Slavery in British North America and the United States

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 6
Words: 1530
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College


Slavery started soon after English colonialists settled in Virginia. Slave trade lasted until the thirteenth amendment of the united states constitution.

Main Text

The first American slave arrived as indentured servant via Jamestown, Virginia (1619). At this point in time a Dutch slave trader exchanged cargo of Africa (slaves) with food. Africans together with poor Englishmen became indentured servants (the term slave was not used until 1656). In (1661) slave trade was entered as law. Later in (1640’s to 1865) Africans would remain servants for life through Virginia’s law. Slaves charged with crime were tried under special non-jury courts created in (1692). legalization of African slavery came following success of tobacco planting in Virginia and Maryland marking the evolution of agrarian economy.

The face of American slavery from “tawny” Indian slaves to “blackamoor” Africans in the years (1650-1750) took transition with the lucrative nature of African slaves changing the focus to Africa based institutions. During this period of transition

in the early years of eighteenth century the number of the native Americans may have halved those of Africans. In 1730 millions of native Americans were enslaved by kidnapping or for crime and debts. All slaves would stay in communal living quarters where they shared the commonality of their experience in enslavement. in addition to working in the field they also shared myths and legends eventually engaging in marital practices. The intermarriages of Africans and Native Americans were facilitated by disproportion of African males and women to a ratio of (3:1) and discrimination of American Males by diseases enslavement and prolonged war with the colonies. (Roy, 1994)

A new generation of black-red people began and distinction between white and black became blur. Afro-Indians were realized. It is then that the (1740) slave code was enacted which indicated that any child born of a slave mother giving no regard to the father’s stand hence becomes an absolute The law of Virginia (1662,1692,1705)were enhanced to regulation on the sexual and reproductive lines of native Americans and black slaves. The growing institution of slavery and the construction of racism was rapid.

Penalties of law offender and punishment differed by gender. The law constituted that a slave as property, this carried with it the fact that a property cannot own property or be a party to any contract. With this as law a slaves marriage by any chance as not recognized as legal. all codes i.e. (1662, 1692, 1705) regulated free blacks who were helped through employment from movement and could only live the state by emancipation. The continued demand for African slaves’ labour arose from the development of agricultural plantations, the long-term rise in consumption of sugar and demand for diamond miners in Brazil, house servants, and tobacco firms in Virginia.

According to James (1988) American slavery was racial, with few exemption cases all slaves were Africans and almost all Africans were slaves thus inferiority of black man and his culture. Black being branded inferior made it extremely had to liberate from the state of slavery. For the American natives, it was easier to gain freedom and attain high standard in society. The freed black also labeled inferior and they had taken to the inferiority complex. The black group was identified as sub-human inferior and destined to servitude.

Slave Master laid great emphasis to education and training on the ideal ways to put deep sense of helplessness and independence, sense of own inferiority, belief in master superior power, acceptance of masters standards and strict discipline. One Arkansas slaveholder of the time said that trying to persuade a Negro to work through reward and incentives was not right, he must be made to work and always understand if he fails to perform his duty he must be punished for it. (James, 1988)

In the 1770s Europeans had put much effort in trying to monopolize slave trade. The coasts of west Africa had three main divisions controlled by the Europeans the bid to monopolize Slave trade these were Senegambia, Upper Guinea and Lower Guinea.

The Mortality rate of the slaves was very high, large group of slaves died when being captured 14% died when being transported to America and 20% died when being prepared for servitude bringing the rate to about 50%.

The slave trade in Africa is said to have taken approximately twenty million people from their habitat and moved them to America. the transatlantic slave trade producing the largest forced migration in human history. this is rated from 16th to mid 19th-century shipping approximately eleven million Africans. Africans cooperated with the European in the slave trade and some of the slaves were already serving as slaves in Africa before being transported to America. The 1780 Massachusetts constitution of declared all men born free and equal , thus abolishing slavery in Massachusetts. (James, 1988)

Back in 1790 the first census done listed 697,897 slaves in the united states, the population of the United States was four million of who sixty thousands were freed blacks. (1790-1810) was a successful slave revolution free coloured occupied whites’ manners and dress. These coloured were obliged to to file for a permit to conduct trade but not farming, they were denied right of assembly, refused noble status and kept out of legal military. Slaves formed the core of the early labour force, working on the construction of of private and public building almost as frequently as they served as household servants.

Government embarked on public works and also sort for labour from slaves. government treasury either paid masters money for the use of their slaves services. in the bid to restrict illegal slavery transactions special tax on nonresident slave labour. some slaves would work together with their masters, commissioners only rented slaves as labourer but never trained them on skilled labour.

President Washington by 1797 had concluded the slavery was absolutely incompatible with the principle of the new nation and could even sense the division. He later addressed the legislature of Virginia appealing for a gradual abolishment of slave trade.

In (1799) the second awakening was experienced when many slaves were converted to Christianity in the same period Cane Ridge camp meeting embraced Africa-Americans. Five years later south Carolina resumed importing slaves this was because of boom in the cotton and it’s demand for more labor input. at this point the long lived slave trade that was holding the economy of united state had stated being seen from a different perspective especially by religious group in the united states. Empowering of the president to returning slaves who are illegally imported from Africa was passed, the foreign slave trade was declared as piracy this could result to death penalty to the involved party and or forfeiture of the vessel for all united states citizens engaged in slaves importation. (Frederick, 1971)

At around 1845 the Baptist Church and other denominations split into Northern and Southern organizations. With the Southern Baptist Convention being formed on the stand that Holy Bible sanctions slavery. they argued the it was accordingly for Christian to own slaves. the southern Baptist later re-announced their stand in the twentieth century. On the other hand the Northern Baptists opposed slavery. In 1844, the Home Mission society

declared that a person could not be in the missionary and still own slaves and subject them to the role of slavery. Methodists and presbetarian churches by the time had also divided into north and south. Democratic Party was the only institution by 1850s national institution. This party later split in 1860 with the presidential election. The electorate split into four divisions. Southern Democrats who endorsed slave ownership. The Republicans who denounced slavery. some of the Northern Democrats who argued that democracy required the people themselves to decide on slavery themselves. The last was Constitutional Union Party who saw the survival of the Union was at stake, and everything else should be compromised.(Frederick, 1971)

In (1843-1859) the anti-slavery Africa squadron of the united states navy was sent to patrol west Africa and camped at their base at cape Verde. This plan did not yield much as only very few slavers were caught and very light penalties to the offenders were put. At around (1830-1850) Great Britain united states had also joined hand in the suppression of slave trade from Africa. The emigration of freed blacks to sierra Leone, Africa from NYC was organized for the first time.

Abolitionist in the united states history advocated for compulsory emancipation of Africa American slaves from(1830) to (1860). From (1820) though (1830) the american colonization society (ACS) was given the Authority to returning black Americans to Liberia. this was supported massively by the whites. The Americo-Liberians ruled Liberia from the time till the military coup in (1980).


Slave rebellion was an armed uprising by the slaves this was a responses to the long lived endurance from the slave masters. slave were hardened by the harsh conditions from their masters which made them to start resisting their masters power. Some of the radical abolitionists like John Brown lend rebellion at Harpers Ferry in (1859). The August 15th 1906 Niagara movement lend by an Author and scholar W.E.D Dobois was the greatest meeting ever held by American Negroes.


Frederick, L. Ethnic Voters and the Election of Lincoln. Louisiana State University Press 1971.

Reinhard H. The First Lincoln Campaign, London: oxford University 1944.

James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil ,New York: Prentice Hall 1988.

Roy, F. The Disruption of American Democracy , New York: Prentice Hall, 1994.

Parks, H. John Bell of Tennessee Louisiana State University Press, 1950.