27 Feb 2023


African Slavery in America: A History

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The concept of slave labour was consistent with social, political and economic environment of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. These denoted the ability of the economic environment to rely on free labour in the attempt to gain economic growth through unlimited profits. Underlying the concept, came the need to for resources, and slave labour became pertinent to the economy as land and others resources in the economy. Important to the American colonies was the recognition that slave labour was part of the economy. By the mid eighteenth century, the American economic environment was worth more to the British international trade than other colonies in the Americas. Therein, the development of slavery was within the context of that trade coupled with social political developments of the century. This paper will endeavour to explore the development of slavery within the context of British colonies and the rise of independence in the country. 

African slavery was anchored within the abstract social notion of racial subjectivity and supremacy within the society. The superiority complex of races was within the confines of financial and economic might of the European as they perpetuated the imperial culture around the world. Nonetheless, slavery was not within the confines of the European powers. The construct had in operation over centuries across the European continent as well as the Arab and Asian regions. Against these background, the British acclamation of slavery in North America was against these set standards. The society recognized the existence of individuals within the society who lost their rights and freedoms to the service and labour of the affluent (Bruno, 1992). Nonetheless, African slavery was not only on the basis of servitude, it was also on the basis of racial inferiority. For instance, existence of physical attributes that according to the European or the whites such as the dark skin denoted a level of inferiority. 

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Racial inequality and discrimination established a path through which the exploitation of those differences became mainstream. The British model of colonial exploitation and servitude was within the confines of economic subjugation of its conquest. The American economic importance of the colonial territories of North America dictated the ability of the British to maintaining supremacy in the region. Nonetheless, the North American economy was dependent of several factors that made it unique. The British model of economic and colonial subjugation was within the context of establishment of dependent trade on the industrial revolution of the century. Therefore, the British relied heavily on the ability to maintain trade in raw materials from its colonial territories in North America. 

The American territory was characterized by large volumes of land and therefore the major economic factor became its agricultural power. In the early eighteenth century, agricultural expansion of the British conquest of the new land was vast as settlers claimed vast land mass to the British Empire. The expansion was also aimed at the relocation of the expanding British population and provision of living and working space within North America. A combination of the land conquest and the power of trade made land the most important commodity. However, land was only important if its exploitation was in the service of British international trade (Galenson, 1981). While the British at this time had not embraced slave labour, the economics of land exploitation was under the need for more land to increase production of agricultural raw materials. In this context the British settlers employed the power of their population and that of the natives and local population to maintain productive land. 

Slavery and slave trade was a well-established economic practice in the region as the new lands in the Caribbean and South America were within the excel zones of slave labour. In the north American main land, the vast agricultural land demanded more labour from slave trade slowly became of value to the land owners in the region. The economic value of slaves in the region increased in the expansion of lands in the American frontier. The large available land to cultivate in tat conquest and the importance of agriculture in the region increased the demand for slaves. Slaves ensured that economic profits to the land owners and therefore became an important commodity in the American economy. By the mid eighteenth century, the value of slaves in the region was imperative to the agricultural economy that their trade alone was profitable. 

Against that background, the context of African slavery in North America was not only in economic gain, but also in social and political contexts. Within the confines of the social context, the relationship among races in the region and the rest of the world dictated the treatment of slaves. In essence, slaves were never regarded as human beings, and therefore held no rights in the eyes of their owners as well as the hands of the society. Perpetuated by racial discrimination, black people were regarded to be at the bottom of the racial hierarchical order (McCusker, and Menard, 2014). While the white people claimed dominance and superiority, they subjugated the rest in to their service. The society organized within these confines that denoted the ability of an individual to have rights, freedoms and their ability to function in the society. Through apparent discrimination against the black African people, their slavery status was widely acknowledged in the region. 

Social constructs of the region and the people encouraged the political and economic imperative of slaves. More often than not, slavery was denoted in the conflict to reconcile the British mode of conquest through Christian conversion and its practice. In this regard, the religious ambiguity of the construct of slavery was interpreted through social definitions. For instance, the attempted conversion of slavery in the early eighteenth century in American was passed by the prevailing thought of social inequality. In these regard, if one is not regarded as a person, then religious freedoms and beliefs can only exist in the context of their masters. Therein, the religious beliefs of their masters encompassed that of their slaves as exemplified in select passages of the bible. Those who sort to increase the freedoms of the slaves through Christian beliefs were disappointed on all social, economic and political grounds of the matter. 

The British organization of African slavery was within the legal acknowledgement of discriminative policies against the black African. Its genesis was within the ability of the legislature to define slavery under laws of the land. The legal status of slaves in the political economy began within the confines of determination of white supremacy in the constitution. This was possible due to the representation of the settlers in the colonial states. As the land owners paid taxes to the state, they had rights to vote and have representation in the law making process of the state. Therein, to protect their interest, they made legal distinction between the slaves and servants in the region (Bayly, 2016). This distinction was made in reference to the races that existed in the region. Further, the legal atmosphere also determined how slaves were acquired. For instance, slaves’ acquisition was through the well-established trade among the slave traders and the masters as settlers and farmers in the states. 

Under those regulations, the captured slaves were under the mercy of the law as well as that of their masters. The law determined their treatment as it stripped them of their rights and freedoms. The masters had the legal capacity to treat them as they wish. Further, the legal construct that defined a slave determined the status of children of the slave women. They determined under law that all children born to a slave were within the legal status of their mother. In that regard therefore, the legal parameters ensured slave trade was done within the confines of the law. For instance, slaves therefore were within the confines of the legal obligation of the state (Brown, 2012). The codification of slavery and in the early seventeenth century denoted the classification slavery via race. For instance in the colonial state of Virginia, slaves status occurred through gradual social prejudice against the African people. The discrimination against the black people led to enactment of laws specific to the African slaves as they determined punishment of black people in regard to their crimes or perceived crimes against white people. Virginia State in September seventeenth 1630 was among the first legal and discriminative laws of the state against black people. Consequently, continued legal application of discriminative policies ensured the grip of the white population on the black people as they lost their freedoms and rights. The process continued even after the break of war as black people under law and legal status possessed little rights in the eyes of the state. 


Bayly, C. A. (2016).  Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World 1780-1830 . Routledge. 

Brown, K. M. (2012).  Good wives, nasty wenches, and anxious patriarchs: Gender, race, and power in colonial Virginia . The University of North Carolina Press. 

Bruno, R. A. (1992). Who Built America? 

Galenson, D. W. (1981).  White servitude in colonial America: An economic analysis  (p. 47). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

McCusker, J. J., & Menard, R. R. (2014).  The Economy of British America, 1607-1789 . UNC Press Books. 

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