When you are a child, you tend to believe everything that your parents tell you. The environment that you grow up in shapes your views and values. White people mistreated African-Americans and enslaved them. The white children saw this abuse and followed in the footsteps of their parents. When the children saw those around them abusing their power, they knew of nothing else. There is no justifiable excuse for their behavior, however it is important to see that this was a different time. We have to ask questions like why was owning another human being acceptable? Why was slavery legal? We would be missing very important part of history if we only highlighted the horrific acts being commited. We must look at why slavery was allowed in the first place in order to fully comprehend what life was like in those days.
In order to understand why slavery was ever being justified, we need to look at the very start. Slavery began in 1619 when a Dutch ship carrying 20 African slaves was transported to Jamestown, Virginia. According to a timeline made by Ferris State University, the first African to be enslaved for life was John Punch in 1640. Just a year later, Massachusetts sanctioned slavery as a legal institution. A year after, Virginia made it so the status of the mother determined the fate of the black child. If the mother was enslaved, the child was also. Many harsh laws followed throughout the country. Slavery was normalized.
Slavery became part of the white man’s lifestyle. When looking at the life of Thomas Jefferson, you can see that he would be nowhere without slaves. Jefferson, like many slaveholders, hated slavery; yet all of his life he profited from it. It is imperative that we realize that this was a different time. We need to take a step back. We can all say that if we were living in the eighteen hundreds, we would be abolitionists and hate the idea of owning another human being; but would we be telling the truth? We do not know or understand what it was like living in a time where owning other people was normal. Did people actually believe that slavery was from God, or were they just lying to themselves?
Many slaveholders justified their owning slaves by asking why white men should do the dirty work when African-Americans could do it. They were also blinded by their need to be or look inferior to the rest of the world. White Americans were so worried about what other countries saw, they were willing to sacrifice the lives of others. Even the white Americans, who did not own slaves were extremely racist and believed themselves to be the superior race. Slavery went from being called a “necessary evil”, to a positive thing that was necessary for human progress.
An abundance of slaveholders thought themselves to be kind masters. In chapter eleven of Give Me Liberty, its states that, “ ‘the master’ wrote one planter, ‘as the head of the system, has a right to the obedience and labor of the slave, but the slave also has the mutual rights in the master; the right of protection, the right of counsel and guidance, the right of subsistence, the right of care and attention in sickness and old age.” Slaveholders thought that if they gave African-Americans a fraction of their entitled rights, that would overlook the fact that they are holding people against their will and forcing them to work under strenuous conditions. This mindset that they called “paternalism” was a poor attempt to try to mask their guilt.
A substantial amount of slaveholders used the Bible as an attempt to justify their actions. They misquoted several passages such as 1 Peter 2:18, “slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but to those who are harsh.” however, “Christian” slaveholders neglected to read 1 Timothy 1:10 where they are being compared to the sexually immoral, liars and perjurers by Paul. Paul also writes earlier in Colossians 4:1, “masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a master in heaven.” the Christian slaveholders picked and chose what they wanted from the Bible in order to fit their agenda.
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