top of page

UNIT #16: SLAVERY – Comes to America (W16:D1)

With the Nuevo Laws of 1542 in full swing, and the encomiendas being abolished, the Spanish needed to find other forms of labor. So they turned to the African slave markets. In Africa, African civilizations - like those of Mali - would attack neighboring villages, and entire countries, to take the land and property, and then force those captured into slavery. They would gather the people, tie them to each other (to prevent an individual from running), and march them into their slave markets, to be sold to the highest bidder. Those that purchased these slaves were from all over the world; nearly every nation purchased and sold slaves at some point in their history. The Muslim civilizations in Africa were the first (and largest) merchants of slaves in all the world, selling black, white, and tan slaves. If they were captives and could be sold, it didn’t matter who they were. Some merchants would take slaves from one market and sell them to other markets, such as African markets to European, Asian, or American markets. They would march them to their destination, or load them onto ships, like livestock. Many died while being transported and their bodies would be thrown to the side of the road or into the sea. Those shipped to the Americas were loaded into slave ships, crammed to allow very little movement, in order to transport as many slaves as possible. The Transatlantic Slave Trade started in Hispaniola, the Caribbean islands, and all the Spanish colonies in the islands. This then spread to the Spanish and Portuguese colonies all throughout South America. The Portuguese, in Southern Brazil, are recorded to have bought and sold 21% of all slaves that were shipped over the Atlantic, second to Spain’s colonies in Jamaica, at 11% of slaves. John Hawkins, a British privateer, was commissioned to attack Spanish ships in the open ocean, and begin Triangle Trade between England, Africa, and the Americas. In 1562, he set sail for Africa, purchasing and capturing 300 slaves. He then took them to plantations in the Caribbean and South America. He took the money and treasures he traded them for back to England, to present them to Queen Elizabeth I, who was very pleased and commissioned him to continue. She also awarded him a Coat of Arms, with the images of slaves on it. His second cousin, Sir Francis Drake, who accompanied him on his first few slave trading missions, ended up denouncing slavery, and turned to piracy when the crown called a truce with Spain. He would end up partnering with escaped slaves to attack the Spanish. When he captured a city, he would free the slaves, including the Turks, in Colombia. In Puritan, Huguenot, Protestant, and Quaker run North America, African slaves were not sold into lifetime slavery, for it was against the law. Instead, they were limited to four to seven years of servitude, and then had to be released. In 1526, in the San Miguel de Gualdape colony, in South Carolina, a slave ship arrived from the Caribbean to sell slaves. There was an uproar, and the slaves were released, fleeing to find safety among the local native tribes. The law stated that lifetime slavery was not permitted. In 1565, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles brought his slaves, when he moved from the Caribbean, to build the Spanish fort of St. Augustine, Florida. Now, indentured servants were allowed in the colonies, as most settlers could not afford to pay the fees to travel to the New World. They, in turn, would promise an amount they would work, normally four to seven years, to pay their debt for the trip. Most of the colonies wrote laws against slavery, but there were those in the South who conducted slave raids on Native American villages, enslaving up to 24,000 Native Americans. Again, this was against colonial law and, if found that this was done in lands where it was against the law, the owners would be imprisoned, and the slaves released. In 1601, after the Battle of Kinsale, the British captured 30,000 Irish military prisoners. The Thirty Year War had left England in major debt. Both during the rule of James II and Oliver Cromwell (1649-58), they pushed to sell the Irish into servitude throughout the Americas, especially in Barbados and other Caribbean islands, to fill their treasury again. See, this was forced servitude; the English would sell the Irish to slave traders, in exchange for products from the Americas, like cotton and tobacco (and then sell those), but they were to be freed after seven years. They were also threatened that, if they returned to Ireland, they would be sold back into servitude. In 1612, the first Irish servants are recorded to have been sold to a settlement on the Amazon River. In 1625, an official Proclamation ordered Irish prisoners to be sold to English Planters in the Americas. By 1637, 69% of Montserrat were Irish servants. The Irish, at that time, were the largest source of forced labor in the English slave markets. Between 1641 and 1652, under Oliver Cromwell’s rule, nearly 550,000 Irish were killed and 300,000 more sold into slavery. Irish servants were mostly men, stripped from their families because the English could get more money for them. In the 1650s Irish children were also found to be profitable, and so were taken away from their Irish Catholic families and sold as servants in Virginia, New England, and the West Indies. Historians report that, until 1650, there were more European indentured servants sold in the Americas than slaves from Africa. Europeans also “cured” their Romanichal Gypsy overpopulation issues by selling them in the Americas, as indentured servants. In 1619, British privateers attacked and captured a Portuguese cargo ship, the White Lyon, heading for Brazil. They needed to sell their cargo, including African slaves, and so made their way to Jamestown, Virginia. Because of North American colonial laws, people could not be sold as slaves, but rather servants, like the Irish. These 20 Africans, including families, were sold into servitude and given the same rights as white servants, and were to be released after seven years. In 1640, John Punch, an African servant, tried to escape his service and the courts ruled to make him the first servant-for-life. In 1654, John Casor, another African indentured servant, pleaded with the courts that he had served his time for his master, Anthony Johnson (who was also a freed African servant). Casor, and a few white settlers, won his first court appearance against his master, but Johnson appealed the decision and won the appeal, making Casor the first lifetime slave without a criminal conviction in North America. This ruling stripped all rights that had been given to blacks in America before this time.

In 1672, King Charles II gave the monopoly of all African trade in the British colonies to the Royal African Company. By 1676, Parliament made slave trading in British colonies legal, overriding the laws that were established in the colonies, by the colonists. The British colonies account for 4% of the Transatlantic Slave Trading. By 1730, other traders had broken through the monopoly, to begin selling slaves in North America. It was not only the south that enslaved Africans. It is reported that, at one point, 42% of New York City households employed slaves from Europe and Africa, inside their residence. The northern colonies were more likely to make slaves servants inside their homes, while the south made them labor in the hot fields, farming their crops. The African slave trade was the only thing allowing the south to succeed, as there was not enough labor to farm the land with crops like rice, cotton, tobacco, etc. When a slave gave birth, that child was raised for a time, and then sold into slavery, as well. This resulted in the colonies depending less on slaves coming from Africa, and more on those who were born into slavery. In the south, the new colony of Georgia was established in 1733. In 1735, the Georgia Trustees created a law to stop all slave trade in Georgia. At this point, slavery was legal in all other British colonies. This was one of the first attempts to fight back against British governance in the colonies. In French-owned Louisiana, King Louis XIV wrote into law the Code Noir, which gave specific rights to slaves, including the ability to marry. It forbade torture, and did not allow slave masters to separate couples. It required the owners to teach their slaves in the way of the Catholic faith. Future laws also allowed those born to slave mothers and white fathers freedom from slavery. These children were to be educated and allowed to own property, businesses, and even their own slaves. The Code Noir outlawed interracial marriage among whites and blacks, but this did not stop the people. Activity: Simulated Servitude - Today, you will participate in a simple assignment. You will give yourself a small perspective/opportunity to see what being a servant felt like. You will give yourself to another student or family member, and act as their servant for a day. For this experiment, that person may not hurt you or do anything that you would not do before this activity, much like servants had to experience, but you must serve them the entire day. What did you feel acting as an indentured servant for someone? __________________________________________________________________________________________ Did they have you do anything you did not want to do? __________________________________________________________________________________________ What were some of the chores you had to do for them? __________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________

Actual Servitude: We only gave you a taste of what servitude would have felt like, without the abuse and harsh conditions. Now, reflect on what actual servitude - back a few hundred years ago - would have felt.

How might they have felt, as a servant for 4-7 years? _____________________________________________

Did they have them do anything they did not want? _____________________________________________

What were some of the responsibilities they had to do? _____________________________________________


Would you have tried to escape if you were either a servant or slave to someone for many years to life? _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________


Featured Posts
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page