SLAVERY IN THE AMERICAS 1
TOPIC: Origins of Slavery/Treatment of Indigenous peoples
note: this actually falls under the colonial period, but I thought it would be acceptable to
include it with the slavery stuff
European colonists eventually determined that slaves from Africa were the best
solution to their labor needs because of the problems associated with the previous
forms of labor they had tried: indentured servitude and exploitation of native
Why/reasons for slavery
Those who came to the Americas wanted quick access to minerals that would
make them wealthy (greed)
Labor intensive nature of early economic activities
Mining (especially silver)
Agricultural labor (sugar had to be grown in hot humid climates with lots of
mosquito borne illnesses; there were many injuries due to the machete, needed
labor to harvest sugar cane)
Religions – tried to convert the Native Americans and Africans to Christianity
Belief that other cultural groups were inferior and hence deserved to be under the
rule of the better culture
Colonies who wanted to gain wealth had to exploit others to sidestep the
mercantilistic policies set forth by the mother country
Exploitation of Native Americans (in Latin America, not used in US)
Encomienda system in Spanish America - Spanish government practice of
rewarding people that had provided valuable service to the crown by giving them
tracts of land and the right to utilize the labor of the Native Americans living on
Native Americans would move to avoid Europeans, made possible
because they knew how to live off the land
European diseases killed 50-90% if the Native Americans (smallpox,
chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, scarlet fever, STD’s ->
Abolished because the new landed aristocracy in the Americas undercut the
power of the monarchs, king wanted to get rid of the encomienda to undercut
the power of the new aristocracy; pressure from RCC and Bartalameo de las
Replaced by Repartamiento system (kinder, gentler form of exploitation)
System in which Spanish colonial judges had the authority to allocate Native
American Tribes for certain labor projects; judge negotiated term of service,
working conditions and wages; judges had final authority in all issues.
Encomeinderos left with vast lands and no one to do the work.
Became corrupt and bribed judges
One out of every 7 years of an adult’s life had to be spent mining for the
SLAVERY IN THE AMERICAS 2
Indentured Servitude (IS)
Labor system in which a would-be migrant from Europe to the Americas by a
landowners in the Americas in return for 5-7 years of labor.
Migrant/servant provides 5-7 years of labor
Land owner /sponsor provides: housing, food, clothing, transportation to the
Americas, freedom dues
Initially small plots of land (10-50 acres). As time progressed, became a lot
lkess likely. May have given land closer to the frontier because it was lass
fertile and the Indians were there. Also originally included tools (plows, hoe,
shovel, pitchfork, ax, saws, machetes, etc), small amounts of cash, seeds, food
(grain, molasses, coffee, fat pork, livestock)
Land pressures: as European population in colonies increase, increase the
value of property, decrease in number of IS gaining land upon their freedom.
This meant that former IS moved to the frontier land and often came into
conflict with Native Americans.
Example of problem with this: Bacon’s rebellion – former IS rebelled
against the Virginian colonial government (actually captured the colonial
governor and threatened to kill him) because they wouldn’t raise a militia
to help the former IS suppress the Native American threats. The
government did not wasn’t to expend the funds and blamed the situation
on the IS.
Inconsistent supply (lower when the economy in Europe is strong, low
unemployment rate, etc- could get, but would have to give up more, either
more freedom dues or lower the years of required servitude.)
Why Used African Slaves
Although they were more expensive to obtain, they ended up cheaper because
Labor is for life, not just for 5-7 years
Because slaves are your property, any children that your slaves have also
become your slaves (free slaves)
Don’t have to pay free laborers or freedom dues
Slaves aren’t given very many legal rights that slave owners must abide by.
Because slaves are of a different ethnicity, harsher treatment of the slave is
more easily justified then harsh treatment of an indentured servant who may
be from where you are originally from.
TOPIC: Conditions of enslavement: adaptation and resistance
Forms of Resistances
Conspiracies designed to spark widespread violent uprisings that would end
slavery/free slaves in a wide region
Often did not work because the slaves lacked advanced weaponry, often very
difficult to coordinate.
Kill/damage crops through slating, breaking the shoots, etc
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Damage/harm the livestock
Poison/adulterate food and beverages either of the master (if you were a house
slave) or of yourself (make yourself slightly sick so that you cannot work).
This was very dangerous, especially if you got caught
Break the tools and equipment (plow strap, ax handle). Likely the most
Refusal to work
Subtly slowing down the pace of work
Slave owners often saw how much the slaves could produce in a day, and then
held them to that standard. Hence, if the slaves slacked off (while looking like
they were working so as not to get in trouble), they lowered their workload
Doing a poor job, cutting corners on quality
Stealing (especially food)
Escape/run away (not that common)
Temporary flight (use absence as a bargaining chip to get better conditions)
Infanticide (killing of young children so that the master would have no more free
slaves, save the children from a life of servitude.
TOPIC: The pro-slavery arguments
Slavery as a benefit for blacks
Takes them away from barbaric Africa (where they run around nude, do human
sacrifices, cannibalism) an civilizes them in America (Christianizes them)
Blacks don’t have to compete with whites (blacks are incompetent and
competition would cause extinction of Africans)
Slaves treated better than paid laborers in North (get housing, food, clothing, etc)
Idea of paternalism: slaves are like children who need a father figure (master).
Unifies whites, makes them happier to be free.
Slavery makes slaves happy and encourages the exercise of virtues.
Problems that will result from emancipation
Will become extinct when in competition with whites
Become a burden to society as they cannot provide for their future needs
Emancipation -> race war…send either whites or blacks from the south north.
No more white unity/equality…more class divisions
Black men would rape white women
Cause collapse of southern economy -> economic ruin of north
Manufacturing in north based on raw materials in south
Increase in number of laborers -> decrease in wages for everyone
Ruin of south -> north to lose a market in the south
Increase of foreign workers coming to Americas (people in prison, etc)
Class struggle (slaves are uneducated, whites educated…educated and uneducated
don’t interact with each other.)
Arguments to refute Antislavery beliefs
Declaration of independence was written in heat of war; the founding fathers
didn’t really mean what they said.
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No where in old or new testament is slavery condemned
Other forms of slavery in society (wives, children, men slaves to work, etc)
More work on slave owners than slaves (have to take care of all the slaves, do
business side, make sure slaves are working, etc.)
TOPIC: Insurrections and reactions
Mexico-8 significant slave revolts in 150 years; brazil – 9 significant slave revolts
in 100 yrs; US – 1 significant slave revolt
Reasons for the insurrections
Disproportionate number of male slaves compared to female slaves
LA – 2 males : 1 female (closer to 3:1 in sugar growing parts of Brazil and
US – 1.2 males : 1 female
A lot of men didn’t have wives, kids, or family ties -> sense of hopelessness,
increased reckless behavior because they feel they have nothing to live for
Ratio of Slaves to nonslaves
West Indies (Jamaica, Haiti, etc) – slaves = 80-90%
United states – never more than 20% total, but were 33% in south
The greater the percentage of slaves the greater the prob of a slave revolt
because there is strength in numbers
The slaves would be lacking in weaponry compared to those designated with
task of ending rebellion
Size of plantation/agricultural estate
The larger the size of the agricultural estate, the greater the prob of a revolt
In Us: 50% of slave owners have 20 or less slaves, 75% have 50 or less.
In Caribbean: many plantations have 150 or more slaves.
More people to initially conspire with
Strength in numbers
Larger plantation owners do not directly oversee slaves; often used paid
white overseers to watch slaves in their daily labor; whereas in the us it
was typically slave owner himself or one of the slaves.
Master less hard on slaves because of economic interest that paid overseer
doesn’t have, each slave worth more (b/c there are usually less). Also
more personal connection on smaller estates
Large number of slaves born in Africa
LA; higher death rates (1/3 higher) combined with lower birth rates (4.5 to
9.2) -> increased reliance on the importation of slaves from Africa.
Many slaves (born in Africa) were born free; they remember it and want to
return to freedom.
LA, much more dense forest (jungles) and more mountainous terrain -> easier
to run, hide from militias
In NA: not as dense forest, not many mountains. People hid in swamps
Actual slave rebellions
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Resulted in the independence of Haiti and the abolition of slavery (1st black
republic in modern history)
Rebels killed 2,000 whites
See independence movements for more info
Planned to invade Richmond, attack the armory, and arm his rebel slaves
of which he had thousands following him
Betrayed by 2 followers, all routes to Richmond were cut off and Prosser
and his followers were hanged.
Result: Scared the white slaveowners to no end, made them realize that
what happened in Haiti could happen in US.
Nat Turner’s rebellion (1831-only successful slave revolt in US history)
Turner was the unofficial religious leader (Christianity) in Southampton
He and his disciples entered his masters house and killed everyone inside
except the infant with one hatchet and one broad axe
Then they moved through the countryside killing all white families that
owned slaves. As they went, they collected more slaves and weapons
The whites came out and begin to slaughter the slaves, but Turner hid and
was not found for a couple of months
This really scared the white slave owners as they realized what could
really happen (55 white people had been killed)
TOPIC: Life of the free African Americans
Hardly better than that of a slave
Couldn’t own a gun, buy liquor, assemble (except in church), testify in court,
vote; had a curfew
Stemmed from fear that blacks would rise up against whites in power.
In many states, licensing requirements and bans were put on work
opportunities (ie becoming a riverboat captain or pilot)
In many places, they were still not allowed to learn to read or write.
Afraid of massive rebellions (due to examples of successful slave revolts)
1806, Virginia required all free blacks to leave the state.
Many southern states barred the entry of free blacks into their states
Legislation was passed which made it illegal to free slaves without legislative
or court approval.
By 1850s, some states (ie Texas, Mississippi, and Georgia) had banned
emancipation all together.
Non slave states
Treated like second class citizens
In many cases, they were barred from entering or were required to pay bonds
of $500-$1000 to ensure good behavior
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Originally, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine allowed
freed blacks to vote
1842, Rhode Island allowed free blacks to vote.
Massachusetts – blacks allowed on Juries
In 5 states, blacks not allowed to testify against whites.
Many exluded from or segregated in public
Rampat discrimination in hiring (could only be hired as a janitor or
Jobs of men not stable, women worked to supplement income.
Many African Americans became share croppers
The white plantation owners would allow the black workers to stay and work
the land. The sharecroppers were responsible for getting everything from the
plantations store (seeds, clothing, etc) and were expected to sell the crop at a
flat rate to the owner. Anything else could be kept or sold. Often the field
workers ended up in further debt.
Spanish Colonies (like Cuba)
1880, government ends slavery, but demands that all former slaves work for
ex-master for 8 years
1886, all blacks are freed from compulsory labor
TOPIC: Pro-abolition arguments
Those opposed to slavery used arguments based on American and Christian
morals, as well as moral and civic duties, and economic growth to try to convince
people to abolish slavery.
Slavery contradicts American Ideals
Dec of indep: all men created equal, all men born w/unalienable right to life,
liberty, pursuit of happiness.
Life- masters could kill slaves if they so chose, worked to death, abused
Liberty- masters could dictate every aspect of their slave’s lives
Pursuit of happiness- slaves were unable to attain wealth, couldn’t chose what
they wanted to do, or sometimes even marry who they wanted to.
Bill of rights: slaves denied due process (amendment 5), right to peaceful
assemble (amendment 1), freedom from cruel and unusual punishment
Slavery creates artificial/dangerous divisions within the UNITED states
Slavery contradicts Christian values, beliefs, and principles
Breaking up slave marriages, separating families (mother from child, etc)
Though shall not steal (slavery as theft of human life…)
Sexual deviance (rape, adultery, breeding)
God created man in his image; slavery turns a man/person into a thing/piece of
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All believers equal in the eyes of God….yet slavery rejects the equality of those
Slavery inhibits the development of moral and civic duties
Cruelty, use of force/violence become accepted norms for getting one’s way
Despotism at home breeds despotism in society and governments
North compelled to learn that you convince people to be on your side
South learned to beat people into submission
Laziness, idleness, reliance upon others is a byproduct of slavery
Retards the development of a merit-based class system in which individuals are
rewarded based on their efforts and abilities.
Slavery retards economic growth and development
Capital tied up in land and slaves leaves little for education and transportation
infrastructure (railroads) or technological innovation
Slaves denied opportunities for self improvement/acquiring more sophisticated
skills (eg reading, writing, etc)
Slaves are an untapped/ potential market for manufactured goods
Slaves given little incentive for careful, diligent work
Slavery decreases the value of free labor
Obvious signs of “improvement”/progress (urbanization, industrialization,
mechanization) not as evident in slave based economies.
Slavery retards European immigration
Diff to compete for jobs -> slaves doing all the jobs -> Europeans not wanting
to compete with slaves.
Slavery results in land monopolization and takes away opportunities for
white/European families to own farms
American fields worked by Africans
Missed opportunities for land for whites.
Limited investment in technological innovation (in economy where you pay
laborers you look for ways to reduce cost --> research in technological
innovations --> decrease cost --> increased efficiency)
I didn’t know where to put in the stuff about the abolitionists, but since there are
questions that refer to it, I thought this would be a good place.
Example: American Colonization Society, est 1816
Promoted gradual, voluntary emancipation and resettlement of former slaves
to Africa (created Liberia)
Attracted evangelicals, Quakers, some blacks, and slaveholders who wanted to
send the free blacks back to Africa
Did not think that the government had any authority to abolish slavery within a
given state, only in territories (ie Missouri compromise)
Believed their should be compensation for whites
Did not criticize slave owners, said it was an unfortunate inheritance from our
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Abolitionists post 1830’s
Example: American Anti-slavery Society, est 1833
Unwilling to compromise
Wanted immediate emancipation
Welcomed all blacks, whites, and women
Much more opposed by the south
Criticized passive people in the North
People morally derisive about slavery