Slavery essay

Slavery was the most shameful political and social phenomenon for the whole history of the United States. African slaves were the major working force in the fields and plantations of the British colonies in the Western Hemisphere, and so were they in the United States. Many scholars recognized that the United States turned into one of the most economically developed countries in the world because of slavery. The institution of slavery emerged in the United States from the very beginning of European colonization of new British territories. Firstly, European colonists were the first people who had to become so-called indentured servants to pay for their tickets to America. Thus, they had to work for nearly nine months for masters, who gave them an opportunity to trade there. Masters often sold their indentured servants, but they did not distinguish them by skin color or any other features. As for African slaves, they emerged in Latin America from Portuguese merchants because slavery and slave trades existed in Africa even before the European colonization. As a rule, Africans sold slaves to Europeans, who delivered them to America. At the same time, racism emerged in the United States only in the eighteenth century, when African slaves replaced white indentured servants. With the development of the American society, slavery disappeared in the United States, but racial segregation existed till the twentieth century. By contrast, in Latin America racism and racial discrimination did not develop. It was connected with religion as the major institution of morality in the society. Thus, the Catholic Church protected Christians and accused their enslavement while the Protestant Church allowed whites to enslave Africans.

The first European colonists were unable to survive while cultivating vast virgin soils in America because they did not have any immunity against such dangerous diseases as malaria, yellow fever, and Dengue disease. At that time, they had to water and deforested hundreds of thousands of acres of land for plantations and fields. Damp and hot tropical climate created favorable opportunities for mosquitoes and other insects that transmitted various dangerous diseases. Native Americans proved to be unfitted for working in the fields, and white indentured servants were unable to survive under such severe conditions and perished by thousands. Therefore, as Brown (n.d.) states, African slaves became the major working force in both Americas. They had immunity against the abovementioned diseases and were strong to work in the fields and plantations. As Foner states, Englishmen considered all foreigners, including the Irish, as savages and pagans, and the “main lines of division within humanity were thought to be civilization versus barbarism or Christianity versus heathenism, not color or race”. At the same time, Hillyer states that the English society was divided into superior and inferior social classes because a hierarchical system existed there. According to it, the British government considered colonists from the United Kingdom as inferior individuals, who had to leave for America because they were criminals and other scum of the society without any future in the motherland.

 

As Becker states, the first slaves from Africa came to Virginia in 1619. A Dutch slave trader was forced to give 20 Africans in exchange for provision. At that time, those Africans were considered as indentured servants because of a small number of tobacco plantations. At that time, whites did not use slaves there. As tobacco planting was increasing, white land-lords needed more and more African slaves because the British government legalized slavery in Virginia and other English colonies. Therefore, by the 1680s, African slaves became the major working force there. At the same time, Foner emphasizes that the notion of races appeared in the United States when the Revolution ended. It was necessary to explain the emergence of slavery in the first republic with equal opportunities for each citizen. On the contrary, Zinn argues that racism in the United States appeared with the first slaves from Africa, who were induced by certain attitudes and feelings from European colonists, and that “accompanied the inferior status and derogatory thought we call racism”. Handlin states that the British government created all opportunities to attract more Englishmen in America, and colonies depended on the African labor force, which were enslaved for life. Thus, whites turned Africans into degraded people, fixing their inferiority as slaves. As Jordan states, even in the sixteenth century, the English society lived in a very deep prejudice towards Africans. Thus, he mentions that skin color, religion and behavior of Africans irritated the British. At the same time, Jordan states that Englishmen could not realize that Africans possessed a special kind of “obedience and subordination, which was to arise as adventurous Englishmen sought to possess for themselves and their children one of the most bountiful dominions of the earth”.

According to Mellafe, slavery in Latin America was quite different from slavery in the United States. African slaves emerged there from the first expeditions of Columbus, but if they supported Spaniards in fights with Indians, then whites freed them and even gave them slaves. Spaniards considered Africans as their allies in this case. Moreover, the Catholic Church protected Christians and condemned the enslavement of the Catholics. Therefore, freed Africans could even marry whites because they were considered as whites. Each African slave could gain freedom because whites paid them wages. Therefore, enslavement in Latin America was not for life, and Africans did not live in separate communities there. They did not establish separate churches either. Moreover, whites in Latin America were teaching African slaves to read and write. At the same time, Jordan states that even though Africans were Christians the Protestant Church considered them as aliens. The reason for it lies in the fact that racial prejudice was very strong in the United States, and the Protestant Church compared Africans to devils. Of course, had the American Protestant Church accused the enslavement of Christians from Africa and encouraged marriages to them, racism in America would have never emerged. In addition, white Americans did not want African slaves to participate in wars because they considered them as aliens and people hostile to them. Moreover, whites were afraid of African slaves with weapons because they could kill them. Therefore, Latin American countries were more democratic than the United States.

As Foner states, African Americans could gain freedom in the first half of the seventeenth century. Thus, they could purchase land, white servants, and even African slaves. Modern scholars consider Anthony Johnson as the first slave who gained freedom. He came to Virginia as a slave in the 1620s, but by the 1640s, Anthony possessed a surname of Johnson and managed to become an owner of “slaves and several hundred acres of land on Virginia’s eastern shore”. Breen and Innes, who considered the life and business activity of the former African slave Anthony Jonson, concluded that he arrived on board of James as a slave to work on a Virginian tobacco plantation. At that time, the colony developed a tobacco market and needed many African slaves. His master, Edward Bennett, gave work to sixty people on his plantations, but on March 22, 1622, Native Americans attacked the plantations, and only twelve servants including Johnson survived. Later, he got married and became free, having a plot of land. Because of their hard work, Johnson and his wife Mary gained recognition, and in 1653, he got tax relief for thirty-year labor on his plantation. At the same time, there was no document concerning the fact how Anthony received his surname Johnson. Nevertheless, the Johnsons moved to the eastern shore when Bennett became one of the most influenced people there. In the 1640s, Anthony Johnson bred cattle and hogs because it was more profitable business at that time. By 1651, Johnson had 250 acres of land in Pungoteague Creek, but a huge fire destroyed his business in 1653. Nevertheless, Johnson obtained a reduction of taxes, and it gave him an opportunity to rebuild his business. Moreover, his wife and daughters obtained equal rights with other whites.

After adopting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, a new nation, the Americans, emerged in the world. The Declaration was a very important document, which proclaimed the birth of a new republic in which every citizen would have equal rights before the law and God. Of course, it concerned only white free men, who had a right to citizenship. African Americans were considered as an inferior race. As Foner  states, “Individual self-fulfillment, unimpeded by government, would become a central element of American freedom”. Therefore, American exceptionalism was the major idea around which a new nation began its formation. Again, it did not concern African Americans, and when the American Revolution broke out, George Washington did not want to have slaves in his army, but Lord Dunmore accepted African recruits. Therefore, Washington had to use African slaves as soldiers and promised them freedom if they did not join the Royal Army. According to McCann Fenton, slavery existed legally in America from the eighteenth century to the end of the Civil War. At the same time, McCann Fenton recognizes that the Northern states abolished this shameful phenomenon till the end of the eighteenth century because new economic relations were establishing in these industrial states. The Southern states could not refuse from slaves because they remained the major working force there, and from 1800, the South began to grow cotton as the major raw material for international trade.

In 1808, all countries of the world banned slave trade, but America continued it. As Tushnet states, only the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln put an end to slavery. It gave opportunities to adopt the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to emancipate Africans in America and give them citizenship. Lincoln composed the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War. He hated slavery and wanted to emancipate African Americans. He wanted them to vote for his party and become his allies in the struggle against the Confederation. As a matter of fact, racial prejudice remained, and former slaves could not enjoy the same rights as whites did. Therefore, slave trade became illegal in 1808, and the Constitution banned it in 1865, but racial discrimination existed in the United States till 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King with other political leaders of African Americans in the Civil Rights Movement gained victory over American racism. Racism existed in America because American churches did not condemn it in the eighteenth century.

The United States became the first successful republic in the world, and as it developed, new economic relations emerged there. Therefore, slavery began to retard the economic development of the United States. The capitalist system demanded free workers learn to run machines and mechanical tools. They earned wages for their labor and were interested in better quality of their work. At that time, the Industrial Revolution was changing the world. Steam engines and various mechanisms replaced hard manual labor. In the nineteenth century, the first power station was built in America. Of course, had slavery remained in all states as it was in the eighteenth century, the United States would have become the most backward country in the world, like the Russian Empire. The capitalist political and economic system eliminated slavery, but racism remained till the middle of the twentieth century because the American society could not overcome this phenomenon without democratic morality.

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Slavery essay

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