The topic of slavery has always been an interesting one. While the majority of African Americans are appalled at the very idea of slavery, I am one of the few, that has been intrigued by the very idea of it. This has not been a popular view amongst my family and friends. The assigned reading has been very informative.
I believe slavery developed because of supply and demand. Now, I know that is a very simplistic view, but if you really think about it, there was a severe demand for labor and not enough bodies to supply it. Racial slavery became a central feature of the Atlantic world by the eighteenth century , but was rooted in British North America. “Slavery was a brutal and exploitative labor system” (Keene, & O’Donnell, 2012). Slave trade was common internally within Africa for centuries before the Atlantic Slave trade became prominent. Rival tribes took slaves as spoils of war. In Africa slavery was not always a permanent or hereditary condition. They were sometimes absorbed into the society that held them.
The demand for agricultural labor in the Atlantic world is what caused the increase in trans-Atlantic slave trade. Agricultural crops were extremely labor intensive, requiring long hours bending over plants under the blazing hot sun. Most whites proved entirely unsuited for this labor or flat out refused to do it! “Slavery became the cornerstone of the Atlantic economy ” (Keene & O’Donnell, 2012). To produce cash crops of sugar, cotton and tobacco, slavery was a necessary indispensable entity in the American colonies. There was a time when voyage across the Atlantic was prolonged to allow for “seasoning” of the slaves before arriving at their final destination, but due to the increased need of labor during the seventeenth century, this process was bypassed.
Due to the expansion of British North America, caused by the immigration of varied nationalities and ethnic identities, indentured servants were created. The immigration to America was very costly. The trans-Atlantic crossing was long and well beyond the average Englishman’s wages. To finance their passage, these immigrants entered into contracts to work for a specified number of years to pay for their passage. This was costly for colonists, as well as devastating for the indentured servant, who could well have been separated from their family during their contracts.
Pure economics are what caused colonists to cease the use of indentured servants. The use of indentured servants was costly and limited. Indentured servants were not owned. They entered contracts with colonists of their own free will, with and end date of servitude. African slaves were a cheaper, more plentiful labor source. Slave labor, in the long run was better for American colonists. Once slaves were purchased, they were owned. There was no limit to the number of years to benefit from their labor. There were no restrictions as to how slaves could be used to benefit the colonists. These were key differences between indentured servants and slaves.
Keene, J. D., Cornell, S. & ODonnell, E. T. (2013). Visions of America: A History of the United States (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.