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But before he gets into his description of these periods, he makes an important observation:. The great bulk—more than 85 percent of the total—went to Brazil and the various Caribbean islands…the United States, or more accurately for most of the slave-trade years, the colonies that would later become the United States, imported only , to , Africans, some 6 percent of all the slaves brought from Africa to the New World. During the Colonial Era, when slavery was prevalent throughout the entire original thirteen colonies, the British settlers confronted pure Africans, complete with language, custom and political differences.

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This was also a time when the Africans shared their bondage with both white indentured servants and enslaved Native Americans. The native people proved hard to subdue, however, because they understood their physical environment; but ultimately, it was diseases introduced by the Europeans, along with the mass murder and oppressive labor, that reduced their worth as laborers. It is estimated that a century after Columbus, the indigenous population of both North and South America had shrunk by about ninety percent.

In that sense, the Africans, because of their physical differences, their confusion with their new environment, and their hardy nature, became a God sent for the English settlers. As the years passed, slavery became increasingly concentrated in the southern colonies. By the time we arrive at the Revolutionary Era, 40 per cent of blacks in the north were now freemen, in contrast to 4 per cent in the south. This period also gave the first real challenge to slavery.

The Revolution posed the biggest challenge the slave regime would face until the outbreak of the Civil War some eighty-five years later; indeed, it appeared for a while as if the very survival of slavery in the new nation was threatened. Later, after the revolution proved to be successful, the highflying rhetoric of the movement came back to the haunt the white Americans. But, anyone who has lived in the state of Virginia, like I have, could also understand Jefferson.

It is a blessed land filled with soft, green rolling hills, and highly productive soil for growing all things, barely imaginable.

Jonathan D. Martin. Divided Mastery: Slave Hiring in the American South.

First, in an enterprising young man by the name of Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin. The mechanization of spinning in England had created a greatly expanded market for U. The Cotton Gin changed that, and is credited with making cotton virtually the only crop of the U. It became the oil of its day. Third, there was the Mother Nature, or the nature of the climate. How could they had made use of this land without the African? Here how Gov. Johnson of Georgia, in a speech in Philadelphia on Sept.

And why? Because the climate is deadly to the white man. He could not go there and live a week; and therefore the vast territory would be a barren waste unless Capital owned labor. All of this created a greater demand for slaves. This demand was compounded by the fact that the African slave trade official ended in So when we get to the antebellum period of American slavery, any high-minded talk of possible freedom for blacks slowly came to an end in the south.

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It powered textile manufacturing in both New England and England, and it paid for American imports of everything from steel to investment capital. Moreover, since the price of slaves continued to soar through the antebellum decades, American slaves represented more capital than any other asset in the nation with the exception of land. In the value of Southern slaves was about three times the value of the capital stock in manufacturing and railroads nationwide. In many ways, we can see faint echoes of this today in the value placed on the Mexican worker. As an article in Forbes once pointed out, these uncomplaining, low wageworkers are the difference between some business people being merely well-off, or being rich beyond their wildest dreams.

But the caring was tempered and limited by the power imbalance under which it grew. Within the narrow confines of slavery, human relationships ran the gamut from compassionate to contemptuous. But the masters and slaves never approached equality. The standard image of Southern slavery is that of a large plantation with hundreds of slaves. In fact, such situations were rare. Whites who did not own slaves were primarily yeoman farmers. Practically speaking, the institution of slavery did not help these people.


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  • And yet most non-slaveholding white Southerners identified with and defended the institution of slavery. Though many resented the wealth and power of the large slaveholders, they aspired to own slaves themselves and to join the priviledged ranks. In addition, slavery gave the farmers a group of people to feel superior to.

    They may have been poor, but they were not slaves, and they were not black. They gained a sense of power simply by being white.

    Slavery in the American South

    In the lower South the majority of slaves lived and worked on cotton plantations. Most of these plantations had fifty or fewer slaves, although the largest plantations have several hundred. Cotton was by far the leading cash crop, but slaves also raised rice, corn, sugarcane, and tobacco.

    Many plantations raised several different kinds of crops. Besides planting and harvesting, there were numerous other types of labor required on plantations and farms. Enslaved people had to clear new land, dig ditches, cut and haul wood, slaughter livestock, and make repairs to buildings and tools. In many instances, they worked as mechanics, blacksmiths, drivers, carpenters, and in other skilled trades. Black women carried the additional burden of caring for their families by cooking and taking care of the children, as well as spinning, weaving, and sewing.

    Slave Hiring in the American South

    Some slaves worked as domestics, providing services for the master's or overseer's families. These people were designated as "house servants," and though their work appeared to be easier than that of the "field slaves," in some ways it was not.

    They were constantly under the scrutiny of their masters and mistresses, and could be called on for service at any time. They had far less privacy than those who worked the fields. Because they lived and worked in such close proximity, house servants and their owners tended to form more complex relationships. Black and white children were especially in a position to form bonds with each other.

    In most situations, young children of both races played together on farms and plantations. Black children might also become attached to white caretakers, such as the mistress, and white children to their black nannies. Because they were so young, they would have no understanding of the system they were born into. But as they grew older they would learn to adjust to it in whatever ways they could. The diets of enslaved people were inadequate or barely adequate to meet the demands of their heavy workload. They lived in crude quarters that left them vulnerable to bad weather and disease.

    Their clothing and bedding were minimal as well.

    Divided Mastery: Slave Hiring in the American South

    Slaves who worked as domestics sometimes fared better, getting the castoff clothing of their masters or having easier access to food stores. The heat and humidity of the South created health problems for everyone living there. However, the health of plantation slaves was far worse than that of whites. Unsanitary conditions, inadequate nutrition and unrelenting hard labor made slaves highly susceptible to disease.


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    Illnesses were generally not treated adequately, and slaves were often forced to work even when sick.