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Slavery in the United Stated lasted as an endorsed organization until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865. In 1619 twenty Africans were brought by a Dutch soldier and sold to the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia as indentured servants.
This would be the first of many visits up and down the American eastern seaboard. At this time, most slaves were being purchased by white men, though some Native Americans and free blacks were also detained. Slavery was spread to the areas where there was a high-quality soil for large plantations of important crops, such as cotton, sugar, coffee and most prominently tobacco. Even though the endorsed practice of enslaving blacks occurred in all of the original thirteen colonies, more than half of all African-Americans lived in Virginia and Maryland. The three highest-ranking North American zones of importation throughout most of the eighteenth century were Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, although Virginia was the largest of the continental slave societies.
The African slave trade reached its peak in 1734 when approximately 70,000 slaves were imported into North America.
The transformation from indentured servitude to racial slavery happened gradually. It was not until 1661 that the suggestion of slavery entered into Virginia law. Virginia set itself apart from the other colonies by distinguishing Negros apart from the white men.
Early on Virginia census reports bluntly distinguished Negros often listing them with no personal names. It is thought that the reason they were listed like this was to humiliate the men and to set them apart from the Englishman and to lower their status. Slaves were more and more defined as people without rights; and, because they were viewed increasingly as property, they were said to enhance their owners' independence.
Many of these men and women were serving a life term with their children inheriting the same commitment.
The Slave codes of 1705 sealed the fate of the African's to serve as slaves. These laws were meant to prohibit slaves from rights to wages, learning to read, property ownership and they could not marry legally. Additionally, they could not vote or possess firearms. These laws imposed callous physical punishments, since enslaved persons who did not own property could not be required to pay fines. States could pass whatever laws they deemed necessary, but enforcement was a different matter.
The master of the slaves typically administered the enforcement of the slave laws. If a slave owner chose to educate his slaves to read or allow them to marry one another, then it could be done apart from of the state's statute prohibition. It was the regulation of the slave owner, not the law of the land so to speak. The states did little to implement "slave codes." These codes additionally stated that slaves needed written permission to leave their plantation. If a slave were found guilty of murder or rape he/she would be hanged and that for robbing or any other major offense, the slave would receive sixty lashes. For minor offences, such as associating with whites, slaves would be whipped, branded, or maimed.
For the 18th century slave in Virginia, disputes with a master could be brought before a court for judgment but by way of the slave codes of 1705, this no longer was the case. A slave owner who wanted to break the most disobedient of slaves could now do so, knowing any penalty he inflicted, including death, would not result in even the slightest reprimand.
Although there were harsh punishments, slaves seemed to validate that they had wills of their own, and were conscious, coherent human beings.
Because the slaves did not arrive in America as a community of people, they had to generate their own society. Unable to transport their institutions, slaves were forced to rebuild a society in the New World.
Slaves learned to collaborate with one another, create community, relationships and even institute certain codes of behavior. Cruelty and racism helped create unity among slaves and created a sense of common identity. This common identity forged a distinct culture that was unique to African-Americans
Slaveholders did not educate their slaves. It was believed an educated slave would be more likely to resist subjugation, incite rebellion and escape. Therefore, slaves continued the African tradition of oral storytelling. This oral tradition facilitated the transmission of history, mores and cultural traditions among slaves. Such oral tradition was critical for slaves to both hold on to African traditions as well as…[continue]
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