Slavery: The Dark Side of America's History

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America the land of the free, even if we may know the country as the land of the free America holds a dark history of slavery in the early centuries. Dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries when slavery was born, over millions of Africans were being captured and forced into servitude, Africans were not only the form of servitude in early America. Poor Europeans were indentured servants and performed heavy labor under a seven-year contract that in return they will be granted with freedom and land. Apart from this, the Native Americans were also taken into slavery, as well as other Native American tribes capturing their kind and selling them to the Europeans.

Slavery began in Jamestown, Virginia in early 1619, when a torn and butchered Dutch ship had landed on the Chesapeake Bay. On the ship there was a human cargo of twenty captured African slaves, the people of Jamestown had traded food and amenities with the Dutch for the human slaves. The colonist then had the African slaves join work with the poor Europeans on the plantations. African slaves mainly had worked on indigo, tobacco, and rice farms located on the Southern part of America.

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Later in the 1790s, America's tobacco farms began to lose its wealth, but during the same incident, the textile industry in Great Britain was commanding high demand for cotton wear due to massive international demands. Until 1793, a device that removes the seeds from cotton was invented by a man named Eli Whitney, and with his invention of the cotton gin, it was rapidly imitative and used on other cotton plantations. With the cotton gin industry, it had led provinces to become more reliant on slave labor. This event created a Second Middle Passage, the second-largest forced immigration in America's history. Slaves were restricted from many laws that even a single wrong movement can lead to brutal punishment or even death. Treatments of slaves varied, slaveholders would hang, burn, whipped, beat, and confined them. Women slaves were often victims of rape and sexual abuse from the male master. Despite many Southern societies strongly forbidden sexual relationship between a black man and a white woman to maintain racial purity. The offspring of a women slave from any race will be born into slavery which resulted in numerous amounts of mixed-race slaves. Slaves did not have a legal basis on marriage, but slaves still married and raised their families on the plantation. Slave masters did not prohibit this practice but rather encouraged it, but usually resulted in dividing slave families by selling or removal.

There was a time long before African American slaves there were the Native American slaves. The kidnapping and trading of Native American slaves first started when the first arrival of the Europeans. Along the time of 1492 and 1880, over two and five-point five million Native Americans were enslaved in America, while Native Americans had been forced into slavery as early as 1636, it was not until King Philip’s War that the natives were incarcerated in a numerous amount. Throughout the war, Native Americans were being shipped as slaves to other countries such as Spain, North Africa, Jamaica, Bermuda, and many more other countries. Unlike African slaves who were captured and enslaved did not know where they would be taken and what was the consequences, although the Native Americans knew they will be taken and shipped to other countries where they will be enslaved and receive brutal treatment. With the fear of the Native Americans being shipped overseas they initiate to fight to the death, as for some Native Americans who surrender and in the hope they would not be sent overseas. Native American tribes held war prisoners as slaves before and during the Europeans colonization. Natives were being captured and sold by other Natives into slavery to the Europeans while others were being captured by Europeans and sold into slavery. Even though before the arrival of Europeans, Native American had practiced some sort of slavery in their tribes. Native Americans had enslaved war prisoners and have them perform minor labor. There were also other ways to get enslave, for example, one of them is gambling situation, when one cannot pay their debt, they put themselves in servitude for short term or in some cases for life. At times some captives were also involved in rituals that involved cannibalism.

Native American slavery started to come to an end in the 18th centuries when the white settlers started to enslave African American. In the late 18th century, poor Europeans signed a contract in return for an expensive passage, the contract would typically last for five to seven years. Throughout the servitude term they were unpaid and only given enough service to keep them alive and working, At the end of their contract in return of their heavy labor, the servants would be granted freedom, new set of clothes, food, land, and be able to decide whether they want to work for themselves or under another employer, very few servants lived to see the end of their contract. However, servants who contract had expired after 1670 enjoyed less and less success due to planters owning almost all the best tobacco lands by 1665. White immigration to America between the 1630s and the American Revolution had come under a contract. Nevertheless, almost half the European immigrants to the Thirteen Colonies were under a contract, but they were still outnumbered by other workers who had never been under a contract or others who contracts had ended, and free labor during the time was more widespread for the Europeans colonies. Servitudes were also used widely by the British and English as a punishment for defeated foes in rebellions and civil wars. Servitudes also lived under strict rules, servants were not able to marry without the consent of their master, at times servants were subjects to physical punishment or abuse, and they did not receive legal service from the court. Women servants contracts would be given lengthened if they became pregnant to ensure the contract was completed with the right amount of time.

All things considered; America has a dark history with slavery. Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans all once been enslaved in early America. The founding of the new land had immigrated many poor Europeans under contracts for five to seven years to perform heavy labor in return for freedom, a new set of clothes, food, and land at the end of their term. Native Americans were being enslaved when the first arrival of Europeans. Native slaves were being traded and sold by their own or by Europeans, as well as being shipped overseas to other countries as slaves during the King Philip’s War. When the 17th century came Native Americans, slavery came to an end when African slaves had arrived in America. African slaves were a cheaper source to the Europeans. America was not always the land of free when the United States was becoming a nation, as slavery will always be a big part of America’s history.

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Slavery: The Dark Side of America’s History. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 13, 2024, from
“Slavery: The Dark Side of America’s History.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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