whether slavery was morally right. ‘tobacco, petroleum, food, soft drinks and beer, and liquors and wines.’ (James Avery) For those slaves working on farms the work was a little less tedious than tobacco cultivation, but no less demanding. The variety of food crops and livestock usually kept slaves busy throughout the year. Generally, ’slaves on plantations lived in complete family units, their work dictated by the rising and setting of the sun, and they generally had Sundays off.’ (early history) The disadvantages, however, were stark. Plantation slaves were more likely to be sold or transferred than those in a domestic setting. They were also subject to brutal and severe punishments because they were regarded as less valuable than household or urban slaves. ‘Urban and household slaves generally did not live in complete family units. Most domestic environments used female labor; therefore there were few men, if any, on domestic sites. Most male slaves in an urban setting were coachmen, waiting men, or gardeners. Others were tradesmen who worked in shops or were hired out.’ (urban slavery ) In general, urban slaves did not have the amount of privacy that field slaves had. They lived in loft areas over the kitchens, laundries, and stables. They often
worked seven days a week, even though Sunday’s chores were lessened. Their work days were set by tasks.There were advantages, however. ‘Urban and domestic slaves usually dressed better, were fed better rations, and had greater opportunity to move about in relative freedom. They also were go-betweens for field slaves and the owners. They were privy to a great deal of information discussed in the “big house.” ‘ (unban slavery) They knew everything from the master’s mood to the latest political events. The marketplace became the communal center, the place for “networking.” At the marketplace slaves would exchange news and discuss the well-being of friends and loved ones. They often aided runaways, and they kept a keen ear to those political events that might have had an impact on their lives. Regardless of a slave’s occupation, there was considerable fear and angst caused by an environment of constant uncertainty and threats of violence and abuse.
Slavery was a defining characteristic of 18th-century Virginia society. This institution, along with the racial attitudes and class structure that developed alongside and served to legitimate a slave system based on color of skin, tinctured all aspects of life in18th-century Virginia. Starting with the arrival of the first Africans in Jamestown in 1619, an initially unplanned system of hereditary bondage for blacks gradually developed. Over the course of 150 years, slavery became an entrenched institution in Virginia, increasingly supported by a series of restrictive laws and reinforced by the teachings of the community and family.
Slavery was the foundation of Virginia’s agricultural system and essential to its economic viability. Initially, planters bought slaves primarily to raise tobacco for export.
By the last quarter of the 18th-century, wealthy Virginia farmers were using slave labor in a diversified agricultural regime. Enslaved African-Americans also worked as skilled tradesmen in the countryside and in the capital city of Williamsburg. Many also served as domestics in the households of wealthier white Virginians.
The constant interaction between black slaves and white masters created an interdependence that led to the development of a distinctive Virginia culture. That interdependence was as destructive as it was unequal. The horrors endured by enslaved African-Americans, whether physical or mental, were numerous. White Virginians were caught up in a system that gave social distinction based on whether or not they were slaveholders. Economic reliance on slavery, fears about the consequences of emancipation, and unyielding racial prejudice and cultural bias all contributed to the continuation of slavery in an era of independence.
Although the number of African American slaves grew slowly at first, by the 1680s they had become essential to the economy of Virginia. ‘During the 17th and 18th centuries, African American slaves lived in all of England’s North American colonies. Before Great Britain prohibited its subjects from participating in the slave trade, between 600,000 and 650,000 Africans had been forcibly transported to North America.’ (early history)
Following the arrival of twenty Africans aboard a Dutch man-of-war in Virginia in 1619, the face of American slavery began to change from the “tawny” Indian to the “blackamoor” African in the years between 1650 and 1750. Though the issue is complex, the unsuitability of Native Americans for the labor intensive agricultural practices, their susceptibility to European diseases, the proximity of avenues of escape
for Native Americans, and the lucrative nature of the African slave trade led to a transition to an African based institution of slavery.
During this period of transition, however, ‘the colonial “wars” against the Pequots, the Tuscaroras, the Yamasees, and numerous other Indian nations led to the enslavement and relocation of tens of thousands of Native Americans.’ (early history) In the early years of the eighteenth century, the number of Native American slaves in areas such as the Carolinas may have been as much as half of the African slave population. During this transitional period, Africans and Native Americans shared the common experience of enslavement. In addition to working together in the fields, they lived together in communal living quarters, produced collective recipes for food and herbal remedies, shared myths and legends, and ultimately became lovers.
The intermarriage of Africans and Native Americans was facilitated by the disproportionality of African male slaves to females and the decimation of Native American males by disease, enslavement, and prolonged wars with the colonists. As
Native American societies in the Southeast were primarily matrilineal, African males who married Native American women often became members of the wife’s clan and citizens of the respective nation. ‘As relationships grew, the lines of distinction began to blur. The evolution of red-black people began to pursue its own course; many of the people who came to be known as slaves, free people of color, Africans, or Indians were most often the product of integrating cultures.’ (found) In areas such as Southeastern Virginia, The Low Country of the Carolinas, and Silver Bluff, S.C., communities of Afro-Indians began to spring up. ‘The depth and complexity of this intermixture is revealed in
a 1740 slave code in South Carolina: all Negroes and Indians, ‘free Indians in amity with this government, and Negroes, mulattos, and mustezoes, who are now free, excepted) mulattos or mustezoes who are now, or shall hereafter be in this province, and all their issue and offspring…shall be and they are hereby declared to be, and remain hereafter absolute slaves.’ (Patrick Minges)
Millions of Native Americans were also enslaved, particularly in South America. In the American colonies in 1730, nearly 25 percent of the slaves in the Carolinas were Cherokee, Creek, or other Native Americans. From the 1500s through the early 1700s, small numbers of white people were also enslaved by kidnapping, or for crimes or debts.