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American Slavery text image

Breaking the chain of Slavery
Breaking The Chain
Of Slavery

References:

Trans-Atlantic Slaves Exports, 1650-1900
view Table

IMAGES:

Revolt Aboard Slave Ship, 1787
Revolt Aboard Slave Ship, 1787
Source:
William Fox

Shackles, Manacles, and Padlocks Used in the Slave Trade, early 19th cent.
Shackles, Manacles, and Padlocks Used in the Slave Trade, early 19th cent.
Source:
Societe de la morale Chretienne

Iron Collar and Chains Used by Slave Traders, early 19th cent.
Iron Collar and Chains Used by Slave Traders, early 19th cent.
Source:
Societe de la morale Chretienne

Whipping a Slave, Surinam, 1770s
Whipping a Slave, Surinam, 1770s
Source:
John Gabriel Stedman

Hanging by the Ribs Punishment, Surinam, 1770s
Hanging by the Ribs Punishment, Surinam, 1770s
Source:
John Gabriel Stedman

Holding Pen or Cells for Slaves Awaiting Sale, Alexandria, Virginia, 1863
Holding Pen or Cells for Slaves Awaiting Sale, Alexandria, Virginia, 1863
Source:
Published in E.D.C. Campbell, Jr. and K.S. Rice,eds.





American Slavery Exhibit Part 2 text image

Slavery Bondage Slave Auction

Slave
Pronunciation:slav
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English sclave, from Anglo-French or Medieval Latin; Anglo-French esclave, from Medieval Latin sclavus, from Sclavus Slavic; from the frequent enslavement of Slavs in central Europe during the early Middle Ages Date: 14th century 1 : a person held in servitude as the chattel of another 2 : one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence

THE BEGINNING OF SLAVERY
The first Africans in America arrived as Indentured Servants via Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. From 1619 to about 1640, Africans could earn their freedom working as laborers and artisans for the European settlers. Africans could become free people and enjoy some of the liberties like other new settlers. By 1640, Maryland became the first colony to institutionalize slavery. In 1641, Massachusetts, in its written legislative Body of Liberties, stated that "bondage was legal" servitude, at that moment changing the conditions of the African workers - they became chattel slaves who could be bought and solely owned by
their masters.

SLAVE TRADE
The Portuguese were the first to embark upon the slave trade starting around 1562. The practice of slavery grew to exponential proportions from 1646 up until 1790. A prime area for slaves was on the west coast of Africa called the Sudan. This area was ruled by three major Moorish empires Ghana (790-1240), Mali (1240-1600), and Songhai (670-1591). Other smaller nations were also canvassed by slavers along the west coast; they included among them: Benin, Dahomey, and Ashanti. The peoples inhabiting those African nations were known for their skills in agriculture, farming, and mining. The Africans of Ghana were well known for smelting iron ore, and the Benins were famous for their cast bronze art works. African tribal wars produced captives which became a bartering resource in the European slave market. Other slaves were kidnapped by white and black hunters. The main sources of barter used by the Europeans to secure African slaves were glass beads, whiskey, ivory, and guns.

The rising demand for sugar, coffee, cotton, and tobacco created a greater demand for slaves by other slave trading countries. Spain, France, the Dutch, and English were in competition for the cheap labor needed to work their colonial plantation system producing those lucrative goods. The slave trade was so profitable that, by 1672, the Royal African Company chartered by Charles II of England superseded the other traders and became the richest shipper of human slaves to the mainland of the Americas. The slaves were so valuable to the open market - they were eventually called "Black Gold."

THE MIDDLE PASSAGE
The Middle Passage has been defined in several ways. Some authors refer to these routes as the "triangle trade" or "circuit trade," "three cornered," "round about," and "transatlantic trade" routes. The typical voyage for slaves taken by the British went south down the coast of Africa into the area adjacent to the Gulf of Guinea. These English slavers brought cargoes of rum, brandy, glass, cloths, beads, guns, and other appealing goods from Europe. They bargained with African traders for their tribal captives. Some slavers entered the shores and kidnapped the unsuspecting natives and took them aboard their slave ships or kept them in waiting areas near the shore called "barracoons" or slave barracks.

When the desired number of African slaves was met for shipping, the voyage of middle passage continued from Africa on the slave ships going across the Atlantic Ocean with a destination in one of several ports in the West Indies and Caribbean (including: Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Santo Domingo, and the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, and Barbados). In the West Indies and Caribbean, some slaves were off-loaded and sold to work at the sugar plantations, also called the "Sugar Islands." The raw molasses was taken aboard the ships; then they sailed up the coast northbound for Newport or Bristol, Rhode Island's distilleries, to make rum from the molasses. Other stops along the Atlantic coast where slaves were exchanged for goods or cash were Charleston, South Carolina and Boston, Massachusetts. The goods produced by cheap slave labor were loaded aboard the now empty slave ships along with sugar, tobacco, or cotton for the trip back to England. The rum from the rum distillers went directly back to Africa for more slaves, bartering on this, the Triangular Trade Routes.

By 1768, the English slave trade had a figure of 53,000 slaves a year being shipped to the North American continent. Other slave traders included the French at 23,000, the Dutch at 11,000, and the Portuguese at 8,700 slaves being transported yearly from Africa. Estimates of up to 10 million slaves took the Middle Passage Voyage to reach the Americas.

Map: Middle Passage
Map: Middle Passage
Slaves on deck
Slaves on deck during the Middle Passage

 

 

 

 

 

 




SLAVERY AND RACE

Many Europeans came to America to exercise their God fearing beliefs and to practice religious freedom. Slavery, on the other hand, was a form of persecution which, in the eyes of colonial America, had to be justified. Therefore, the black slave became an easily identifiable group targeted as being inferior, subhuman, and destined for servitude. The early Christian churches did not take up the cause of eliminating slavery until much later in the century. The famous Boston theologian, Cotton Mather, in 1693 included in his Rules for the Society of the Negroes the explanation that "Negroes were enslaved because they had sinned against God." He later included a heavenly plan that "God would prepare a mansion in Heaven," but little or no way for the end of forced slavery on earth was undertaken by most religious groups.

SLAVE CODES AND RESISTANCE
The slave codes robbed the Africans of their freedom and will power. Slaves did resist this treatment, therefore strict and cruel punishment was on hand for disobeying their masters. Slaves were forbidden from carrying guns, taking food, striking their masters, and running away. All slaves could be flogged or killed for resisting or breaking the slave codes. Some slave states required both slaves and free blacks to wear metal badges. Those badges were embossed with an ID number and occupation.

Freedom was always on the minds of the enslaved Africans. How to gain that freedom was the big question. American historical records have identified some of those attempts and some of the people involved in the African's quest for freedom on American soil.

Refusing to obey their masters' demands created a duel crisis on the part of the resisting slaves and their demanding owners. The most common form of resistance used by the slaves was to run away. To live as a runaway required perfect escape routes and exact timing. Where to hide, finding food, leaving the family and children behind became primary issues for the escaping slaves. Later, the severe punishment had to be faced whenever a hunted slave was caught and returned to bondage.

Many slaves ran off and lived in the woods or vast wilderness in the undeveloped American countryside. This group of slaves were called "maroons," for they found remote areas in the thick forest and mainly lived off wild fruits and animals as food. Some of these maroons ran off, lived, and even married into segments of the Native American populations. They were later called Black Indians.


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Runaways
 
Cotton Plantation
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Slave Music
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Whipping
 
Slave Family Life
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Education of Slaves
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