Slavery in America – Term Paper

Slavery in America Essay Thesis


Slavery is a topic that has dominated the history of America throughout its first 250 years. The landowners believed to have been from the South subjected to servitude more than four million individuals shipped from the African continent to work in their farmlands. Throughout the entire period, the South American’s economic, social and economic landscape revolved around revolved around this “peculiar institution,” of slavery. Thus, slavery greatly shaped the American history (Acharya, Blackwell & Sen, 2014). Scholars have delved into this topic and submitted volumes of research on its consequences. Nonetheless, the social scientists have expressed less interest in investigating the continued influence of slavery on contemporary issues in America and even the African Continent. This proposal, therefore, investigates the history of slavery and establishes the ways in which this history impacts contemporary society with a focus on political attitudes in South America.

Essay on Slavery in America

Statement of Purpose

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Slavery was illegalized internationally over 150 years ago. Nonetheless, its implications on the contemporary affairs have continued to be felt in the society. It is on this basis that other history scholars have referred to the aftermath as an institutional legacy. The purpose of this proposal is to investigate the history of slavery and establish the impacts that it has had on the contemporary society in South America focusing on the political attitude of the Southern whites living in regions that were largely inhabited by slaves.  

Literature Review

While slavery began with civilization, where those defeated in wars were taken as slaves, the height of slavery took place between 1400 and 1900. This was due to slave trade where people were captured and sold off as slaves. During this period, four main slave trades took place. They were the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the trans-Saharan slave trade, the Indian Ocean slave trade, and the Red Sea Slave trade (Everett, 2014). Slaves were shipped mainly from the African continent with West Africa, Eastern Africa, and West-Central Africa being the regions that were affected the most. Historical accounts indicate that the individuals who were sold into slavery in the early slave trade were almost entirely prisoners of war. Since raids normally involved villages attacking other villages to capture slaves, this form of attaining slaves often resulted in hostile relations between villages causing conflicts between communities. However, studies on the manner of slave procurement in the 19th century indicate that during this period, slaves were obtained using a number of ways. These include kidnapping, trickery, and through a judicial process. According to a study by Cooper, Holt and Scott (2014), wars accounted for 24.3 percent of slaves captured in the 19th century, kidnapping 40.3 percent, judicial process 16.0 percent, and trickery 19.4 percent.

While slavery took place in many regions such as England, it is America that gained notoriety for slavery to the point that when slavery is discussed, it is normally discussed with reference to America.  The high level of slavery in America was mainly due to agricultural and industrial revolution. In the 19th century, America experienced an unprecedented growth in agriculture particularly of cash crops (Cooper, Holt & Scott, 2014).  For example, between 1817 and 1860, cotton production in America increased from 461,000 to 4.8 million bales. This growth in cash crop farming resulted in a high demand for labor. Slavery was thereby used to provide this labor. Slaves were the most preferred source of labor because their services were for free which made agriculture a very profitable venture. The cheap labor provided by slaves increased slave trade and slavery in the 19th century.

Although most of the slave owners had less than ten slaves under their ownership, many of the slaves lived together on plantations in groups that comprised of twenty or more individuals. In spite of the forceful persistence by whites that slaves were barbarians, the presence of large groups of these slaves allowed for a steady formation of a distinctive African-American culture. According to Everett, (2014), white people enjoyed the music, dancing, and stories by slaves even though they failed to recognize the slave culture as a legitimate culture. Most slave owners also encouraged their slaves to marry. According to Cooper, Holt and Scott (2014), they believed that allowing slaves to have families made them docile and thereby less inclined to escape or rebel. However, the stability of most slave families was disrupted constantly through sexual abuse, violence, and separation carried out by masters.

While slaves brought to America arrived with different languages, cultural practices, and religions, they shared common modes of cultural expression and understanding that formed the basis of a common culture (Everett, 2014). In addition, tied together with a common cord of slavery, slaves strove together to develop strategies that would enable them to live satisfactorily. Using their African heritage, slaves developed their own values and way of life.

Slave Revolt

Although slaves tried to adapt to the harsh conditions that they were subjected by their masters, in some cases the conditions became too harsh prompting slaves to revolt. Some of the notable slave revolts include the one led by Gabriel Prosser in 1800 in regions of Richmond and Denmark Vesey in the year 1822 in Charleston. However, few of the slave revolts achieved any notable success. The slave revolt which terrified white slaveholders the most was the one led by Nat Turner in August 1831 in Virginia. Turner’s group which numbered about 75 blacks killed 60 white people in two days before being overwhelmed by armed resistance from local white people and state militia forces. According to Everett, (2014), the rebellion by Turner made supporters of slavery claim that the rebellion was evidence of black people’s inherent savagery and that slavery was needed to discipline black people. The fear of similar revolutions made many southern states, where slavery was prevalent, to tighten their slave codes that limited slave education, assembly, and movement.