Slavery is a type of dependence of one person from another, which anthropologists call rights-in-persons. Its range is very wide: on the one hand – the obligations to relatives, spouses, and children, somewhere in the middle – the relationship between the superior and the subordinate, and finally, on the other hand – the right to manage people as a commodity to sell, buy, and exchange them. From the very beginning, the United States cultivated slavery which was an integral part of the American way of life, and was formed in the womb of capitalism, reflecting a feature of its formation in the agrarian economy of North America. The discussed issue is the most complex set of socio-economic, socio-political, civil, and racial issues, which roots go deep into the American history. The present work attempts to highlight the problem of slavery in the United States, focusing on its formation and establishment because it is a long-standing institution that has been impacting on the American society development.

Background and Reasons for the Development of Slavery in the United States

The US had 170 years (1607-1776) of its early history being in colonial dependence on Britain. The development of the New World was a matter of three more or less equal primary groups that mastered the Americans. The joint-stock bourgeois companies rushed across the ocean in search of markets, profits, and sources of raw materials. Protestants hoped to transfer their religious and ethical principles to the new country. Aristocrats mused about the vast fiefdoms.

The so-called proprietary colonies, which were created by the English aristocracy on the Stuart feudal donations basis, possessed the endless expanses of land and had all conditions for the agriculture development. Lands of the New World, especially in the southern and in the middle lane, were fertile, and the climate was favorable.

The emergence of the black Africans in the British colonies of North America was caused by the labor problem, which urgently confronted the first settlers. The possibility of acquiring the ownership of land and the conversion of the colonists in smallholders meant establishing the absolute dependence of the worker on the employer by coercive measures that formed the institution of slavery as the only background of colonial wealth.

The color slavery in the British North American colonies came together with the first settlements on the distant continent. A Black brought from Africa was not synonymous with the word slave in the first years. Skin color did not matter because colonial authorities and independent settlers widely practiced the slave labor of red Indians and Whites before the introduction of the Negro slavery. In the middle of the XVIII century, there were 13 not mutually dependent states (provinces) divided into smaller administrative units in North America. It demanded a lot of slave labor for the sake of their prosperity.

Labor Force from Africa

Africans were brought to America as indentured staff, but very soon the contracting system was replaced by the improved system of slavery. In 1641, in Massachusetts, the labor of the slaves was turned into the life-term work; the law of 1661, identified slavery as the hereditary bondage of mother to her children in Virginia. Similar legislation that perpetuated slavery was adopted in Maryland, New York, North and South Carolina.

Imported to America, black slaves were mostly residents of the western coast of Africa; a much smaller part belonged to the tribes of Central and Southern Africa as well as North Africa and the Island of Madagascar. Negros of different tribes and stages of social and economic development with the own customs and languages were among them. By the end of the XVII century, the Royal African Company had a monopoly on the American slave trade in the British colonies. However, in 1698 it was abolished, and the colonies were granted the right to be independently engaged in the slave trade, which took even greater dimensions after 1713, when England won the right to Asiento – exclusive right of the Negro slaves trade.

Blacks were caught, bought, and treated as goods; they were loaded into the fetid holds of ships and transported to America. The whole Africa was turned into the hunting field on Blacks. Slave factories were established along the west coast of Africa from Cape Verde to the equator. The parties of slaves rounded up with ropes around their necks and bound in chains were held there. In dirty and cramped barracks, they were expecting the arrival of slave ships. A ship with a displacement of nearly hundred tons of cargo could contain more than five hundred slaves. Shackled Negroes were herded into the hold on the shelves; the distance between them was so small that each person had space which was smaller than in a coffin (EJL 2).

Slaves died in the barracks and during the sailings because of a lack of air, illnesses, madness, or simply throwing into the sea, preferring death to slavery. However, slave traders received fabulous profits from the sale of the survivors. The slaves were cheap and quickly practiced their value. Thus, planters preferred to torture a slave by the overwork in short terms. Slave labor was used extensively on plantations, including cotton and sugar fields, as well as in the domestic sphere, becoming the primary work force in the colonies.

Resistance and Fight for Freedom

The first independent state in the Western Hemisphere was formed when the North American colonies fought for their independence (1775-1783). However, in spite of the slogans which proclaimed that all men were created equal the first American Revolution (the Independence War) did nothing with the slavery in southern states. The second American Revolution – the Civil War of 1861-1865 – did not lead to radical solutions as well. Slavery became illegal and caused more victims among the Blacks.

It would be unfair to say that slavery was the natural state of Negroes, as some racist historians argue. The representatives of various tribes, speaking different languages, were able to overcome intertribal strife and unite in the fight against their common enemy – the slavers and planters. Thus, conspiracies in Virginia and New York were disclosed. During the period from 1663 to 1863, when the Black slavery was abolished, more than 250 Negro revolts and conspiracies were recorded, including such large ones as the uprisings led by Cato (1739) in Stono (South Carolina), Gabriel (1800) in Henrico (Virginia), Denmark Vesey (1822) in Charleston (South Carolina), and Nat Turner (1831) Southampton (Virginia). Negro uprisings were brutally suppressed. However, even those scattered outbreaks of the desperately oppressed slaves forced planters to tremble with fear.

Negro slaves expressed their indignation in such forms of protests as corruption tools, supervisors’ and owners’ murder, suicides, and runaways, etc. Rebellions of slaves awakened the consciousness of Americans and contributed to the development of a broad democratic movement which, together with the struggle of Blacks, led to the ultimate abolition of slavery. The formation of the nationally organized abolitionist movement (Negro liberation movement supporters) in the United States referred to the first part of the XIX century. From that moment, a period of history, which eventually ended with the final victory over slavery and the triumph of equality in America, began.

The research paper shows that the slave period was the cruelest time in the development of North America. It initiated a large-scale racial discrimination, which still echoes today. African slaves were forcibly brought to America, where they worked hard and faced early unjust death. Planters and young bourgeoisie needed their labor because they were not able to handle land and raise plants and factories as well as were not ready to pay the honestly hired employees. Thus, the use of slave labor was inevitable. However, the resistance of slaves risen in rebellions awakened the consciousness of white Americans, who joined the fight for the rights of the Black in the frames of the abolitionist movement.

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  1. Lala

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