Slavery Research Paper


Slavery is defined as a situation where an individual or more persons have complete authority and control over another person(s), presuming the slave ownership as personal property thus enacting labor and services from them. Slavery historic timeline dates back in 1619 when the ditch brought the first African slaves in the state of Virginia to help in crop production especially the in tobacco production. The slaves were mainly sourced from African continent and transported to North America as contracted servants who were to be at the service of their masters for a confined period of seven years. Slavery was highly practiced during the 17th and 18th century where the colonialists used the African Americans in building the new United States economy. Within the restrictions of their new homes, the slaves were barred from ever seeing their families again, and it was a requirement for them to perform heavy duties to their masters who imposed cruelty to them since they assumed that the slaves had no right.

The technological advancement in the 18th century like the invention of cotton gin in 1793 made slavery to be practiced more especially in the Southern economy. There was a bloody civil war in the mid-19th century caused by different in opinions in the issue about slavery by the abolition movements in the Northern America, making the nation to divide into two sections, the South and The North. The Northerners were campaigning for the abolition of slavery while the Southerners led by politicians such as Calhoun were supporting slavery. The issue n slavery was finally won by the Northern Union leading to approximately four million slaves being freed, although the legacy brought about by slavery has continually influenced the American history many years later after the emancipation.

During the 17th century, the European settlers who had moved to the new North American colonies turned to African slaves as a means of cheap and affordable labor. This was the foundation of slavery in the United States of America history. A Dutch ship carrying African slaves arrived at the port of Jamestown in Virginia in 1619 (Austin, 2008). After the incident, slavery became extensive throughout the US nation. In the century that followed, it is estimated that between six to seven million slaves from Africa were exported to the new colonies (O’Connell, 2012).

The invention of cotton gin in 1793 is another foundation of slavery in the American history (Goyal, 2014). After a period of a reduced demand in slaves due to the depletion of tobacco land, there was a mechanization of textile industry in England resulting to high demand for American cotton (Goyal, 2014). Cotton production was limited by the difficulty to extract seeds from the raw cotton crop by use of hands. Fortunately a school teacher by the name Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin-a simple machine that assisted the farmers to efficiently remove seeds from the raw cotton (Goyal, 2014). With the cotton gin the farmers in the southern part of America were able to cultivate short-staple cotton on a wide scale variety in the mainland areas. This led to the development of large Deep South areas as a cotton country in the 19th century (Goyal, 2014). The cotton gins required a lot of labor thus led to the increase in demand of slaves in the south. Just like rice, tobacco cultivation was also labor intensive. According to the population report in 1720, South Carolina had about 65% of the population consisting of slaves. The slaves were used by the planters in the cultivation of commodity crops.

In the period around the 17th and 18th century, African Americans slaves were mainly working on large-scale plantations of indigo, rice and tobacco, and were mainly based in the Southern coast (O’Connell, 2012).The dependency on slavery was almost becoming of no importance after the American Revolution took place, mainly in the North who linked their oppression by the English settlers to the African American slavery thus called for the abolition of slavery (O’Connell, 2012).The southerners on the other hand opted for a shift in the agricultural activities from small scale to large scale cultivation. This led to the increase in demand while there was also a different in opinion in the Union with the North states standing against slavery while the south states supporting slavery.

The United States constitution took effect in 1789 including multiple provisions that regard slavery. The section 9 article 1 of the constitution forbade the US federal government from banning slave importation before 1808 (Austin, 2008). To protect slavery, the delegates approved another section of the law which prohibited the freeing of slaves who had fled other states and required them to be returned to the chattel owners of the property. James Madison of Virginia then negotiated Section 2 of Article 1 that specified other persons to be included in the states total free population, at a rating of three fifth of their overall number so as to establish the official population of the states for the purpose of federal taxation and appointments in the congress (Austin, 2008). The political power of the Southern representative was then strengthened by the slavery afforded in the constitution since three-fifth of the slave population (non-voting citizens) was counted during the appointments in the congress.

In addition to the slave laws, the Southern economy was the nerve of the American economy. Prominent slaveholder political figures and commodity crop had a great political and economic influence in the United States. Between the 72 year period of the election of President Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, the president of the United States was a slaveholder (Austin, 2008). Between the same periods too there was no person elected for a second term who was not a slaveholder. This impacted the increased in power in congress for the southern states thus affecting the national legislation and policies. The slaveholders were dominant in the United States Presidency and the congressional delegation for over 50 years (Austin, 2008).

Over one third of the population in the south constituted of slaves. Most of the slaves lived on small plantations or large firms with many masters owning less than 50 slaves (Austin, 2008). The planters aimed at making the slaves to depend on them completely and used the restrictive codes system to govern the life among the slaves. The movement of the slaves was restricted and their masters prohibited them from learning how to read and write. Many masters rewarded obedient slaves with favors while those who rebelled were cruelly punished. Many slave women were used by their masters for sexual liberties. To keep the slaves divided and unlikely to rebel, the masters used a strict hierarchy among them ranging from house girls who were privileged, to the skilled artisans down to the field hands (O’Connell, 2012).Slaves were allowed to marry even though their marriages had no legal basis. Most of the slaves raised big families but could be separated by their masters through slave sale or removal.

Slaver rebellions were conducted from time to time. The most noteworthy slavery revolt took place in the later months of 1883 and was under the leadership of Nat Turner in Southampton region, Virginia State. Turner organized a group of people who included about seventy-five blacks and conducted raids that saw close to sixty white slave owners being murdered under cold blood in just a span of months (Adadevoh, 2016). Unfortunately, they white militia overwhelmed them. As a result of Turner’s revolt, slavery codes were tightened in the South in order to limit their access to education and movement. After Turner’s revolt, an abolition movement rose in the North. It was led by free blacks and whites from the North who were against the institution of slavery. Most members of the abolition movement argued that slavery was a sin, regressive and made no sense to the contribution of the American economy. In the early 1780s, the northerners helped some slaves escape from the south.

Between the 1830s to 1860s periods, there was a rise in slave abolition movements which gained strength especially in the northern part of the United States. Led by white supporters like William Lloyd who was the founder of the newspaper the Liberator and free blacks like Harries Stowe the puablisher of the anti-slavery novelUncle Tom’s Cabin (1850). Many abolitionists based their activism on religion, believing that slavery is a sin; some abolitionists based their arguments on a non-religiousfree labor holding that slaveholding was inefficient, regressive and made very little sense in the American economy. Free blacks and northerners who supported antislavery had begun assisting the fugitive slaves to escape from the plantations in the south to the north via loose safe house networks as early as the year 1780. In the 1830, the practice which was known as Underground Railroad was widely used and even though there is a wide variation in estimates, it may have assisted between 40,000 to 100,000 slaves to get their freedoms (Adadevoh, 2016). The Underground Railroad success led to the spread of abolitionists in the north. It undoubtedly created tension between the northerner’s and the southerner’s with the slaveholders in the south being worried of their northern counterpart’s intention of defeating the slavery that sustained them.

In the first half of the 19th century there was an explosive growth in America and the westward expansion. This would provide a bigger stage for the growing slavery conflict in America and the future expansion or limitation of the slavery act. In 1820, there was a heated debate over the right to restrict slavery by the federal government which ended up in compromise. In 1850, a tiny compromise was negotiated and this resolved the territorial questions that were won during the War in Mexico (Austin, 2008).

In 1960 the republican candidate Abraham Lincoln was elected as president of the United States. This would lead to the south reaching a breaking point after more than seven states joined to form the Confederate States of America within the first three months. Another four states would later join after the beginning of the civil war (1861-1865). Though Lincoln had already established his antislavery views, the central aim of his union shifted from abolishment of slavery to the unification and preservation of the United States nation (Austin, 2008). Abolition war was considered later due to the growing of anti-slavery sentiments especially in the North, military necessities, and the self-emancipation of the many African Americans who fled enslavement due to the union troops sweeping through region. Lincoln then declared that the slaves within the states or regions that rebelled slavery shall be free thenceforth and forevermore.

Slavery has left a lot of legacy in the contemporary society as well as the history of America. In the 13th Amendment, slavery was completely abolished (Ocon, 2012). Former slaves received equal rights of citizenship as the whites but then it became difficult for them to gain status and recognition in the US. Actually, all slavery has done is change the way in which it comes. In the modern US, the blacks are segregated and disadvantaged. The American culture is institutionalized by racism. As a result of this racism, the blacks have fewer opportunities to education and even lucrative businesses (Ocon, 2012). This has created an economic gap between the whites and blacks in the US. The blacks are poorer while the majority of the white is extremely rich. In other word slavery still exists in the current US but using another title? For instance, child labor and selling of women into other countries for domestic chores as cleaning cooking is in itself a form of slavery.


American slavery began in the year 1619 when the Dutch imported Africans to the state of Virginia to act as workers in the huge cotton and tobacco plantations. With the cotton gin being invented to improve the production of cotton, an increase in demand for cheap labor to operate the cotton gins led to the increase in slavery. The colonialists in the south also led to more slavery since they needed more laborious to work in their firms. The Abolition movement, western expansion, differing opinions a self-emancipation led to a bloody civil war. The north and South states had different opinions regarding the issue of slavery. Slavery still has a legacy in the contemporary society. It still exists to date only that it comes with a different title. In the culture of US, there is a high rate of racism where the Blacks are disadvantaged and are not to as many opportunities as the whites. This has created a huge economic gap. In other nations child, labor and selling off their female abroad is also a form of slavery.


Goyal, Y. (2014). African atrocity, American humanity: slavery and its transnational afterlives. Research in African Literatures, 45(3), 48-71.

O’Connell, H. A. (2012). The impact of slavery on racial inequality in poverty in the contemporary US South. Social Forces, 90(3), 713-734.

Seetah, K., Birch, T., Calaon, D., & aval, S. (2017). Colonial iron in context: the Trianon slave shackle from Mauritius. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 9(3), 419-430.

Austin, G. (2008). The ‘reversal of fortune’thesis and the compression of history: Perspectives from African and comparative economic history. Journal of international development, 20(8), 996-1027.

Adadevoh, D. (2016). Impact of slavery on society today. Slavery and Abolition, 24(2), 51-68.

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