Lets take a journey from Slavery to Freedom is an exhibit which shows America in crisis and how that point in time was never resolved.
The African-American Story:
Slavery & Human Trafficking
At the center of this conflict were the Africans who were bought, sold, and used as workers on American soil. The use of slave labor was a well known practice for years in the world community. Documented accounts of slavery as a world-wide practice are covered in hundreds of books and articles on the subject reaching as far back to the ancient region of Mesopotamia around 3500 BC.
For the Africans on American or "Afro-Americans" soil, that horrible journey started with the developing territorial colonies at a
time when workers were needed to keep the economy of this new country solvent. Therefore, by 1619,
the use of indentured servants brought the first Africans to America at Jamestown, Virginia. Poor whites also worked during this period as indentured servants. A "contract" said that this service would last from four to seven years - thereby the said would then become free.
During this early period, some of the first enslaved Africans worked their way out of this system and became free tradesmen and property owners on American soil. The quest for more land and an economy based upon profit were two of the major points that escalated the demand for more slaves in America. Therefore, Black slave workers became highly prized commodities in a system dependent upon lots of manual labor. The entire southern American economy and the states in that warm region needed laborers to work on the plantations dealing with rice, indigo, tobacco, sugar cane, and cotton. Other slaves labored as dock workers, craft workers, and servants. Slaves in the northern American region labored on small farms and as skilled and unskilled workers in factories and along the coast as shipbuilders, fishermen, craftsmen, and helpers of tradesmen.
Slavery on American soil grew at such a fast rate that, by 1750, over 200,000 African slaves were here.
Fifty years later, that number grew to 700,000. In South Carolina alone, African slaves outnumbered the
white population, and they made up more than one half of the populations in the states of Maryland and
Virginia. The free Black American population did expand to about 40,000 throughout the colonies by
The system of slavery was so entrenched in the daily routines on American soil that it had to be dealt with
as a National issue. Lengthy debates, political compromises, moral dilemmas, slave rebellions, and a
Nation divided against itself suddenly had to face the issue of enslaved Africans existing on American soil.
America condoned the "peculiar institution" of slavery from 1619 up until the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished "slavery and involuntary servitude" on December 18, 1865. This period in American history left behind some of the most unbearable scars on the African-Americans as a people, but the free thinking decent people and countless allies envisioned a broader, more humane society - for they showed some of us the best of what America should be.
THE BEGINNING OF SLAVERY
The first Africans in America arrived as Indentured Servants via Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. From 1619 to
about 1640, Africans could earn their freedom working as laborers and artisans for the European settlers.
Africans could become free people and enjoy some of the liberties like other new settlers. By 1640,
Maryland became the first colony to institutionalize slavery. In 1641, Massachusetts, in its written
legislative Body of Liberties, stated that "bondage was legal" servitude, at that moment changing the
conditions of the African workers - they became chattel slaves who could be bought and solely owned by
The Portuguese were the first to embark upon the slave trade starting around 1562. The practice of slavery
grew to exponential proportions from 1646 up until 1790. A prime area for slaves was on the west coast of
Africa called the Sudan. This area was ruled by three major Moorish empires Ghana (790-1240), Mali
(1240-1600), and Songhai (670-1591). Other smaller nations were also canvassed by slavers along the west
coast; they included among them: Benin, Dahomey, and Ashanti. The peoples inhabiting those African nations were known for their skills in agriculture, farming, and mining. The Africans of Ghana were well known for smelting iron ore, and the Benins were famous for their cast bronze art works. African tribal wars produced captives which became a bartering resource in the European slave market. Other slaves were kidnapped by white hunters. The main sources of barter used by the Europeans to secure African slaves were glass beads, whiskey, ivory, and guns.
The rising demand for sugar, coffee, cotton, and tobacco created a greater demand for slaves by other
slave trading countries. Spain, France, the Dutch, and English were in competition for the cheap labor needed to work their colonial plantation system producing those lucrative goods. The slave trade was so profitable that, by 1672, the Royal African Company chartered by Charles II of England superseded the other traders and became the richest shipper of human slaves to the mainland of the Americas. The slaves were so valuable to the open market - they were eventually called "Black Gold."
THE MIDDLE PASSAGE
The Middle Passage has been defined in several ways. Some authors refer to these routes as the "triangle
trade" or "circuit trade," "three cornered," "round about," and "transatlantic trade" routes. The typical
voyage for slaves taken by the British went south down the coast of Africa into the area adjacent to the Gulf
of Guinea. These English slavers brought cargoes of rum, brandy, glass, cloths, beads, guns, and other
appealing goods from Europe. They bargained with African traders for their tribal captives. Some
slavers entered the shores and kidnapped the unsuspecting natives and took them aboard their slave
ships or kept them in waiting areas near the shore called "barracoons" or slave barracks.
When the desired number of African slaves was met for shipping, the voyage of middle passage continued from Africa on the slave ships going across the Atlantic Ocean with a destination in one of several ports in the West Indies and Caribbean (including: Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Santo Domingo, and the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, and Barbados). In the West Indies and Caribbean, some slaves were off-loaded and sold to work at the sugar plantations, also called the "Sugar Islands." The raw molasses was taken aboard the ships; then they sailed up the coast northbound for Newport or Bristol, Rhode Island's distilleries, to make rum from the molasses. Other stops along the Atlantic coast where slaves were exchanged for goods or cash were Charleston, South Carolina and Boston, Massachusetts. The goods produced by cheap slave labor were loaded aboard the now empty slave ships along with sugar, tobacco, or cotton for the trip back to England. The rum from the rum distillers went directly back to Africa for more slaves, bartering on this, the Triangular Trade Routes.
By 1768, the English slave trade had a figure of 53,000 slaves a year being shipped to the North American
continent. Other slave traders included the French at 23,000, the Dutch at 11,000, and the Portuguese at
8,700 slaves being transported yearly from Africa. Estimates of up to 10 million slaves took the Middle
Passage Voyage to reach the Americas.
SLAVERY AND RACE
Many Europeans came to America to exercise their God fearing beliefs and to practice religious freedom.
Slavery, on the other hand, was a form of persecution which, in the eyes of colonial America, had to be
justified. Therefore, the black slave became an easily identifiable group targeted as being inferior, subhuman, and destined for servitude. The early Christian churches did not take up the cause of eliminating slavery until much later in the century. The famous Boston theologian, Cotton Mather, in 1693 included in his Rules for the Society of the Negroes the explanation that "Negroes were enslaved because they had sinned against God." He later included a heavenly plan that "God would prepare a mansion in Heaven," but little or no way for the end of forced slavery on earth was undertaken by most religious groups.
SLAVE CODES AND RESISTANCE
The slave codes robbed the Africans of their freedom and will power. Slaves did resist this treatment, therefore strict and cruel punishment was on hand for disobeying their masters. Slaves were forbidden from carrying guns, taking food, striking their masters, and running away. All slaves could be flogged or killed for resisting or breaking the slave codes. Some slave states required both slaves and free blacks to wear metal badges. Those badges were embossed with an ID number and occupation.
Freedom was always on the minds of the enslaved Africans. How to gain that freedom was the big question. American historical records have identified some of those attempts and some of the people involved in the African's quest for freedom on American soil.
Refusing to obey their masters' demands created a duel crisis on the part of the resisting slaves and their
demanding owners. The most common form of resistance used by the slaves was to run away. To live as a
runaway required perfect escape routes and exact timing. Where to hide, finding food, leaving the family
and children behind became primary issues for the escaping slaves. Later, the severe punishment had to
be faced whenever a hunted slave was caught and returned to bondage.
Many slaves ran off and lived in the woods or vast wilderness in the undeveloped American countryside.
This group of slaves were called "maroons," for they found remote areas in the thick forest and mainly
lived off wild fruits and animals as food. Some of these maroons ran off, lived, and even married into
segments of the Native American populations. They were later called Black Indians.
THE SLAVERY TIMELINE
The issue of slavery evolved into a complex problem on American soil from 1800 up until the beginning of
1865. The conditions of servitude and the status of Africans were at stake. Defining the legal grounds of
these people of African descent put America in a quandary. Would free Africans be welcomed into this
developing Democracy? The next sixty-five years produced a host of mixed events in their quest for
freedom. Racial differences and previous conditions of servitude became an issue before the Republic.
1800. Gabriel Prosser attempts a slave rebellion in Virginia.
1807, the British Parliament had put a stop to shipping and trading African slaves.
1808, the Congress of the United States made it illegal to bring more slaves into the country. Still, the
smuggling of Africans as slaves into the United States continued well into the mid 1800's. Remember,
the Amistad slave incident happened in 1839. Slave trading within the states continued up until the day
of Emancipation in 1863.
1812, the British, as a payback to the American colonists, offered the Africans a chance to own land and be
free - if they fought on their side during the War of 1812.
1819, the Canadian government refused to cooperate with the American government by not allowing them free
access to pursue escaped slaves living in Canada.
1820, the Missouri Compromise was adopted, allowing Missouri to enter the Union as a slaveholding state and
Maine as a free-bearing state. The Missouri Compromise kept the number of free states and slave states balanced.
1822. Denmark Vesey arrested for planning a slave rebellion in South Carolina.
1831. Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Southampton, Virginia.
1833, the American Anti-Slavery Society was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The British Parliament
abolished slavery in the entire British Empire during this year.
1839. The Amistad Insurrection
1850, the Compromise of 1850 again brought up the issue of slavery. California entered the union as a free state,
but the territories of New Mexico, Utah, and Texas were allowed to decide, as individual states, the choice of
being a slave state or a free state. 1850 also saw the passage of another much stricter Fugitive Slave Law being
put into effect.
1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published her novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which became the best selling book and a
major influence for the Anti-Slavery Movement.
1854. The Dred Scott Case.
The year of 1857 saw slavery and freedom hanging in the balance.
1859. John Brown broke into the Federal Armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia.
1860. Abraham Lincoln elected president. South Carolina secedes.
1861. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and
Virginia secede. Formation of the Confederate States of America. Attack on Fort Sumter.
1861-1865. The Civil War.
1865. Freedom on the Horizon. February 1, 1865, Abraham Lincoln ratified the 13th Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution outlawing slavery throughout the whole United States. Lincoln was assassinated two
months later by John Wilkes Booth on April 15, 1865. read more..
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