The Impact of Slavery on American Society

Slavery shaped the lives of so many people all around the world. Many African Americans were drug from their homes and used for labor. These slaves worked mostly in horrible conditions, some suffered physical abuse, and some never even made it off the ship to their slave owners land.

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Slaves often had a long journey on a ship where they died of diseases, dehydration, starvation, as well as many more causes. Slavery had a huge impact on African Americans who had to endure those conditions. Today, people are lucky that they have the freedom that they do and cannot be used for labor without their consent or payment of their services.

The act of slavery started between 1526 and 1867. During the voyages that these slaves had to encounter, several of them never made it to America. As stated by Steven Mintz, “some 12.5 million slaves had been shipped from Africa, and 10.7 million had arrived to the Americas” (Mintz). The Middle Passage was a dangerous and miserable journey for African slaves. One main reason slaves never made it to America was due to unsanitary, tight, and abusive conditions that they had to encounter. Men were kept naked, held down by leg irons, and packed together to where there was no room to move at all. Women and children were kept naked and kept separate from men but also in tight quarters where they could barely move. The Liverpool International Slavery Museum wrote, “the lack of sanitation and suffocating conditions meant there was a constant threat of disease” (Liverpool International Slavery Museum). Disease was a common reason for death. Smallpox and dysentery being the most common. Captives were among these ships for two months or even longer. About twelve percent of slaves who embarked on these journeys did not survive the voyage. Other than the ship conditions that slaves endured, many were also mistreated by their owners once reaching their destination.

Many captives were mistreated by their oppressors. Several slaves were introduced to inhumane living and working conditions. These circumstances often exhausted their bodies or even killed them. Many symptoms that these captives experienced were blindness, abdominal swelling, bowed legs, skin lesions, and many more. These slaves were often susceptible to diarrhea, dysentery, whooping cough, and respiratory diseases. Children often died of worms. Many slaves were worked beyond what their bodies could handle. Women were a part of those who were worked beyond their limits and were rarely released from slave work. Even during the last week of pregnancy, they would still be forced to do as much of their work as possible. After having their children, they would not have long before going back to work. According to Steven Mintz, “most infants of enslaved mothers were weaned within three or four months. Even in the eighteenth century, the earliest weaning age advised by doctors was eight months” (Mintz). These newborns were defenseless and lacked enough nutrients that were needed for proper health and growth. The mortality rate among young slave children was twice as high compared to white children. Infants who were born into slavery weighed less than 5.5 pounds which is severely underweight. Most infants died within the first year of their life. The main reason they did not make it was due to malnourishment from not having their mothers there to keep them healthy. Slaves were very overworked and in unsanitary conditions, but these workers proved to be very beneficial to their slave owners.

Slaveholders would have one-hundred and fifty or more slaves working on their plantations at a time. Owners would give only as much food and shelter that was needed for their survival. They would also make them work all day long. This would ensure that they were getting the most for their money. Men were able to produce more for their slave owners than any other slave. But women held their value because they can work in the field and have children who could also someday work on the plantation. When slavery was abolished in the northern states, not as many households owned slaves. Between 1830 and 1860, households owning slaves went from thirty-six percent to twenty-five. In 1863, slavery started to die down due to the Confiscation Acts and Emancipation Proclamation. But the Civil War is what successfully ended slavery, even before the Thirteenth Amendment was finalized which formally ended slavery throughout the United States.

American society still today suffers from the repercussions brought about from slavery. Since 1865, when the 13th Amendment was sought, previous slaveholders started treating people of the opposite color more like equals. Although, this did take a tremendous amount of time to get to where we are today. Some people thought and still think that African Americans are beneath whites. This continues to negatively impact the economic, cultural, social, political, and civil rights of African Americans today. Another point that could be made on how slavery affects us today would be on how we portray people of a different color. Oftentimes when they try to get a job or try to get an education their color might make people leerier of them before letting them in. Also, the justice system has been thought of as treating African Americans as unequal with acts of police brutality and, for a while, voting restrictions. Whites thinking of themselves as superior to African Americans is not so much a problem today as it has been in the past but will forever be a part of our society.

Slaves during this period were horribly mistreated. Their journeys to America were less than enjoyable, many of them never made it and died on the way over suffering from diseases and other causes. Captives who did make it over were used for hard labor, whipped, and many died of malnutrition and disease as well. Slaveholders would work their slaves until they had nothing left in them and died. Luckily, the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment ended the legality of slavery.

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