Europeans saw the tribal lifestyles lived by the Africans in the 16th century. Regardless of the criticisms of Europeans toward the African civilization, Africans were already established as much as Europeans were. Most African villages were under a communal system in which everyone was under the impression that they shared their personal belongings and possessions with one another. Moreover, European travelers observed the existing social hierarchy, religious and cultural practices, as well as slavery in African communities. The idea of an established slave system in Africa was used by Europeans against the world’s accusation for instigating the atrocious slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean. However, Slavery in Africa differed in the colonies in that African slaves in their home country were treated humanely and were given rights. Even so, the Europeans saw the Africans as perfect fit to enslave in the colonies which then led to the destruction, oppression, and extermination of African slaves.
The colonists who established early settlements in the mid-Atlantic colonies attempted to impose forced labor on the Native Americans in the same manner Christopher Columbus had successfully done. However, the Natives were known to have a depleting population due to the diseases they developed and the harsh maltreatments they faced under the Spanish colonists. Most of them were also familiar to their own land, allowing them to easily escape when captured. Ultimately, they were willing to revolt against those who threatened their freedom and stability. For these reasons, the colonists were discouraged and sought for an alternative. To the colonists, the Africans were better to enslave because they did not know the settlements in the colonies and they were randomly chosen from one tribe to another. As a result, Africans struggled to communicate with one another.
Eventually, Africans were torn away from their homes and a community of slaves in the colonies emerged as these trips proceeded, creating a bond of broken people who may have forgotten what their lives were like before they were taken as captives. Because of this, the colonists withheld more profits than they should have due to the large imports and cheaper exports of African slaves. Shipped in large numbers, the slaves soon occupied most of the southern colonies due to the high demands for labor in large farming communities, and where they eventually became substitutes for white indentured labor shortages in the northern colonies.
Slavery began the moment Africans were torn away from their homes. Chained by slave dealers, sometimes one of their own, they were en route to the Americas in crowded ships in what was often called the Middle Passage. The slaves were shackled for the full duration of the voyage and were tightly packed in the ships deck; they were positioned in the ship where no one single person could move. During the six to thirteen weeks of the passage, Africans experienced seasickness, were exposed to heat and diseases since they were packed altogether and died out of hunger and thirst. While some slaves formed insurrections or revolts against the slave dealers, many of them committed suicide by jumping overboard. For most of them, it was easier to take away their own lives rather than to suffer for weeks in the Middle Passage and for years in the colonies. Although many of the slaves died during the Middle Passage, the traders and slave owners still managed to double their profits and repeated the same process of collecting as many slaves in one trip. The doubled profits resulted to high and competing exports of slaves among the colonies but in turn took the lives and freedom of African Americans.
The slaves who survived the Middle Passage were either transported to the Chesapeake and Southern colonies to work in plantations or used as substitutes for domestic labor in the English colonies. African American women were often chosen and purchased as domestic slaves. These slaves were tasked to do household chores including cleaning, laundry, and taking care of the children. Their masters had no choice but to live under the same roof as their slaves. In exchange for a shelter to live in, domestic slaves were often sexually harassed by their male masters; no law prohibited the wrongdoings of slave owners toward their slaves.
Most white slave owners harmed their slaves if they were to disobey their commands. Slaves in the plantations faced worst circumstances. Plantation owners enforced them to work for ten hours under the searing heat without food to eat or water to drink. For instance, in South Carolina the slaves planted and harvested in rice plantations which were usually positioned in inland swamps, forcing them to work with damp and dirty clothing. In the sugar plantations, many slaves lost their arms, fingers, or hands due to the dangerous grinding mills which they used to crush sugar canes after their harvest. Others suffered from burns due to the continuous process of boiling juice from crushed canes to create sugar and molasses. More importantly, slaves who slowed down their work were whipped, scarred, or mutilated. Likewise, runaway slaves were branded to mark them as rebellious or identify them with their owners. All in all, field and domestic slaves suffered from the tedious work they had to abide by every day.
The slavery in the Americas began with the lack of indentured servants and Native Americans and ended with the diminishing population and culture of Africans. Because Africans had less knowledge about the colonies and had subordinate defiance, they were easier to enslave. Few slaves endured the horrid circumstances and mistreatments of their slaveholders from the Middle Passage to the colonies and many of them died out of poor living conditions and harsh treatments on behalf of both traders and owners. Ultimately, the lives of African Americans were exchanged with bountiful profits accumulated by the colonists which then led to growing economies and in demand labor in the colonies.
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