Friday, February 21, 2020

The Real Story of Slavery - Part 1

Many  Americans believe slavery only involved white people owning black people.  They believe the master race was white and the slave race was black.  North American slavery actually involved relatively rich people,[e.g. land owners]  owning poor people who might or might not be of the same color.  

There were two types of forced laborers brought to North America:  indentured  servants and permanent slaves.   Most of the primarily Irish indentured servants were forced to travel to North America, but some were volunteers.  The first Africans were treated as indentured servants but were eventually treated as permanent slaves.  Members of the two groups worked together and the historical account indicates there was sufficient sexual contact between the two to produce a hybrid group of permanent slaves whose members could be  called "black Irish".

Unfortunately,the fact that most  slaves were black and most owners were white led to a belief among some whites that this situation meant blacks are inferior to whites.   This belief began during the slave era in part as a way to justify treating some people as slaves in an otherwise free country.

The first  Africans arrived in Jamestown in 1619 only 14 years after the founding of the settlement.  During the two centuries of the Atlantic slave trade only about 500,000 additional Africans were imported into North America.   Britain led the way to ending the Atlantic slave trade in 1807 and the United States quickly followed to outlaw the importation of slaves without prohibiting the internal slave trade
Initially North American forced laborers were white temporary slaves called "indentured servants" who served for a specified term such as 5-10 years.   The first Africans who arrived at Jamestown were treated as indentured servants   . Anthony Johnson arrived in 1620 and received some land from the Virginia colony  after he was freed.   In 1651 he  owned five indentured servants (four white and one black.  man named John Casor, who was  considered a permanent slave).

The term "indentured servant" is deceptive because during their period of indenture "servants"  could be brutally mistreated like regular slaves.  Some owners treated much cheaper Irish indentured servants  worse than ;lifetime slaves.  Africans cost from 20-50 pounds Sterling compared to about 5 pounds Sterling for an Irishman. 

Owners could even choose who  servants would mate with like  they were breeding  horses. Owners might use whites to breed lighter colored  slaves to be  sold.  Raising slaves for sale would become a signaficant part of the plantation economy. Light colored females would eventually be sold as "fancy slaves" to be prostitutes or concubines who might command a higher price than a prime field hand.

Many servants were children  picked up from London   streets.  The exploitation of children in the North American workplace would continue into the 20th Century.

Europe didn't have a large enough population to support large scale agriculture in the Western Hemisphere when colonization began.  The British used the colonies to relocate the Irish, but Ireland only had a population of 1.5 million.  The Spanish use of African slaves had begun before the discovery of land available for settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

Africans had been capturing, enslaving and selling each other for thousands of years  before Christopher Columbus discovered a huge new market for African slave traders.   Africans continued to enslave each other after the end of North American slavery.  There are reports that Africans still practice slavery.

The career of  Englishman John Newton demonstrates not only that whites could be slaves, but that those who engaged in the slave trade could also be slaves.   Newton was a sailor on a slave ship whose shipmates sold him to a West African slave trader because  they didn't get along with him.   A friend of Newton's retired ship captain father arranged to free Newton. Newton evenstually got a position as the captain of a slave ship.  A religious experience convinced Newton to become a Christian minister and become active in the movement to abolish slavery.  He wrote the popular hymn "Amazing Grace" which according to gospel singer Larnelle Harris uses a west African sorrow chant for the melody.

1 comment:

moderationist said...

You're ignoring the fact that 80% of southern landowners were British nobility Monarchies ruled the world and still do