Slavery in the United States

Slavery in the United States

Slavery in the United States began soon after English colonists first settled Virginia in 1607 and lasted until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865. Before the widespread establishment of chattel slavery, much labor was organized under a system of bonded labor known as "indentured servitude." This typically lasted for several years for white and black alike, and it was a means of using labor to pay the costs of transporting people to the colonies. [ [ The First Black Americans - US News and World Report ] ] By the 18th century, court rulings established the racial basis of the American incarnation of slavery to apply chiefly to Black Africans and people of African descent, and occasionally to Native Americans. [ [ Reprinted from: Gallay, Alan, "Forgotten Story of Indian Slavery", "Arab News (", August 3, 2003.] ] In part because of the Southern colonies' devotion of resources to tobacco culture, which was labor intensive, by the end of the 17th century they had a higher number and proportion of slaves than in the north. [ [ The First Black Americans - US News and World Report ] ]

From 1654 until 1865, slavery for life was legal within the boundaries of the present United States. [ [ The shaping of Black America: forthcoming 400th celebration reminds America that Blacks came before The Mayflower and were among the founders of this country.(BLACK HISTORY)(Jamestown, VA)(Interview)(Excerpt) - Jet | ] ] Most slaves were black and were held by whites, although some Native Americans and free blacks also held slaves. The majority of slaveholding was in the southern United States where most slaves were engaged in an efficient machine-like gang system of agriculture. According to the 1860 U.S. census, nearly four million slaves were held in a total population of just over 12 million in the 15 states in which slavery was legal. [ [ 1860 Census Results] , The Civil War Home Page.] Of all 1,515,605 families in the 15 slave states, 393,967 held slaves (roughly one in four), [ [ 1860 Census Results] , The Civil War Home Page.] amounting to 8% of all American families. [ [ American Civil War Census Data] ] Most slaveholding households, however, had only a few slaves. The majority of slaves was held by planters, defined by historians as those who held 20 or more slaves. [cite web |url= |title=Historians and the extent of slave ownership in the Southern United States |accessdate=2007-11-23 |author=Otto H. Olsen |year=2004 |month=December |work=Civil War History | ] The planters achieved wealth and social and political power. Ninety-five percent of black people lived in the South, comprising one-third of the population there, as opposed to 2% of the population of the North. [cite book |last=James M. McPherson |title=Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War |year=1996 |publisher=Oxford University Press |location=New York |isbn=0-19-509679-7 |pages=p. 15 ]

The wealth of the United States in the first half of the 19th century was greatly enhanced by the labor of African Americans. [cite book |last=James Oliver Horton |coauthors=Lois E. Horton |title=Slavery and the Making of America |year=2005 |publisher=Oxford University Press |location=New York |isbn=0-19-517903-X |pages=p. 7 |quote=The slave trade and the products created by slaves' labor, particularly cotton, provided the basis for America's wealth as a nation. Such wealth provided some of the capital for the country's industrial revolution and enabled the United States to project its power into the rest of the world. ] [cite web |url= |title=Was slavery the engine of economic growth? |accessdate=2007-11-23 |publisher=Digital History ] But with the Union victory in the American Civil War, the slave-labor system was abolished in the South. [ [ Welcome to Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to Black History] ] This contributed to the decline of the postbellum Southern economy, [Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery, 1994 by Robert William Fogel] though the South also faced significant new competition from foreign cotton producers such as India and Egypt, and the cotton gin had made cotton production less labor-intensive in any case. Northern industry, which had expanded rapidly before and during the war, surged even further ahead of the South's agricultural economy. Industrialists from northeastern states came to dominate many aspects of the nation's life, including social and some aspects of political affairs. The planter class of the South lost power temporarily. The rapid economic development following the Civil War accelerated the development of the modern U.S. industrial economy.

Twelve million black Africans were shipped to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th centuries. [cite book |last=Ronald Segal |title=The Black Diaspora: Five Centuries of the Black Experience Outside Africa |year=1995 |publisher=Farrar, Straus and Giroux |location=New York |isbn=0-374-11396-3 |pages=p. 4 |quote=It is now estimated that 11,863,000 slaves were shipped across the Atlantic. [Note in original: Paul E. Lovejoy, "The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa: A Review of the Literature," in "Journal of African History" 30 (1989), p. 368.] ... It is widely conceded that further revisions are more likely to be upward than downward. ] [cite web |url= |title=Quick guide: The slave trade |accessdate=2007-11-23 |date=March 15, 2007 | ] Of these, an estimated 645,000 (5.4% of the total) were brought to what is now the United States. The overwhelming majority were shipped to Brazil [Stephen D. Behrendt, David Richardson, and David Eltis, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research, Harvard University. Based on "records for 27,233 voyages that set out to obtain slaves for the Americas". cite book |last=Stephen Behrendt |title=Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience |year=1999 |publisher=Basic Civitas Books |location=New York |isbn=0-465-00071-1 |chapter=Transatlantic Slave Trade |quote=] The slave population in the United States had grown to four million by the 1860 Census. [ [ Introduction - Social Aspects of the Civil War] ]

Colonial America

The first record of African slavery in Colonial America occurred in 1619. A Dutch ship, the "White Lion", had captured 20 enslaved Africans in a battle with a Spanish ship bound for Mexico. The Dutch ship had been damaged first by the battle and then more severely in a great storm during the late summer when it came ashore at Old Point Comfort, site of present day Fort Monroe in Virginia. Though the colony was in the middle of a period later known as "The Great Migration" (1618-1623), during which its population grew from 450 to 4,000 residents, extremely high mortality rates from disease, malnutrition, and war with Native Americans kept the population of able-bodied laborers low [] . With the Dutch ship being in severe need of repairs and supplies and the colonists being in need of able-bodied workers, the human cargo was traded for food and services.

In addition to African slaves, Europeans, mostly Irish, [ [ The Irish in the Caribbean 1641-1837: An Overview] ] Scottish, [ [ White Slavery, what the Scots already know] ] English, and Germans, were brought over in substantial numbers as indentured servants, [ [ Indentured Servitude in Colonial America] ] particularly in the British Thirteen Colonies. [ [ "The curse of Cromwell"] , "A Short History of Northern Ireland", BBC. Retrieved October 24, 2007.] Over half of all white immigrants to the English colonies of North America during the 17th and 18th centuries consisted of indentured servants. [ [ White Servitude] ] The white citizens of Virginia, who had arrived from Britain, decided to treat the first Africans in Virginia as indentured servants. As with European indentured servants, the Africans were freed after a stated period and given the use of land and supplies by their former owners, and at least one African American, Anthony Johnson, eventually became a landowner on the Eastern Shore and a slave-owner. [ [ Frontline: Famous Families ] ] The major problem with indentured servants was that, in time, they would be freed, but they were unlikely to become prosperous. The best lands in the tidewater regions were already in the hands of wealthy plantation families by 1650, and the former servants became an underclass. Bacon's Rebellion showed that the poor laborers and farmers could prove a dangerous element to the wealthy landowners. By switching to pure chattel slavery, new white laborers and small farmers were mostly limited to those who could afford to immigrate and support themselves.

The transformation from indentured servitude to racial slavery happened gradually. There were no laws regarding slavery early in Virginia's history. However, by 1640, the Virginia courts had sentenced at least one black servant to slavery.

In 1654, John Casor, a black man, became the first legally-recognized slave in the area to become the United States.A court in Northampton County ruled against Casor, declaring him property for life, "owned" by the black colonist Anthony Johnson. Since persons with African origins were not English citizens by birth, they were not necessarily covered by English Common Law.

The Virginia Slave codes of 1705 made clear the status of slaves. During the British colonial period, every colony had slavery. Those in the north were primarily house servants. Early on, slaves in the South worked on farms and plantations growing indigo, rice, and tobacco; cotton became a major crop after the 1790s. [ "Slavery in America"] , "Encyclopedia Britannica's Guide to Black History". Retrieved October 24, 2007.] In South Carolina in 1720 about 65% of the population consisted of slaves. [Trinkley, M. [ "Growth of South Carolina's Slave Population"] , "South Carolina Information Highway". Retrieved October 24, 2007.] Slaves were used by rich farmers and plantation owners with commercial export operations. Backwoods subsistence farmers seldom owned slaves.

Some of the British colonies attempted to abolish the international slave trade, fearing that the importation of new Africans would be disruptive. Virginia bills to that effect were vetoed by the British Privy Council; Rhode Island forbade the import of slaves in 1774. All of the colonies except Georgia had banned or limited the African slave trade by 1786; Georgia did so in 1798 - although some of these laws were later repealed. [Morison and Commager: "Growth of the American Republic", pp. 212-220.]

The British West Africa Squadron's slave trade suppression activities were assisted by forces from the United States Navy, starting in 1820 with the USS "Cyane". Initially, this consisted of a few ships, but relationship was eventually formalised by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 into the Africa Squadron. [ [ Africa Squadron The U.S. Navy and the Slave Trade, 1842-1861] ]

1776 to 1850

econd Middle Passage

As the nation expanded west, so did the cultivation of cotton [Kolchin p. 96. In 1834, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana grew half the nation's cotton; by 1859, along with Georgia, they grew 78%. By 1859 cotton growth in the Carolinas had fallen to just 10% of the national total. Berlin p. 166. At the end of the War of 1812 there were less than 300,000 bales of cotton produced nationally. By 1820 this figure had increased to 600,000, and by 1850 it had reached 4,000,000.] and the institution of slavery. Historian Peter Kolchin wrote, "By breaking up existing families and forcing slaves to relocate far from everyone and everything they knew" this migration "replicated (if on a reduced level) many of [the] horrors" of the Atlantic slave trade. [Kolchin p. 96] Historian Ira Berlin called this movement the Second Middle Passage. Characterizing it as the "central event” in the life of a slave between the American Revolution and the Civil War, Berlin wrote that whether they were uprooted themselves or simply lived in fear that they or their families would be involuntarily moved, "the massive deportation traumatized black people, both slave and free." [ Berlin pp. 161-162]

Although complete statistics are lacking, it is estimated that 1,000,000 slaves moved west from the Old South between 1790 and 1860. Most of the slaves were moved from Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Originally the points of destination were Kentucky and Tennessee, but after 1810 Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas received the most. In the 1830s, almost 300,000 were transported, with Alabama and Mississippi receiving 100,000 each. Every decade between 1810 and 1860 had at least 100,000 slaves moved from their state of origin. In the final decade before the Civil War, 250,000 were moved. Michael Tadman, in a 1989 book "Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South", indicates that 60-70% of interregional migrations were the result of the sale of slaves. In 1820 a child in the Upper South had a 30% chance to be sold south by 1860. [Berlin pp. 168-169. Kolchin p. 96. Kolchin notes that Fogel and Engerman maintained that 84% of slaves moved with their families but "most other scholars assign far greater weight ... to slave sales." Ransome (p. 582) notes that Fogel and Engermann based their conclusions on the study of some counties in Maryland in the 1830s and attempt to extrapolate that as reflective of the entire South over the entire period.]

Slave traders were responsible for the majority of the slaves that moved west. Only a minority moved with their families and existing owner. Slave traders had little interest in purchasing or transporting intact slave families, although in the interest of creating a "self-reproducing labor force" equal numbers of men and women were transported. Berlin wrote, "The internal slave trade became the largest enterprise in the South outside the plantation itself, and probably the most advanced in its employment of modern transportation, finance, and publicity." The slave trade industry developed its own unique language with terms such as "prime hands, bucks, breeding wenches, and fancy girls" coming into common use. [Berlin pp. 166-169] The expansion of the interstate slave trade contributed to the "economic revival of once depressed seaboard states" as demand accelerated the value of the slaves that were subject to sale. [Kolchin p. 98]

Some traders moved their "chattels" by sea, with Norfolk to New Orleans being the most common route, but most slaves were forced to walk. Regular migration routes were established and were served by a network of slave pens, yards, and warehouses needed as temporary housing for the slaves. As the trek advanced, some slaves were sold and new ones purchased. Berlin concluded, "In all, the slave trade, with its hubs and regional centers, its spurs and circuits, reached into every cranny of southern society. Few southerners, black or white, were untouched." [Berlin pp. 168-171]

The death rate for the slaves on their way to their new destination across the American South was much less than that of the captives on their way across the Atlantic Ocean, but they were still higher than the normal death rate. Berlin summarizes the experience:

quote|... the Second Middle Passage was extraordinarily lonely, debilitating, and dispiriting. Capturing the mournful character of one southward marching coffle, an observer characterized it as "a procession of men, women, and children resembling that of a funeral." Indeed, with men and women dying on the march or being sold and resold, slaves became not merely commodified but cut off from nearly every human attachment....

Murder and mayhem made the Second Middle Passage almost as dangerous for traders as it was for slaves, which was why the men were chained tightly and guarded closely. ... The coffles that marched slaves southward – like the slave ships that carried their ancestors westward – became mobile fortresses, and under such circumstances, flight was more common than revolt. Slaves found it easier – and far less perilous – to slip into the night and follow the North Star to the fabled land of freedom than to confront their heavily armed overlords. [Berlin pp. 172-173]

Once the trip was ended, slaves faced a life on the frontier significantly different from their experiences back east. Clearing trees and starting crops on virgin fields was harsh and backbreaking work. A combination of inadequate nutrition, bad water, and exhaustion from both the journey and the work weakened the newly arrived slaves and produced casualties. The preferred locations of the new plantations in river bottoms with mosquitoes and other environmental challenges threatened the survival of slaves, who had acquired only limited immunities in their previous homes. The death rate was such that, in the first few years of hewing a plantation out of the wilderness, some planters preferred whenever possible to use rented slaves rather than their own. [Berlin p. 174]

The harsh conditions on the frontier increased slave resistance and led to much more reliance on violence by the owners and overseers. Many of the slaves were new to cotton fields and unaccustomed to the "sunrise-to-sunset gang labor" required by their new life. Slaves were driven much harder than when they were involved in growing tobacco or wheat back east. Slaves also had less time and opportunity to boost the quality of their lifestyle by raising their own livestock or tending vegetable gardens, for either their own consumption or trade, as they could in the eastern south. [Berlin p. 175-177]

In Louisiana it was sugar, rather than cotton, that was the main crop. Between 1810 and 1830 the number of slaves increased from under 10,000 to over 42,000. New Orleans became nationally important as a slave port and by the 1840s had the largest slave market in the country. Dealing with sugar cane was even more physically demanding than growing cotton, and the preference was for young males, who represented two-thirds of the slave purchases. The largely young, unmarried male slave force made the reliance on violence by the owners “especially savage.” [Berlin pp. 179-180]

Treatment of slaves

Historian Kenneth M. Stampp describes the role of coercion in slavery, “Without the power to punish, which the state conferred upon the master, bondage could not have existed. By comparison, all other techniques of control were of secondary importance.” Stampp further notes that while rewards sometimes led slaves to perform adequately, most agreed with an Arkansas slaveholder, who wrote:

According to both the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Brion Davis and Marxist historian Eugene Genovese, treatment of slaves was both harsh and inhumane. Whether laboring or walking about in public, people living as slaves were regulated by legally authorized violence. Davis makes the point that, while some aspects of slavery took on a "welfare capitalist" look,:

On large plantations, slave overseers were authorized to whip and brutalize non-compliant slaves. According to an account by a plantation overseer to a visitor, "'some negroes are determined never to let a white man whip them and will resist you, when you attempt it; of course you must kill them in that case" [Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. New York, New York: Harper Collins Publications, 2003.] Laws were passed that fined owners for not punishing recaptured runaway slaves. Slave codes authorized, indemnified or even required the use of violence, and were denounced by abolitionists for their brutality. Both slaves and free blacks were regulated by the Black Codes and had their movements monitored by slave patrols conscripted from the white population which were allowed to use summary punishment against escapees, sometimes maiming or killing them. In addition to physical abuse and murder, slaves were at constant risk of losing members of their families if their owners decided to trade them for profit, punishment, or to pay debts. A few slaves retaliated by murdering owners and overseers, burning barns, killing horses, or staging work slowdowns. [Genovese (1967)] Stampp, without contesting Genovese's assertions concerning the violence and sexual exploitation faced by slaves, does question the appropriateness of a Marxian approach in analyzing the owner-slave relationship. [Stampp, Kenneth M. "Interpreting the Slaveholders' World: a Review." Stampp writes, "Genovese writes with verve, and certainly he is never dull. But, in my opinion, his attempt to demonstrate the superiority of the Marxian interpretation of history must be adjudged a failure. Some may explain this by arguing that the book's point of view is not in fact very Marxian. My own explanation is that the antebellum South, with its essentially racial defense of slavery, and with its emphasis on caste rather than class, is just about as unpromising a place for the application of a Marxian interpretation of history as one can imagine."]

Genovese claims that because the slaves were the legal property of their owners, it was not unusual for enslaved black women to be raped by their owners, members of their owner's families, or their owner's friends. Children who resulted from such rapes were slaves as well because they took the status of their mothers, unless freed by the slaveholder. Nell Irwin Painter and other historians have also documented that Southern history went "across the color line". Contemporary accounts by Mary Chesnut and Fanny Kemble, both married in the planter class, as well as accounts by former slaves gathered under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), all attested to the abuse of women slaves by white men of the owning and overseer class.

However, the Nobel economist Robert Fogel controversially describes the belief that slave-breeding and sexual exploitation destroyed the black family as a myth. He argues that the family was the basic unit of social organization under slavery; it was to the economic interest of planters to encourage the stability of slave families, and most of them did so. Most slave sales were either of whole families or of individuals who were at an age when it would have been normal for them to have left the family.Weiss, T. [ "Review of Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, "Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery"] , "Economic History News Services - Book Reviews", November 16, 2001. Book review. Retrieved October 24, 2007.] However, eye-witness testimony from slaves, such as Frederick Douglass, does not agree with this account. Frederick Douglass, who grew up as a slave in Maryland, reported the systematic separation of slave families. He also reports the widespread rape of slave women, in order to boost slave numbers. Douglas, Frederick [ "Autobiography of Frederick Douglas"] , "Autobiography of Frederick Douglas", 1845. Book. Retrieved June 10, 2008.]

According to Genovese, slaves were fed, clothed, housed and provided medical care in the most minimal manner. It was common to pay small bonuses during the Christmas season, and some slave owners permitted their slaves to keep earnings and gambling profits. (One slave, Denmark Vesey, is known to have won a lottery and bought his freedom.) In many households, treatment of slaves varied with the slave's skin color. Darker-skinned slaves worked in the fields, while lighter-skinned house servants had comparatively better clothing, food and housing. [ Genovese (1967)]

As in President Thomas Jefferson's household, this was not merely an issue of skin color. Sometimes planters used light-skinned slaves as house servants because they were relatives. Several of Jefferson's household slaves were children of his father-in-law and an enslaved woman, who were brought to the marriage by Jefferson's wife.

However, Fogel argues that the material conditions of the lives of slaves compared favorably with those of free industrial workers. They were not good by modern standards, but this fact emphasizes the hard lot of all workers, free or slave, during the first half of the 19th century. Over the course of his lifetime, the typical slave field hand received about 90% of the income he produced.

In a survey, 58% of historians and 42% of economists disagreed with the proposition that the material condition of slaves compared favorably with those of free industrial workers.

Slaves were considered legal non-persons except if they committed crimes. An Alabama court asserted that slaves "are rational beings, they are capable of committing crimes; and in reference to acts which are crimes, are regarded as persons. Because they are slaves, they are incapable of performing civil acts, and, in reference to all such, they are things, not persons." [Catterall, Helen T., Ed. 1926. Judicial Cases Concerning Slavery and the Negro. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institute, p. 247]

In 1811, Arthur William Hodge was the first slave owner executed for the murder of a slave in the British West Indies. [John Andrew, " [ The Hanging of Arthur Hodge] " [] , Xlibris, 2000, ISBN 0-7388-1930-1. The assertion is probably correct; there appear to be no other records of any British slave owners being executed for holding slaves, and, given the excitement which the Hodge trial created, it seems improbable that another execution could have occurred without attracting attention. Slavery as an institution in the British West Indies only continued for another 23 years after Hodge's death.] He though was not, as some have claimed, the first white person to have been lawfully executed for the killing of a slave. [Vernon Pickering, "A Concise History of the British Virgin Islands", ISBN 10-0934139059, page 48] Records indicate at least two earlier incidents. On November 23, 1739, in Williamsburg, Virginia, two white men, Charles Quin and David White, were hanged for the murder of another white man's black slave; and on April 21, 1775, the Fredericksburg newspaper, the "Virginia Gazette" reported that a white man William Pitman had been hanged for the murder of his own black slave." [ [,M1 Blacks in Colonial America] ", p101, Oscar Reiss, McFarland & Company, 1997; " [ Virginia Gazette", April 21 1775] , University of Mary Washington Department of Historic Preservation archives]

lave Codes

To help regulate the relationship between slave and owner, including legal support for keeping the slave as property. Slave Codes were established. While each state would have their own, most of the ideas were shared throughout the slave states. In the codes for the District of Columbia, a slave is defined as “a human being, who is by law deprived of his or her liberty for life, and is the property of another.” [ [ "Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 Slave code for the District of Columbia, 1860."] The Library of Congress. Retrieved on July 19, 2008 ] Codes from other states placed limits on relations allowed between black and white people. Louisiana's Code Noir did not allow interracial marriage, and if children were a result a fine of three hundred livres would have to be paid. This code also stated children of a slave "shall share the condition of their mother” [ [ "Louisiana's Code Noir (1724)"] Copyright: Retrieved on July 19, 2009] if the child’s parents had different masters they would stay with the mother, and if the father was free and the mother a slave the children would also be slaves.

Women's rights

While working on plantations and farms, women and men had equal labor-intensive work. However, much of the hard labor was taken care of by men or by women who were past the child-bearing stage. Some of the labor-intensive jobs given to women were: cooking for the owner's household as well as the slaves themselves, sewing, midwifery, pruning fields, and many other laborious occupations.In 1837, an Antislavery Convention of American Women met in New York City with both black and white women participating. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had first met at the convention and realized the need for a separate women's rights movement. At the London gathering Stanton also met other women delegates such as Emily Winslow, Abby Southwick, Elizabeth Neal, Mary Grew, Abby Kimber, as well as many other women. However, during the Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society meetings, which Stanton and Winslow attended, the hosts refused to seat the women delegates. This resulted in a convention of their own to form a "society to advocate the rights of women". In 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York, Stanton and Winslow launched the women's rights movement, becoming one of the most diverse and social forces in American life. [Sklar, Kathryn. "Women who speak for an Entire Nation". American British Women Compared at the World Anti-slavery Convention, London 1840. The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 59, Wo. 4, November 1990. pp. 453-499.]

Abolitionist movement

Beginning in the 1750s, there was widespread sentiment during the American Revolution that slavery was a social evil (for the country as a whole and for the whites) and should eventually be abolished. All the Northern states passed emancipation acts between 1780 and 1804; most of these arranged for gradual emancipation and a special status for freedmen, so there were still a dozen "permanent apprentices" in New Jersey in 1860. [Richard S. Newman, "Transformation of American abolitionism: fighting slavery in the early Republic" chapter 1]

The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 declared all men "born free and equal"; the slave Quock Walker sued for his freedom on this basis and won his freedom, thus abolishing slavery in Massachusetts.

Throughout the first half of the 19th century, a movement to end slavery grew in strength throughout the United States. This struggle took place amid strong support for slavery among white Southerners, who profited greatly from the system of enslaved labor. These slave owners began to refer to slavery as the "peculiar institution" in a defensive attempt to differentiate it from other examples of forced labor.

The large, well-funded American Colonization Society had an active program of shipping ex-slaves and free blacks who volunteered back to Africa to the American colony of Liberia.

After 1830, a religious movement led by William Lloyd Garrison declared slavery to be a personal sin and demanded the owners repent immediately and start the process of emancipation. The movement was highly controversial and was a factor in causing the American Civil War.

Very few abolitionists, such as John Brown, favored the use of armed force to foment uprisings among the slaves; others tried to use the legal system.

Influential leaders of the abolition movement (1810-60) included:
*William Lloyd Garrison - published "The Liberator" newspaper
*Harriet Beecher Stowe - author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
*Frederick Douglass - nation's most powerful anti-slavery speaker, a former slave. Most famous for his book "Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass".
*Harriet Tubman - helped 350 slaves escape from the South, became known as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.

Slave uprisings that used armed force (1700 - 1859) include:
*New York Revolt of 1712
*The Stono Rebellion (1739) in South Carolina
*New York Slave Insurrection of 1741
*Gabriel's Rebellion (1800) in Virginia
*Louisiana Territory Slave Rebellion, led by Charles Deslondes (1811)
*George Boxley Rebellion (1815) in Virginia
*Denmark Vesey Uprising in South Carolina (1822)
*Nat Turner's Rebellion (1831) in Virginia
*The "Amistad" Seizure (1839) on a Spanish ship

Rising tensions

The economic value of plantation slavery was magnified in 1793 with the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney, a device designed to separate cotton fibers from seedpods and the sometimes sticky seeds. The invention revolutionized the cotton industry by increasing fifty-fold the quantity of cotton that could be processed in a day. The result was the explosive growth of the cotton industry and greatly increased the demand for slave labor in the South. [The People's Chronology, 1994 by James Trager]

At the same time, the northern states banned slavery, though, as Alexis de Toqueville noted in "Democracy in America" (1835), the prohibition did not always mean that the slaves were freed. Toqueville noted that as Northern states provided for gradual emancipation, they generally outlawed the sale of slaves within the state. This meant that the only way to sell slaves before they were freed was to move them South. Toqueville does not document that such transfers actually occurred much. [de Toqueville p. 367.] In fact, the emancipation of slaves in the North led to the growth in the population of northern free blacks, from several hundreds in the 1770s to nearly 50,000 by 1810. [Berlin, "Generations of Captivity" p. 104]

Just as demand for slaves was increasing, the supply was restricted. The United States Constitution, adopted in 1787, prevented Congress from banning the importation of slaves until 1808. On January 1, 1808, Congress banned further imports. Any new slaves would have to be descendants of ones currently in the United States. However, the internal American slave trade and the involvement in the international slave trade or the outfitting of ships for that trade by U.S. citizens were not banned. Though there were certainly violations of this law, slavery in America became, more or less, self-sustaining.

Internal Slave Trade

With the movement in Virginia and the Carolinas away from tobacco cultivation and toward mixed agriculture, which was less labor intensive, planters in those states had excess slave labor. They hired out some slaves for occasional labor, but planters also began to sell enslaved African Americans to traders who took them to markets in the Deep South for their expanding plantations. The internal slave trade and forced migration of enslaved African Americans continued for another half-century. Tens of thousands of slaves were transported from the Upper South, including Kentucky and Tennessee which became slave-selling states in these decades, to the Deep South. Thousands of African American families were broken up in the sales, which first concentrated on male laborers. The scale of the internal slave trade contributed substantially to the wealth of the Deep South. In 1840, New Orleans—which had the largest slave market and important shipping—was the third largest city in the country and the wealthiest.

Because of the three-fifths compromise in the U.S. Constitution, slaveholders exerted their power through the Federal Government and passed Federal fugitive slave laws. Refugees from slavery fled the South across the Ohio River and other parts of the Mason-Dixon Line dividing North from South, to the North via the Underground Railroad. The physical presence of African Americans in Cincinnati, Oberlin, and other Northern towns agitated some white Northerners, though others helped hide former slaves from their former owners, and others helped them reach freedom in Canada. After 1854, Republicans fumed that the Slave Power, especially the pro-slavery Democratic Party, controlled two of the three branches of the Federal government.

Most Northeastern states became free states through local emancipation. The settlement of the Midwestern states after the Revolution led to their decisions in the 1820s not to allow slavery. A Northern block of free states united into one contiguous geographic area which shared an anti-slavery culture. The boundary was the Mason-Dixon Line (between slave-state Maryland and free-state Pennsylvania) and the Ohio River.

Religious institutions

North and South grew further apart in 1845 when the Baptist Church and other denominations split into Northern and Southern organizations. The Southern Baptist Convention formed on the premise that the Bible sanctions slavery and that it was acceptable for Christians to own slaves. (In the 20th century, the Southern Baptist Convention renounced this interpretation.) Northern Baptists opposed slavery. In 1844, the Home Mission Society declared that a person could not be a missionary and still keep slaves as property. The Methodist and Presbyterian churches likewise divided north and south. By the late 1850s only the Democratic Party was a national institution, although it split in the 1860 election.

Distribution of slaves

Nat Turner, anti-literacy laws

In 1831, a bloody slave rebellion took place in Southampton County, Virginia. A slave named Nat Turner, who was able to read and write and had "visions", started what became known as Nat Turner's Rebellion or the Southampton Insurrection. With the goal of freeing himself and others, Turner and his followers killed approximately fifty men, women and children, but they were eventually subdued by the militia.

Nat Turner and his followers were hanged, and Turner's body was flayed. The militia also killed more than a hundred slaves who had not been involved in the rebellion. Across the South, harsh new laws were enacted in the aftermath of the 1831 Turner Rebellion to curtail the already limited rights of African Americans. Typical was the Virginia law against educating slaves, free blacks and children of whites and blacks. These laws were often defied by individuals, among whom was noted future Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.


Bleeding Kansas

After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854, the border wars broke out in Kansas Territory, where the question of whether it would be admitted to the Union as a slave or free state was left to the inhabitants. Abolitionist John Brown was active in the rebellion and killing in "Bleeding Kansas" as were many white Southerners. At the same time, fears that the Slave Power was seizing full control of the national government swept anti-slavery Republicans into office.

Dred Scott

Dred Scott was a 62-year-old slave who sued for his freedom after the death of his owner on the grounds that he had lived in a territory where slavery was forbidden (the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase, from which slavery was excluded under the terms of the Missouri Compromise). Scott filed suit for freedom in 1847 and went through two state trials, the first denying and the second granting freedom. Ten years later the Supreme Court denied Scott his freedom in a sweeping decision that set the United States on course for Civil War. The court ruled that Dred Scott was not a citizen who had a right to sue in the Federal courts, and that Congress had no constitutional power to pass the Missouri Compromise.

The 1857 Dred Scott decision, decided 7-2, held that a slave did not become free when taken into a free state; Congress could not bar slavery from a territory; and blacks could not be citizens. Furthermore, a state could not bar slaveowners from bringing slaves into that state. This decision, seen as unjust by many Republicans including Abraham Lincoln, was also seen as proof that the Slave Power had seized control of the Supreme Court. The decision, written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, barred slaves and their descendants from citizenship. The decision enraged abolitionists and encouraged slave owners, helping to push the country towards civil war. [Don E. Fehrenbacher, "The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978)]

Civil War and Emancipation

1860 presidential election

The divisions became fully exposed with the 1860 presidential election. The electorate split four ways. The Southern Democrats endorsed slavery, while the Republicans denounced it. The Northern Democrats said democracy required the people to decide on slavery locally. The Constitutional Union Party said the survival of the Union was at stake and everything else should be compromised.

Lincoln, the Republican, won with a plurality of popular votes and a majority of electoral votes. Lincoln, however, did not appear on the ballots of ten southern states: thus his election necessarily split the nation along sectional lines. Many slave owners in the South feared that the real intent of the Republicans was the abolition of slavery in states where it already existed, and that the sudden emancipation of four million slaves would be problematic for the slave owners and for the economy that drew its greatest profits from the labor of people who were not paid.

They also argued that banning slavery in new states would upset what they saw as a delicate balance of free states and slave states. They feared that ending this balance could lead to the domination of the industrial North with its preference for high tariffs on imported goods. The combination of these factors led the South to secede from the Union, and thus began the American Civil War. Northern leaders had viewed the slavery interests as a threat politically, and with secession, they viewed the prospect of a new southern nation, the Confederate States of America, with control over the Mississippi River and the West, as politically and militarily unacceptable.

Civil War

The consequent American Civil War, beginning in 1861, led to the end of chattel slavery in America. Not long after the war broke out, through a legal maneuver credited to Union General Benjamin F. Butler, a lawyer by profession, slaves who came into Union "possession" were considered "contraband of war". General Butler ruled that they were not subject to return to Confederate owners as they had been before the war. Soon word spread, and many slaves sought refuge in Union territory, desiring to be declared "contraband." Many of the "contrabands" joined the Union Army as workers or troops, forming entire regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops. Others went to refugee camps such as the Grand Contraband Camp near Fort Monroe or fled to northern cities. General Butler's interpretation was reinforced when Congress passed the Confiscation Act of 1861, which declared that any property used by the Confederate military, including slaves, could be confiscated by Union forces.

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 was a powerful move that promised freedom for slaves in the Confederacy as soon as the Union armies reached them, and authorized the enlistment of African Americans in the Union Army. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves in the Union-allied slave-holding states that bordered the Confederacy. Since the Confederate States did not recognize the authority of President Lincoln, and the proclamation did not apply in the border states, at first the proclamation freed only slaves who had escaped behind Union lines. Still, the proclamation made the abolition of slavery an official war goal that was implemented as the Union took territory from the Confederacy. According to the Census of 1860, this policy would free nearly four million slaves, or over 12% of the total population of the United States.

The Arizona Organic Act abolished slavery on February 24, 1863 in the newly formed Arizona Territory. Tennessee and all of the border states (except Kentucky) abolished slavery by early 1865. Thousands of slaves were freed by the operation of the Emancipation Proclamation as Union armies marched across the South. Emancipation as a reality came to the remaining southern slaves after the surrender of all Confederate troops in spring 1865.

At the beginning of the war some Union commanders thought they were supposed to return escaped slaves to their masters. By 1862, when it became clear that this would be a long war, the question of what to do about slavery became more general. The Southern economy and military effort depended on slave labor. It began to seem unreasonable to protect slavery while blockading Southern commerce and destroying Southern production. As one Congressman put it, the slaves "…cannot be neutral. As laborers, if not as soldiers, they will be allies of the rebels, or of the Union." [McPherson, "Battle Cry of Freedom" page 495] The same Congressman—and his fellow Radical Republicans—put pressure on Lincoln to rapidly emancipate the slaves, whereas moderate Republicans came to accept gradual, compensated emancipation and colonization. [McPherson, "Battle Cry" page 355, 494–6, quote from George Julian on 495.] Copperheads, the border states and War Democrats opposed emancipation, although the border states and War Democrats eventually accepted it as part of total war needed to save the Union.

In 1861, Lincoln expressed the fear that premature attempts at emancipation would mean the loss of the border states, and that "to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game." [Lincoln's letter to O. H. Browning, September 22, 1861] At first, Lincoln reversed attempts at emancipation by Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Generals John C. Fremont (in Missouri) and David Hunter (in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) in order to keep the loyalty of the border states and the War Democrats.

Lincoln mentioned his Emancipation Proclamation to members of his cabinet on July 21, 1862. Secretary of State William H. Seward told Lincoln to wait for a victory before issuing the proclamation, as to do otherwise would seem like "our last shriek on the retreat". [Stephen B. Oates, Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths, page 106] In September 1862 the Battle of Antietam provided this opportunity, and the subsequent War Governors' Conference added support for the proclamation. [Images of America: Altoona, by Sr. Anne Francis Pulling, 2001, 10.] Lincoln had already published a letter [Letter to Greeley, August 22, 1862] encouraging the border states especially to accept emancipation as necessary to save the Union. Lincoln later said that slavery was "somehow the cause of the war". Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865] Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, and said that a final proclamation would be issued if his gradual plan based on compensated emancipation and voluntary colonization was rejected. Only the District of Columbia accepted Lincoln's gradual plan, and Lincoln issued his final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. In his letter to Hodges, Lincoln explained his belief that "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong … And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling ... I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me." [ Lincoln's Letter to A. G. Hodges, April 4, 1864]

Since the Emancipation Proclamation was based on the President's war powers, it only included territory held by Confederates at the time. However, the Proclamation became a symbol of the Union's growing commitment to add emancipation to the Union's definition of liberty. [James McPherson, The War that Never Goes Away] Lincoln also played a leading role in getting Congress to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment,James McPherson, Drawn With the Sword, from the article Who Freed the Slaves?] which made emancipation universal and permanent.

Enslaved African Americans did not wait for Lincoln's action before escaping and seeking freedom behind Union lines. From early years of the war, hundreds of thousands of African Americans escaped to Union lines, especially in occupied areas like Norfolk and the Hampton Roads region in 1862, Tennessee from 1862 on, the line of Sherman's march, etc. So many African Americans fled to Union lines that commanders created camps and schools for them, where both adults and children learned to read and write. The American Missionary Association entered the war effort by sending teachers south to such contraband camps, for instance establishing schools in Norfolk and on nearby plantations. In addition, nearly 200,000 African-American men served with distinction as soldiers and sailors with Union troops. Most of those were escaped slaves. Confederates enslaved captured black Union soldiers, and black soldiers especially were shot when trying to surrender at the Fort Pillow Massacre. [Bruce Catton, "Never Call Retreat", page 335] This led to a breakdown of the prisoner exchange program, and the growth of prison camps such as Andersonville prison in Georgia where almost 13,000 Union prisoners of war died of starvation and disease. [James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pages 791–798]

In spite of the South's shortage of manpower, until 1865, most Southern leaders opposed arming slaves as soldiers. However,a few Confederates discussed arming slaves since the early stages of the war, and some free blacks had even offered to fight for the South. In 1862 Georgian Congressman Warren Akin supported the enrolling of slaves with the promise of emancipation, as did the Alabama legislature. Support for doing so also grew in other Southern states. A few all black Confederate militia units, most notably the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, were formed in Louisiana at the start of the war, but were disbanded in 1862. [Bergeron, Arthur W., Jr. Louisianans in the Civil War, "Louisiana's Free Men of Color in Gray", University of Missouri Press, 2002, p. 107-109.] In early March, 1865, Virginia endorsed a bill to enlist black soldiers, and on March 13 the Confederate Congress did the same. [Jay Winik, "April 1865. The Month that Saved America", p.51-59]

There still were over 250,000 slaves in Texas. Word did not reach Texas about the collapse of the Confederacy until June 19, 1865. African Americans and others celebrate that day as Juneteenth, the day of freedom, in Texas, Oklahoma and some other states. It commemorates the date when the news finally reached slaves at Galveston, Texas.

Legally, the last 40,000 or so slaves were freed in Kentucky [E. Merton Coulter, "The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky" (1926) pp 268-270.] by the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865. Slaves still held in New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland and Missouri also became legally free on this date.

Reconstruction to present

During Reconstruction, it was a serious question whether slavery had been permanently abolished or whether some form of semi-slavery would appear after the Union armies left.


An 1867 federal law prohibited a descendant form of slavery known as sharecropping or debt bondage, which still existed in the New Mexico Territory as a legacy of Spanish imperial rule. Between 1903 and 1944, the Supreme Court ruled on several cases involving debt bondage of black Americans, declaring these arrangements unconstitutional. In actual practice, however, sharecropping arrangements often resulted in peonage for both black and white farmers in the South.

Educational issues

The anti-literacy laws after 1832 undoubtedly contributed greatly to the widespread illiteracy facing the freedmen and other African Americans after the Civil War and Emancipation 35 years later. After Emancipation, the unfairness of such laws helped draw attention to the problem of illiteracy as one of the great challenges confronting these people as they sought to join the free enterprise system and support themselves during Reconstruction and thereafter.

Consequently, many religious organizations, former Union Army officers and soldiers, and wealthy philanthropists were inspired to create and fund educational efforts specifically for the betterment of African Americans in the South. They helped create normal schools to generate teachers, such as those which eventually became Hampton University and Tuskegee University. Stimulated by the work of educators such as Dr. Booker T. Washington, by the first part of the 20th century over 5,000 local schools had been built for blacks in the South using private matching funds provided by individuals such as Henry H. Rogers, Andrew Carnegie, and most notably, Julius Rosenwald, each of whom had arisen from modest roots to become wealthy.


On February 24, 2007, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution Number 728 acknowledging "with profound regret the involuntary servitude of Africans and the exploitation of Native Americans, and call for reconciliation among all Virginians." [cite news |url= |title=Virginia Apologizes for Role in Slavery |publisher=The Washington Post |first=Larry |last=O'Dell |date=2007-02-25] With the passing of this resolution, Virginia became the first of the 50 United States to acknowledge through the state's governing body their state's negative involvement in slavery. The passing of this resolution came on the heels of the 400th anniversary celebration of the city of Jamestown, Virginia, which was one of the first slave ports of the American colonies.

On July 30, 2008, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing for American slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws. [ [ Congress Apologizes for Slavery, Jim Crow] ]

Arguments used to justify slavery

"A necessary evil"

In the 19th century, proponents of slavery often defended the institution as a "necessary evil". It was feared that emancipation would have more harmful social and economic consequences than the continuation of slavery. In 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter that with slavery:

Robert E. Lee wrote in 1856:

"A positive good"

However, as the abolition agitation increased and the planting system expanded, apologies for slavery became more faint in the South. Then apologies were superseded by claims that slavery was a beneficial scheme of labor control. John C. Calhoun, in a famous speech in the Senate in 1837, declared that slavery was "instead of an evil, a good—a positive good." Calhoun supported his view with the following reasoning: in every civilized society one portion of the community must live on the labor of another; learning, science, and the arts are built upon leisure; the African slave, kindly treated by his master and mistress and looked after in his old age, is better off than the free laborers of Europe; and under the slave system conflicts between capital and labor are avoided. The advantages of slavery in this respect, he concluded, "will become more and more manifest, if left undisturbed by interference from without, as the country advances in wealth and numbers." [Beard C.A. and M.R. Beard. 1921. [ "History of the United States"] . No copyright in the United States, p. 316.]

Others who also moved from the idea of necessary evil to positive good are James Henry Hammond and George Fitzhugh. Hammond, like Calhoun, believed slavery was needed to build the rest of society. In a speech to the Senate on March 4, 1858, Hammond developed his Mudsill Theory defending his view on slavery stating, “Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill.” He argued that the hired laborers of the North are slaves too: “The difference… is, that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment,” while those in the North had to search for employment. [James Henry Hammond. [ "The 'Mudsill' Theory"] . Senate floor speech, March 4, 1858. Retrieved July 21, 2008.] George Fitzhugh wrote that, “the Negro is but a grown up child, and must be governed as a child.” In "The Universal Law of Slavery" Fitzhugh argues that slavery provides everything necessary for life and that the slave is unable to survive in a free world because he is lazy, and cannot compete with the intelligent white race. [George Fitzhugh. [ "The Universal Law of Slavery"] in "The Black American: A Documentary History", Third Ed. (Leslie H. Fishel, Benjamin Quarles, ed.). 1970. Retrieved July 21, 2008.]

Native Americans

Enslavement of Native Americans

During the 17th century, Indian slavery, the enslavement of Native Americans by European colonists, was common. Many of these Native slaves were exported to off-shore colonies, especially the "sugar islands" of the Caribbean. Historian Alan Gallay estimates that from 1670-1715, British slave traders sold between 24,000 and 51,000 Native Americans from what is now the southern part of the U.S. [Gallay, Alan. (2002) "The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South 1670-171". Yale University Press: New York. ISBN 0-300-10193-7.]

Slavery of Native Americans was organized in colonial and Mexican California through Franciscan missions, theoretically entitled to ten years of Native labor, but in practice maintaining them in perpetual servitude, until their charge was revoked in the mid-1830s. Following the 1847–1848 invasion by U.S. troops, Native Californians were enslaved in the new state from statehood in 1850 to 1867. [Castillo, E.D. 1998. " [ "Short Overview of California Indian History"] , "California Native American Heritage Commission", 1998. Retrieved October 24, 2007.] Slavery required the posting of a bond by the slave holder and enslavement occurred through raids and a four-month servitude imposed as a punishment for Indian "vagrancy". [Beasley, Delilah L. (1918). "Slavery in California," "The Journal of Negro History", Vol. 3, No. 1. (Jan.), pp. 33-44.]

lavery among Native Americans

The Haida and Tlingit Indians who lived along southeast Alaska's coast were traditionally known as fierce warriors and slave-traders, raiding as far as California. Slavery was hereditary, the slaves being prisoners of war. Among some Pacific Northwest tribes, about a quarter of the population were slaves. [ [ Digital "African American Voices"] , "Digital History". Retrieved October 24, 2007.] [ [ "Haida Warfare"] , "". Retrieved October 24, 2007.] Other slave-owning tribes of North America were, for example, Comanche of Texas, Creek of Georgia, the fishing societies, such as the Yurok, that lived along the coast from what is now Alaska to California, the Pawnee, and Klamath.

After 1800, the Cherokees and some other tribes started buying and using black slaves, a practice they continued after being relocated to Indian Territory in the 1830s. [A history of the descendants of the slaves of Cherokee can be found at Sturm, Circe. "Blood Politics, Racial Classification, and Cherokee National Identity: The Trials and Tribulations of the Cherokee Freedmen". American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1/2. (Winter - Spring, 1998), pp. 230-258. In 1835, 7.4% of Cherokee families held slaves. In comparison, nearly one third of white families living in Confederate states owned slaves in 1860. Further analysis of the 1835 Federal Cherokee Census can be found in Mcloughlin, WG. "The Cherokees in Transition: a Statistical Analysis of the Federal Cherokee Census of 1835". Journal of American History, Vol. 64, 3, 1977, p. 678. A discussion on the total number of Slave holding families can be found in Olsen, Otto H. "Historians and the extent of slave ownership in the Southern United States". Civil War History, December 2004 (Accessed [ here] June 8, 2007)]

The nature of slavery in Cherokee society often mirrored that of white slave-owning society. The law barred intermarriage of Cherokees and blacks, whether slave or free. Cherokee who aided slaves were punished with one hundred lashes on the back. In Cherokee society, blacks were barred from holding office, bearing arms, and owning property, and it was illegal to teach blacks to read and write. [Duncan, J.W. 1928. [ "Interesting ante-bellum laws of the Cherokee, now Oklahoma history"] . "Chronicles of Oklahoma" 6(2):178-180. Retrieved July 13, 2007.] [Davis, J. B. 1933. [ "Slavery in the Cherokee nation"] . "Chronicles of Oklahoma" 11(4):1056-1072. Retrieved July 13, 2007.]

By contrast, the Seminoles welcomed into their nation African Americans who had escaped slavery (Black Seminoles).

Barbary states

According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries. [Davis, Robert. "Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800". [] ] [ [ "When Europeans were slaves: Research suggests white slavery was much more common than previously believed"] ] Slave-taking persisted into the 19th century when Barbary pirates would capture ships and enslave the crew. Between 1609 and 1616, England alone had 466 merchant ships lost to Barbary pirates. [Rees Davies, [ British Slaves on the Barbary Coast] , BBC, 1 July 2003] Even the United States was not immune. In 1783, the United States made peace with, and gained recognition from, the British monarchy, and in 1784 the first American ship was seized by pirates from Morocco. By late 1793, a dozen American ships had been captured, goods stripped and everyone enslaved. After some serious debate, the United States Navy was born in March 1794. This new military presence helped to stiffen American resolve to resist the continuation of tribute payments, leading to the two Barbary Wars along the North African coast: the First Barbary War from 1801 to 1805 [ [ The Mariners' Museum: The Barbary Wars, 1801-1805] ] and the Second Barbary War in 1815. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800. [cite web|last=Oren|first=Michael B.|title=The Middle East and the Making of the United States, 1776 to 1815|date=2005-11-03|url=|accessdate=2007-02-18] It was not until 1815 that naval victories ended tribute payments by the U.S., although some European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s. [Richard Leiby, [ Terrorists by Another Name: The Barbary Pirates] , The Washington Post, October 15, 2001]

Free black people and slavery

Some slaveholders were black or had some black ancestry. In 1830 there were 3,775 such slaveholders in the South with 80% of them located in Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. Half of these lived in cities rather than the countryside, with most in New Orleans and Charleston. Only a few were “substantial planters”, and, of those that were, most were of mixed race. [Stampp p. 194. Oakes pp.47-48.] Historians John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger wrote:

Historian Ira Berlin wrote:

Free blacks were perceived “as a continual symbolic threat to slaveholders, challenging the idea that ‘black’ and ‘slave’ were synonymous.” Free blacks were seen as potential allies of fugitive slaves and “slaveholders bore witness to their fear and loathing of free blacks in no uncertain terms. [Mason pp. 19-20] For free blacks, who had only a precarious hold on freedom, “slave ownership was not simply an economic convenience but indispensable evidence of the free blacks” determination to break with their slave past and their silent acceptance of – if not approval – of slavery.” [Berlin, "Generations of Captivity" p. 138]

Historian James Oakes notes that, “The evidence is overwhelming that the vast majority of black slaveholders were free men who purchased members of their families or who acted out of benevolence.” [Oakes pp. 47-48] In the early part of the 19th century, southern states made it increasingly difficult for any slaveholders to free slaves. Often the purchasers of family members were left with no choice but to maintain, on paper, the owner-slave relationship. In the 1850s “there were increasing efforts to restrict the right to hold bondsmen on the grounds that slaves should be kept ‘as far as possible under the control of white men only.” [Oakes pp. 47-49]

Historiography of American slavery

Historian Peter Kolchin, writing in 1993, noted that until recently historians of slavery concentrated more on the behavior of slaveholders than on slaves. Part of this was related to the fact that most slaveholders were literate and able to leave behind a written record of their perspective. Most slaves were illiterate and unable to create a written record. There were differences among scholars as to whether slavery should be considered a benign or a “harshly exploitive” institution. [Kolchin p. 134]

Kolchin described the state of historiography in the early twentieth century as follows:

Historians James Oliver Horton and Louise Horton described Phillips' mindset, methodology and influence:

The racist attitude concerning slaves carried over into the historiography of the Dunning School of reconstruction history, which dominated in the early 20th century. Writing in 2005, historian Eric Foner states:

Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, historiography moved away from the “overt” racism of the Phillips era. However, historians still emphasized the slave as an object. Whereas Phillips presented the slave as the object of benign attention by the owners, historians such as Kenneth Stampp changed the emphasis to the mistreatment and abuse of the slave. [Kolchin p. 135. David and Temin p. 741. The latter wrote, “The vantage point correspondingly shifted from that of the master to that of his slave. The reversal culminated in Kenneth M. Stampp's ‘The Peculiar Institution’ (1956), which rejected both the characterization of blacks as a biologically and culturally inferior, childlike people, and the depiction of the white planters as paternal Cavaliers coping with a vexing social problem that was not of their own making.”]

In the culmination of the slave as victim, Historian Stanley M. Elkins in his 1959 work “Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life” compared United States slavery to the brutality of the Nazi concentration camps. He stated the institution destroyed the will of the slave, creating an “emasculated, docile Sambo” who identified totally with the owner. Elkins' thesis immediately was challenged by historians. Gradually historians recognized that in addition to the effects of the owner-slave relationship, slaves did not live in a “totally closed environment but rather in one that permitted the emergence of enormous variety and allowed slaves to pursue important relationships with persons other than their master, including those to be found in their families, churches and communities.”

Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman in the 1970s, through their work "Time on the Cross," presented the final attempt to salvage a version of the Sambo theory, picturing slaves as having internalized the Protestant work ethic of their owners. [Kolchin p. 136] In portraying the more benign version of slavery, they also argue in their 1974 book that the material conditions under which the slaves lived and worked compared favorably to those of free workers in the agriculture and industry of the time.

In the 1970s and 1980s, historians made use of archaeological records, black folklore, and statistical data to describe a much more detailed and nuanced picture of slave life. Relying also on autobiographies of ex-slaves and former slave interviews conducted in the 1930s by the Federal Writers' Project, historians described slavery as the slaves experienced it. Far from slaves' being strictly victims or content, historians showed slaves as both resilient and autonomous in many of their activities. Despite the efforts at autonomy and their efforts to make a life within slavery, current historians recognize the precariousness of the slave's situation. Slave children quickly learned that they were subject to the direction of both their parents and their owners. They saw their parents disciplined just as they came to realize that they also could be physically or verbally abused by their owners. Historians writing during this era include John Blassingame (“Slave Community”), Eugene Genovese (“Roll, Jordon, Roll”), Leslie Howard Owens (“This Species of Property”), and Herbert Gutman (“The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom”). [Kolchin pp. 137-143. Horton and Horton p. 9]

Modern slavery

Although slave ownership by private individuals and businesses has been illegal in the United States since 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically exempts the judiciary, permitting the enslavement of individuals "as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted".

The United States Department of Labor occasionally prosecutes cases against people for false imprisonment and involuntary servitude. These cases often involve illegal immigrants who are forced to work as slaves in factories to pay off a debt claimed by the people who transported them into the United States. Other cases have involved domestic workers. [citation |last=Gilmore |first=Janet |title=Press Release: Modern slavery thriving in the U.S. |publisher=UC Berkely |year=2004 |date=2004-09-23 |url= Modern slavery thriving in the United States ]

Reports of child sexual slavery and on the business of working children in organized criminal businesses as well as in legitimate businesses and trading sexual favours for contracts and business in the United States under both inhuman and human conditions exist.

In 2002, the U.S. Department of State repeated an earlier CIA estimate [citation |last=Wright |first=Jennifer |title=Worldwide Tragedy: U.S. Not Immune to Sexual Slavery |publisher=National Organization for Women |year=2000 |date=2000 |url= ] that each year, about 50,000 women and children are brought against their will to the United States for sexual exploitation. [citation |title=Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report |publisher=U.S. Department of State |year=2002 |date=2002 |url= ] Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "Here and abroad, the victims of trafficking toil under inhuman conditions -- in brothels, sweatshops, fields and even in private homes." [citation |last=Powell |first=Colin L. |title=Special Briefing on Release of Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2002 |publisher=U.S. Department of State |year=2002 |date=2002-06-05 |url= ]

ee also

* Abraham Lincoln on slavery
* Cherokee freedmen controversy
* Colonization and the founding of Liberia
* Cornerstone Speech
* Frances Anne Kemble
* History of slavery
* History of slavery in Kentucky
* History of slavery in Missouri
* Hush harbor
* Partus
* Slave rebellion
* York (Lewis and Clark)
* White guilt



Primary sources

* Albert, Octavia V. Rogers. "The House of Bondage Or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves". Oxford University Press, 1991. Primary sources with commentary. ISBN 0-19-506784-3
**" [ The House of Bondage, or, Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves, Original and Life-Like] " complete text of original 1890 edition, along with cover & title page images, at website of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
* Berlin, Ira, Joseph P. Reidy, and Leslie S. Rowlands, eds. "Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867" 5 vol Cambridge University Press, 1982. very large collection of primary sources regarding the end of slavery
* Blassingame, John W., ed. "Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies".Louisiana State University Press, 1977.
* "A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" (1845) (Project Gutenberg: [] ), (Audio book at [] )
*"The Heroic Slave." "Autographs for Freedom". Ed. Julia Griffiths Boston: Jewett and Company, 1853. 174-239. Available at the Documenting the American South website [] .
* Frederick Douglass "My Bondage and My Freedom" (1855) (Project Gutenberg: [] )
* Frederick Douglass "Life and Times of Frederick Douglass" (1892)
* Frederick Douglass [ Collected Articles Of Frederick Douglass, A Slave] (Project Gutenberg)
* "Frederick Douglass: Autobiographies" by Frederick Douglass, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Editor. (Omnibus of all three) ISBN 0-940450-79-8
*Missouri History Museum Archives [ Slavery Collection]
* Rawick, George P., ed. "The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography" . 19 vols. Greenwood Publishing Company, 1972. Collection of WPA interviews made in 1930s with ex-slaves

Historical studies

* Berlin, Ira. "Generations of Captivity: A History of African American Slaves." (2003) ISBN 0-674-01061-2.
* Berlin, Ira. "Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America." Harvard University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-674-81092-9
* Berlin, Ira and Ronald Hoffman, eds. "Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution" University Press of Virginia, 1983. essays by scholars
* Blassingame, John W. "" Oxford University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-19-502563-6.
* David, Paul A. and Temin, Peter. "Slavery:The Progressive Institution?" The Journal of Economic History. Vol. 34, No. 3 (September 1974)
* David Brion Davis. "Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World" (2006)
* De Tocqueville, Alexis. "Democracy in America." (1994 Edition by Alfred A Knopf, Inc) ISBN 0-679-43134-9
* Elkins, Stanley. "Slavery : A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life." University of Chicago Press, 1976. ISBN 0-226-20477-4
* Fehrenbacher, Don E. "Slavery, Law, and Politics: The Dred Scott Case in Historical Perspective" Oxford University Press, 1981
* Fogel, Robert W. "Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery" W.W. Norton, 1989. Econometric approach
* Foner, Eric. "Forever Free."(2005) ISBN 0-375-40259-4
* Franklin, John Hope and Schweninger. "Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation." (1999) ISBN 0-19-508449-7.
* Gallay, Alan. "The Indian Slave Trade" (2002).
* Genovese, Eugene D. "Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made" Pantheon Books, 1974.
* Genovese, Eugene D. "The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the Slave South" (1967)
* Genovese, Eugene D. and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, "Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism" (1983)
* Hahn, Steven. [ "The Greatest Slave Rebellion in Modern History: Southern Slaves in the American Civil War."] [ Southern Spaces] (2004)
* Higginbotham, A. Leon, Jr. "In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period." Oxford University Press, 1978. ISBN 0-19-502745-0
* Horton, James Oliver and Horton, Lois E. "Slavery and the Making of America." (2005) ISBN 0-19-517903-X
* Kolchin, Peter. "American Slavery, 1619-1877" Hill and Wang, 1993. Survey
* Mason, Matthew. "Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic." (2006) ISBN 13:978-0-8078-3049-9.
* Morgan, Edmund S. "American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia " W.W. Norton, 1975.
* Morris, Thomas D. "Southern Slavery and the Law, 1619-1860" University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
* Oakes, James. "The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders." (1982) ISBN 0-393-31705-6.
* Ransom, Roger L. "Was It Really All That Great to Be a Slave?" Agricultural History, Vol. 48, No. 4 (October 1974)
* Scarborough, William K. "The Overseer: Plantation Management in the Old South" (1984)
* Stampp, Kenneth M. "The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South" (1956) Survey
* Stampp, Kenneth M. "Interpreting the Slaveholders' World: a Review." Agricultural History 1970 44(4): 407-412. ISSN 0002-1482
* Tadman, Michael. "Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South" University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.
* Wright, W. D. "Historians and Slavery; A Critical Analysis of Perspectives and Irony in American Slavery and Other Recent Works" Washington, D.C.: University Press of America (1978)


* Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. "Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion". Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2007.
* Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. "Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World". Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2007.

tate and local studies

* Fields, Barbara J. "Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland During the Nineteenth Century" Yale University Press, 1985.
* Clayton E. Jewett and John O. Allen; "Slavery in the South: A State-By-State History" Greenwood Press, 2004
* Kulikoff, Alan. "Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800" University of North Carolina Press, 1986.
* Minges, Patrick N.; "Slavery in the Cherokee Nation: The Keetoowah Society and the Defining of a People, 1855-1867" 2003 deals with Indian slave owners.
* Mohr, Clarence L. "On the Threshold of Freedom: Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia" University of Georgia Press, 1986.
* Mooney, Chase C. "Slavery in Tennessee" Indiana University Press, 1957.
* Olwell, Robert. "Masters, Slaves, & Subjects: The Culture of Power in the South Carolina Low Country, 1740-1790" Cornell University Press, 1998.
* Reidy, Joseph P. "From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in the Cotton Plantation South, Central Georgia, 1800-1880" University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
* Ripley, C. Peter. "Slaves and Freemen in Civil War Louisiana" Louisiana State University Press, 1976.
* Rivers, Larry Eugene. "Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation" University Press of Florida, 2000.
* Sellers, James Benson; "Slavery in Alabama" University of Alabama Press, 1950
* Sydnor, Charles S. "Slavery in Mississippi". 1933
* Takagi, Midori. "Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction: Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782-1865" University Press of Virginia, 1999.
* Taylor, Joe Gray. "Negro Slavery in Louisiana". Louisiana Historical Society, 1963.
* Wood, Peter H. "Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion" W.W. Norton & Company, 1974.


* John B. Boles and Evelyn T. Nolen, eds., "Interpreting Southern History: Historiographical Essays in Honor of Sanford W. Higginbotham" (1987).
* Richard H. King, "Marxism and the Slave South", "American Quarterly" 29 (1977), 117-31. focus on Genovese
* Peter Kolchin, "American Historians and Antebellum Southern Slavery, 1959-1984", in William J. Cooper, Michael F. Holt, and John McCardell, eds., "A Master's Due: Essays in Honor of David Herbert Donald" (1985), 87-111
* James M. McPherson et al., "Blacks in America: Bibliographical Essays" (1971).
* Peter J. Parish; "Slavery: History and Historians" Westview Press. 1989
* Tulloch, Hugh. "The Debate on the American Civil War Era" (1999) ch 2-4

Further reading

Oral histories of ex-slaves

* Before Freedom When I Just Can Remember: Twenty-seven Oral Histories of Former South Carolina Slaves, Belinda Hurmence, John F. Blair, Publisher, 1989, trade paperback 125 pages, ISBN 0-89587-069-X
* Before Freedom: Forty-Eight Oral Histories of Former North & South Carolina Slaves, Belinda Hurmence, Mentor Books, 1990, mass market paperback, ISBN 0-451-62781-4
* God Struck Me Dead, Voices of Ex-Slaves, Clifton H. Johnson ISBN 0-8298-0945-7

Historical fiction

* David Bradley. "The Chaneysville Incident". New York: Harper and Row, 1981. ISBN 0-06-010491-0. An exploration of the long-term effects of slavery, set mainly in Pennsylvania in the 1970s, but also including scenes set in the antebellum South.
* Edward P. Jones. "The Known World". New York: Amistad, 2003. ISBN 0-06-055755-9. The 2003 winner of the [ National Book Critic Circle] for fiction and 2004 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
* Toni Morrison. "Beloved". New York: Alfred Knopf, 1987. ISBN 1-58060-120-0. The winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize, this novel by Nobel Prize laureate Morrison examines the effect of slavery on one African-American family.
* Alice Randall. "The Wind Done Gone". Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. ISBN 0-618-11309-7. A reimagining of the story of Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind" (1936) from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara's half-sister Cynara, a mulatto slave on the O'Hara plantation.
* Barry Unsworth. "Sacred Hunger". London: Hamish Hamilon, 1992. ISBN 0-241-13003-4. A 1992 winner of the Booker Prize, this novel by a British novelist centers around a rebellion on a British slave ship bound for America in the mid-18th century. The novel's climactic sequence is set on the coast of colonial Florida.

Literary and cultural criticism

*Ryan, Tim A. "Calls and Responses: The American Novel of Slavery since Gone with the Wind". Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2008.
*Van Deburg, William. "Slavery and Race in American Popular Culture". Madsion: U of Wisconsin P, 1984.

External links

* [ Born in Slavery] : Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
* [ Voices from the Days of Slavery] , interviews of 23 former slaves recorded between 1932 and 1975, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
* [,,25340-2597455,00.html "John Brown's body and blood"] by Ari Kelman: a review in the [ TLS] , February 14, 2007.
* [ Slavery and the Making of America] - PBS - WNET, New York (4-Part Series)
* [ Timeline] of Slavery in America
* [ Images of slavery] drawn by Thomas Nast (has background music)
* [ History of Slavery in America] a historical overview
* [ Teaching resources about Slavery and Abolition on]
* [ Slavery in the United States] from EH.NET by Jenny B. Wahl of Carleton College
* [ Map of 1820] showing free and slave territories.
* [ Classics on American Slavery] collection of old documents available on-line through Dinsmore Documentation
* [ Slavery: A Dehumanizing Institution] by Nell Irvin Painter, historian and author of Creating Black Americans
* [ New Georgia Encyclopedia] (Slavery in Antebellum Georgia)
* [ American topics sidebarbooks.html WWW-VL: Online Books on Slavery in America]
* [ University of North Carolina Press on finding freedom and liberty in BNA-Canada]
* [ Account of an African Prince Sold into Slavery - Islamica Magazine]
* [ The Underground Railroad: Escape from Slavery |]
* [ Stace England & The Salt Kings concept Music CD on "The Old Slave House" in Illinois]

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