How Slavery was entrenched in the Colonies of British North America.
In the 18th century, Slavery was a cornerstone of the British Empire. Indirectly or directly, all the 13 British colonies relied on Slavery, from the southern rice plantations located in South Caroline, Charles Town, to the wharves in Boston. Slavery had become more of a labor system that affected all aspects of colonial culture and thought. The unequal relationship it engendered gave colonialists an exaggerated sense of status. Slavery gave English liberty greater coherence and meaning for white people after comparing themselves to the unfree enslaved Black people held captive in British America. More particularly, African Slavery gave white people a shared racial identity and bond. This essay explains how Slavery became entrenched in colonies of British North America.
How African Slavery in British Northern America All Began
In the 1620s, white indentured servants carried out the majority of the heavy labor. At the time, labor-intensive tobacco cultivation was introduced in Virginia for European markets. Indentured servant refers to a European immigrant, mostly British who worked for another person for a specified time without payment in exchange for free entry into a new country. The first case of African Slavery to be documented in British North America was approximately 20 women and men that arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 (Horne, 34). The group were likely captives from the Ndongo kingdom in present-day Angola. Privateers seized them from a slave ship headed for Mexico before trading them in Virginia. Along with indentured servants, African slaves worked on tobacco fields, although it remains unclear if the former were treated and considered slaves. By 1675, African Slavery had become a well-established practice. By 1700, slaves had completely replaced indentured servants. With lots of lands and available slave trade, southern planters started to prosper and family-owned tobacco plantations became an economic and social norm.
Rising Demand for Slave Trade
In theory, Slavery was already a widely accepted practice before the discovery and exploration of the New World. So, when Portuguese slave traders began exploring the African coast, the practice of indigenous tribes enslaving each other was already being practiced. They started buying slaves and exporting them for sale to the colonies of the New World. Proponents of Slavery argued that the Portuguese had a mission to convert as many heathens (African non-Christians) to Christianity. African Slavery gave them an opportunity to do that more effectively. Although the practice of indentured servitude was rife, British colonies favored enslaved Africans. In addition to their husbandry knowledge and special skills, Africans were appropriate for British use. Slavery quickly became a significant part of the colonial economy. It was integral in the development of the expansion of the British commercial empire across the Atlantic world.
Golden Triangle Trade
The triangle trade is a system of exchange of cash crops, slaves, and manufactured goods between the Caribbean, West Africa, and Europe between the late 16rh and early 19th centuries. The trading system specialized in three main commodity types, including crops, manufactured goods, and labor that were traded across three key Atlantic geographic regions. Ships left Europe with manufactured goods that were exchanged for kidnapped or purchased African slaves (Gordon-Reed, 2). The Africans were carried across the Atlantic Ocean before being traded or sold in America for raw materials. Subsequently, raw materials were carried back to Europe to complete the voyage. A classic example of the triangle trade is the sugar trade. Sugar was often in liquid form, molasses. It used to be carried across the Caribbean to Europe, where it would be distilled into rum. The profits made from selling sugar were used to buy manufactured goods that were supplied to West Africa where they were exchanged for slaves. The slaves would then be taken to the Caribbean and sold to sugar farmers. The profits from selling African slaves were used to purchase more sugar across Europe and other continents. This specific triangular trip lasted anywhere from 5-12 weeks and ended in numerous fatalities for African slaves while the voyage was midway. An estimated 2 million enslaved passengers died from abuse, violence, disease, suicide, or even lack of food and water.
It reached a point where slaves everywhere resisted exploitation and tried taking their freedom back using rebellions and uprisings. Some examples are the New York Slave Rebellion of 1741 and the Stono Rebellion. They also employed other less violent resistance means such as running away, slow labor in the plantations, sabotage. Unlike their Caribbean counterparts, American slaves did not successfully overthrow the practice in their colonies. As such, they did not get freedom until a legislative decree was effected after the end of the civil war.
In closing, Slavery was a common practice in the 13 colonies in British North America. African Slavery became widespread after the decline of the indentured servitude labor system, where people exchanged labor for free passage into America. The rising demand for African slaves led the first group of African slaves in British North America to work alongside indentured servants in tobacco farms in Virginia. The British people preferred African slaves to indentured servants because of their skills and husbandry knowledge.
Gordon-Reed, Annette. “America’s original sin: Slavery and the legacy of white supremacy.” Foreign Aff. 97 (2018): 2.
Horne, Gerald. The apocalypse of settler colonialism: The roots of Slavery, white supremacy, and capitalism in 17th century North America and the Caribbean. NYU Press, 2018.