Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Slavery was not a new institution when the American colonies began to develop. It was not some new part of life that they had invented. It had been around for many many centuries. So what was so different about slavery in America? It was so obvious!
Take a look at the rest of the world during the early colonization of the Americas. It was crowded. There were so many people that occupied the lands. Europe was bursting at its seams which is one reason the New World was so inviting.
Europe had thousands and thousands of slaves. The buying of selling of men, women, and children was not uncommon. It was a part of life. The Mediterranean countries had been dealing in the slave market for centuries. The African nations were experts at capturing neighboring tribal members and selling them into slavery. But in America the population and the culture was small and exposing.
When the vast resources were discovered in the New World, the settlers began to realize that there was no conceivable way to farm all that land by themselves even with new arrivals from Europe. A few of them were wonderful as indentured servants, but what was needed were long-term helpers that had no choice but to work the fields and help in the homes. The solution was to look toward the old ways of getting help. Slavery became the answer.
The colonists found a vast resource of manpower in Africa and eventually even in China. Warring tribes were more than happy to sell the captives to the slave traders for plenty of gold. The amount of human resource seemed endless which caused the amount of slave trading in the Americas to increase at such an alarming rate that very soon it became the most slave populated area in the world.
Slavery in the Americas could not be hidden as it could in the more populated areas of Europe. It was very evident and widely used. Now, the treatment of the slaves begins to take over political conversations all over the Americas and in Europe. The topic of the humane treatment is on the forefront of everyone’s minds.
In some cultures, slavery has been a very humane way of treating prisoners. Some civilizations viewed them as just unpaid help and some even viewed them as part of the family but without the freedom that the family had. But the idea of slavery that we have today comes from many slave owners who viewed their slave labor as nothing more than animals.
Slavery in the Americas exposed the ugly side of the practice. It showed how many were raped, beaten, and killed sometimes at the whim of their masters. Were all masters like this? No. In fact there were many that followed the more “civilized” way of handling slaves by treating them well and even granting them their freedom after a time. Others, unfortunately, saw them as just things to abuse and mistreat.
Due to the ugliness of the slave trade, many voices began to be raised demanding that the institution of slavery be abolished everywhere. It began in Europe but quickly made its way to the Americas. It took many years and lots of struggles in the political circles and out in the real world. Laws were slowly passed that stopped any new purchases of slaves. Over time territories and states began to ban the practice. It was only after the American Civil War is an obvious shift toward complete abolishment of slavery seen.
Slavery in America was not a new institution. It was a corrupted one that met its legal end with much pain and blood.