Chapter Four. African Slaves Build their Own Community in Coastal Georgia Slavery was originally prohibited in the original 1732 Georgia charter; the ban was lifted two decades later when Georgia became a Royal colony. By 1770, 15,000 slaves made up 80% of the population. Rice was one of the most valuable commodities of mainland North America, surpassed only by tobacco and wheat. The Atlantic slave trade grew to match rice production. Saltwater” slaves (slaves taken from Africa, rather than “country born”) were inspected and branded on coastal forts in Africa, shipped overseas (where many died), then sold and marched to plantations Mortality rates were high for slaves, especially infants. Overseers could legally punish slaves and even murder them. Many slaves run and some rebel. Most slaves remained enslaved, but built up families and communities, mixing African traditions with their new homeland. The Beginnings of African Slavery
Slavery has long been a part of Mediterranean Europe; Venetian and Genoese traders sold captured Slavics (the word slave derives from them), Muslims, and Africans. Enslaving Christians, but not Africans or Muslims, disturbed many Europeans. Portuguese expansion in West Africa was motivated by access to gold, wrought iron, ivory, tortoiseshells, textiles, and slaves (previously dominated by the Moors, or Spanish Muslims). European slaves left the slave hunting to the African traders. Sugar and Slavery Slaves were imported to work sugar plantations in Hispaniola and Brazil, among other islands.
The Dutch expanded the European sugar market, leading France and England to start island sugar colonies as well. West Africans Marriage kinship ties, practicing polygamy, characterized societies on the West African coast. Women enjoyed social and economic independence. Shifting cultivation, cultivating land for several years then moving on while the cleared land lay fallow, helped build up African communities and commerce, creating states and kingdoms. Kingdoms on the coast were the ones who first traded with the Portuguese.
Slavery in African society was much freer; slaves were treated as family members rather than possessions, were allowed to marry, and had freeborn children. The African Slave Trade The Demography of the Slave Trade 10-12 million slaves were transported to the Americas during the slave trade. 76% of slaves arrived from 1701-1810, the peak years of the slave trade. Half went to Dutch, French, or British plantations in the Caribbean, a third to Portuguese Brazil, and a tenth to Spanish America. About 5% went to the North American British colonies.
With the exception of the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763, a world war between the French and their allies versus the British and their allies), the slave trade continued to become more important to the colonies up to the Revolution. There were twice as many male African slaves as female; most slaves were young, between 15 and 30, and represented nearly every West African ethnic group. Slavers of All Nations All western European nations participated in the slave trade, shipping slaves from coastal outposts and, later, through independent American and European traders.
The Shock of Enslavement Many slave traders lived permanently in coastal outposts and married local women, reinforcing commercial ties through family relations. Many slaves resented African involvement in the slave trade. Most Africans were enslaved through warfare. As the demand for slaves increased, slave raids pressed deeper into the continent. Captives would wait in dungeons or pens called “barracoons”, separated from family and people of the same ethnic group to discourage rebellion, before being branded with the mark of their buyer.
The Middle Passage The “Middle Passage” referred to the middle part of the trade triangle from England to Africa to America back to England. Historians estimate that 1 in 6 slaves died from the unsanitary conditions, extreme crowding, and diseases. Many committed suicide as an act of rebellion on the slave ships. Captains resorted to putting netting over the side of their ships. Arrival in the New World When the slaves arrived, their captors would parade them around to impress buyers.
Slaves would be sold at auctions or during a “scramble”, where prices were pre-set and the buyers would rush the slaves in a corral and take their pick. Political and Economic Effects on Africa The African slave trade eventually weakened Africa as a whole. The slave raiding was depopulating Africa as many died during the raids and the rest were sent off to be sold. The arrival of European goods stifled local manufacturing while agriculture lost labor. The slave trade allowed for the political, economic, and military conquest of Africa. The Development of North American Slave Societies
Slavery comes to North America The first slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619. Slaves cost twice as much as indentured servants, but had about the same life span in the disease-ridden Chesapeake. Consequently, most planters employed more indentured servants than slaves. This was termed society with slaves, where slavery was just one form of labor. In this type of society, the status of black Virginians was ambiguous; many owned slaves and land themselves, even with the lack of religious distinction among them. In slave society, slavery is the dominant form of labor.
As indentured servants became scarce as less English immigrated, their labor was replaced with slavery. Slavery was strengthened by making slave-status inheritable through their mother’s status (letting white male owners take slave mistresses), ending Christian baptism from changing conditions of servitude, and by making the killing of a slave a non-felony. The Tobacco Colonies The growth of tobacco required the growth of the slave trade. The natural growth of the slaver population served to increase the profits of their owners, and so was encouraged.
The Lower South Settlement in the south was a slave society from the outset, using native slaves. However, this soon shifted to African slaves as the South began producing more rice. Slavery in the Spanish Colonies Spanish settlements employed slaves, the most benign form being the kind in Florida, which resembled the system in use in Mediterranean and African society. Spain declared Florida a haven for fugitives to weaken southern English colonies. In New Mexico, however, Spain used native slaves, though in a more restrained way to prevent another Pueblo Uprising.
Spain captured “infidel Indians” such as the Apaches or nomads from the Great Plains and enslaved them, using them as house servants or fieldworkers. French Louisiana Slaves were heavily used in Louisiana agriculture until the Natchez Rebellion, with slaves making up no more than a third of the population. Only when the 18th century ended did slavery make a return, in force. Slavery in the North Slavery was universally accepted in the colonies. Among the rich, ownership of slaves was almost universal as well. The Quakers were the first to oppose slavery, but they would not gain traction until the Revolution.
African to African American The Daily Life of Slaves Slaves were provided with scant clothing. In the South, where large numbers of slaves were needed, the concentration of slaves allowed for the emergence of communities, despite the harsh working conditions imposed on them on the large plantations. Families and Communities Families were the most important unit in African American culture, but the slave codes did not allow for legal slave marriage. Families were often broken up by sale. Naming practices reinforced family ties to overcome forced separations.
Emotional, and especially kinship ties, formed the basis of African American society. African American Culture Most slaves were not Christian until the Great Awakening, due to the reluctance of their masters. One significant practice occurred in their burial rituals. African Americans created dialects by mixing English with native African languases. The Africanization of the South Southerners were influenced by African American culture, changing their diet, their art, language, music, and dance. Violence and Resistance
Slavery rested on the threat of violence, even among “humane” slave owners like George Washington. Many slaves resisted through refusing to cooperate, destroying property, and by running away. Runaways would create communities called “maroons”, from the Spanish “cimmaron” (wild, untamed). They would intermingle with the Florida Creeks, creating the Seminole tribe, derived from the corruption of cimmaron. Revolts occurred in the colonies, but not on the scale of Jamaica, Guiana, or Brazil; the family and community ties slaves established made them less likely to revolt.
Slavery and Empire Slavery the Mainspring The slave colonies accounted for 95% of all American exports to Great Britain from 1714-1773. Slavery helped the British economy in three ways. Slavery created capital, which funded economic expansion. Second, it created the raw materials necessary for the Industrial Revolution. Third, it created large colonial markets for British-made goods. The Politics of Mainspring Mercantilism, an economic system where the government intervenes to increase the national wealth, was the dominant economic theory in Europe.
Mercantilists viewed commerce as a zero-sum game with clear winners and losers vying for a fixed amount of trade and wealth. Wars for Empire European wars spilled over into conflicts for colonial supremacy. In Queen Anne’s War, Great Britain won the war against France and Spain, gaining exclusive rights to supply slaves to its American colonies. British Colonial Regulation Mercantilists used state-run monopolies to manage commerce. The British used colonial regulations to make their American colonies markets for British manufacturing goods and exporters of commodities that the British would resell at profit.
Most did not complain about the British economic policies until the 1760s. The Colonial Economy Mercantilism served to enrich the white colonists by giving them a protected market to sell and market their goods (sometimes by violating their own regulations). Slavery provided the capital to expand Northern port cities. Slavery and Freedom The Social Structure of the Slave Colonies Slavery provided the conditions necessary t o improve the life of the white settlers. Colonies were ruled by the self-perpetuating planter elite, which owned 60% of the wealth and half the land.
The Southern landowners supported them. Under them were the landless colonists. White Skin Privilege White colonists gained a special status through the exploitation of race. Blacks were subject to a number of harsh penalties that did not apply to whites, including a ban on interracial marriage and sexual relations (refer to Thomas Jefferson). Even freedmen did not share equal rights. This set up barriers among the working class, including slaves and the landless colonists, who otherwise may have united against the moneyed classes if not for racial prejudice.