Sunday, September 15, 2013

American Slavery, American Freedom

Slavery and Freedom—why did slavery and freedom grow together in British North America?

The  Triangular Trade--involved trade among people on four continents: Europe, Africa, and North and South America (trade with the so-called "New World"--North and South American--is usually counted as one entity, making the trade three cornered). Europeans benefited most directly by the triangular trade, since their ships did nearly all of the transporting. The profits from this slave trade led to the growth of the banking industry, and provided the financing for the Industrial Revolution. Africa provided most of the slaves for the Slave Trade—and this trade controlled by Africans. African peoples along coast traded slaves for European trade goods. Initially this meant cloth that Africans did not manufacture themselves (particularly woolen goods) which were valuable because of their novelty. Later, Africans acquired Firearms and Rum, like the Native Americans;  the acquisition of firearms and rum changed the complexion of this trade, allowing those people who acquired firearms to control and subjugate neighboring peoples—and to control the slave trade. Europeans also sought gold from their African trading partners; largely from the so-called “Gold Coast,” located along the coastline of present-day Ghana. Slave acquired from a variety of sources in Africa were then transported across the Atlantic Ocean and sold to the highest bidder, who used the labor of these slaves to grow crops that were desirable in the trade--gold, sugar cane, tobacco, rice, and eventually cotton. Eventually, the labor of slaves was used to create many manufactured goods, as well, which many non-slave workers found threatening.

   Slavery and the Middle Passage—as slavery became more lucrative, slave ships transported greater numbers of slaves per voyage—meaning that slaves were packed tighter together. Typically, about 10% of the Africans died on any given voyage. While not statistically more significant than those Europeans who died on their own journey to the Americas, it is qualitatively different because no Africans emigrated willingly, while many Europeans—even those who became indentured servants—did.Statistically, many more Africans were shipped to the Sugar Islands and Brazil over British North America. On the eve of the American Revolution in 1770, about 20% of the 2.3 million people in British North America (about 460,000) were African or African descendents.

Slavery in North America—in British North America, slavery developed into three distinct systems: the Chesapeake Slavery system, the Carolina Slaver system, and northern slavery. The Chesapeake Slavery was the oldest form in North America, having been established in 1619 with the landing of the first slaves by Dutch slave traders. In the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion—after 1680, labor in the Chesapeake region shifted from mixed indentured servitude and slavery to the near exclusive use of slave labor, used both on tobacco farms and later to grow wheat (to feed the slave populations on the sugar islands, ironically.  Slaves worked as workers in a variety of occupations as workers, including  cultivation of crops (tobacco, wheat), as house servants, and as skilled and semi-skilled workers, which made the slave South less attractive to European immigrants, particularly during the 19th century. Slavery moved westward with the country, and as the population moved west, so did slavery (Thomas Jefferson). Because slave owners produced greater wealth for themselves, they were able to buy the best land in these western areas, which in turn allowed them to continue to create more wealth, and created a social and political elite in the region that allowed the interests of slave holders to predominate. The racial foundations of slavery—the perception of race (remember, race is a social construct) developed later.

In the Carolinas initially, Indian Slavery—the earliest slaves in Carolina were Indians, largely supplied by the Creek people—until they realized that they themselves could become slaves, and which time the withdrew from trade relations with English colonists in favor of trading with the Spanish in Florida, who no longer took many Indian peoples as slaves. As Native American sources for slaves dried up, and England took control of the transport of slaves from Africa, African slaves became more prevalent in the Carolinas. Like many growers in Virginia, the road to riches in the Carolinas was through providing foodstuffs for the slave workforce of the Sugar Islands (since every available arable acre there was given over to the cultivation of sugar cane. This led to the development of Task organization of labor. Task organization of labor—slaves in Virginia were closely supervised, and had to occupy all of their time with assigned jobs. In part, this was driven by the fact that tobacco cultivation gained little because of efficiencies of scale (workers could not be forced to work faster, because each tobacco plant needed individual care). Rice plantations, on the other hand, gained greatly because of economies of scale, because of the series of dikes that had to be constructed to alternatively flood and drain the fields—but organizing slaves using the task system, slave drivers allowed slaves greater freedom, in that they were allowed to work for themselves when their assigned tasks were completed. Slave populations grewafter African slaves were introduced to the Carolinas (particularly South Carolina—North Carolina became a separate colony by the 1730s), they quickly made up the majority of the population. In part, this was a consequence of the large numbers of slaves used in the cultivation of rice; but Carolina planters also actively discouraged the settlement of poorer whites in the colony, except on the poorest land (the Appalachian Mountains). Georgia largely followed the Carolina model after the 1740s, when the resistance of the colony’s proprietors (in particular, James Oglethorpe) was finally overcome

                                   Northern slavery—Overlooked in history largely, slavery also existed in the colonies of the Middle Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—all three states retained slavery well into the 19th century, as well) and New England. In Connecticut and Rhode Island—tobacco farms and dairy farms in certain parts of these two states led to them developing relatively large slave populations. In the Middle Atlantic colonies—New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all has a significant number of slaves working on wheat farms, again largely for export of foodstuffs for the slaves working on sugar plantations in the Caribbean. Particularly in New York City and Philadelphia, however, slaves were also employed as urban workers: stevedores (loading and unloading ships), as skilled and semi-skilled workers in artisan shops—and as personal servants. Slaves in the north were a sort of status symbol—by the early 18th century, about 75% of the urban elite owned slaves employed as personal servants

Slave Cultures and Slave Resistance--Africans did not arrive in the New World with a modern identity as African or especially as African Americans; they instead became these new entities we call African Americans. They did not arrive in America as a single African people, but as many African peoples. They were bonded together because of their state of bondage, not because of any “racial identity. African American culture developed over a course of years, as new languages developed (ex. Gullah, and other dialects that combined African and European languages—“creole”). African culture also developed differently—and at a different pace—depending upon the density of African American population. In the  Carolinas and Georgia, many Africans retained and developed African and Africa-based cultural practices, which were particularly strong in those areas where African descendents made up a majority of the population. In the Chesapeake region, African American culture was different, because African American population remained in close contact—and under close supervision—of whites. In the Middle Atlantic and New England—because African Americans were largely dispersed in both of these regions, it was much more difficult to retain and develop new African cultural practices in these two regions.

  Slave Resistance--slaved also resisted their condition in a variety of ways: in everyday resistance methods like  “Going slow,” “acting dumb;” acts of sabotage, and in running away. There were also organized rebellions like the Stono Rebellion 1739-1740 and the NYC burning(?) 1741.

Conclusion—As we saw in the reading of the complaint of the indentured servant last week, many whites come to see their position as undesirable, and compare it unfavorably  with the position that slaves held—but this was not done as an effort to raise the conditions of slaves, but instead becomes a plea for white solidarity.

No comments: