Slavery Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :


According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, a slave is a 'person who is the legal property of another or others and is bound to absolute obedience' (Blackburn 262).

To be very concise, slavery is the opposite of freedom. A 'liberated' individual possesses all the freedom to enjoy basic human rights of citizenship, profession choice and lifestyle. Not only this, he has all the rights of security of self and property. On the contrary, the slave is a hereditary chattel who can be legally punished, sold or transferred, controlled and separated from the loved ones. Both his productive and reproductive capacities are exploited by the master. Thus, a slave doesn't have any right that a 'free' individual holds. Slaves belong to a different economic group; totally separated with the 'independent' working class (Campbell viii).

Slavery can be described as an institution that is founded on a relationship of control and obedience. This institution allows one person to own another person to exploit his abilities for labor and other personal matters. Not only can slavery is founded in the low material cultures like those in the Malay Peninsula but it can also be found in highly modernized and developed cultures like those existing in the southern United States ("Slavery").

Slavery was the composition of many systems amalgamated into each other. Every rule in the slavery had numerous unique exceptions. Not only the slaves were forced to work in the field; they were also used as domestic servants, craftsmen, drivers, supervisors and artisans (Parish 5). Slaves were also categorized as urban slaves, industrial slaves, farm slaves and hired slaves. An ordinary slave usually had spent his life with several masters, in several environments (Parish 6).


Slavery is considered to begin in the America's pre-Civil War South as a white-on-black indignation confined to America's pre-Civil War South. This is a misrepresented notion as the Arabs are acknowledged as the most zealous of all the slavers ("History of Man from" 10). However, there are several other postulations regarding the origin and development of slavery. Some historians believe that it existed even in the era of primitive pastoral peoples. Others believe that it began and fully expanded with the development of an agricultural economy. The nomadic Arabs, Native Americans and Vikings are believed to be the first peoples who introduced the domestic and concubine slavery. There are other suppositions that suggest that slavery started with the wars and the subjection of surrendered and conquered groups by the victorious. There also existed a tradition that those who failed to return the debt money were made slaves. In the African continent as well, there was a custom in which some African peoples used to put up their wives and children as hostages for commitment. In case of the non-fulfillment of the obligation, the detainees became permanent slaves ("Slavery").

Slavery: Past and Present

In this essay, I will discuss the evolution, development and abolition of slavery starting from 1629 till the present time.

1629 -- 1700

The institution of slavery revolutionized in the 15th and 16th century. The Portuguese navigators succeeded to explore the African coast and this expedition made African, slaves. The British, Dutch, French, Spanish and Portuguese conducted the African slave trading for the next five centuries along the African coasts. It was in 1619 that the first African slaves were traded to the Britain. However, it was by the 1640s that the slavery was legally acknowledged in the American settlements of Massachusetts ("Slavery"). Thus, it became the first ever colony to legalize slavery in 1641. In 1643, an escapee law was adopted by the New England Confederation of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven. Afterwards, Connecticut also legalized slavery in 1650. After two years in 1652, laws regarding slavery restriction and enslavement prohibition were passed in Rhode Island. According to these laws, enslavement for more than 10 years was forbidden. The blacks in Virginia were also granted the right to hold slaves in 1654. In 1660, the Council of Foreign Plantations was ordered by Charles II, King of England, to formulate strategies for slaves and servants conversion to Christianity. The first recognized rebellion among slaves took place in Gloucester County, Virginia in 1663. Maryland legalized slavery the same year. Slavery was then legalized in New York and New Jersey in 1664. Later, the State of Maryland, the Carolinas, Virginia, New York and New Jersey passed laws that all black slaves are bound to lifelong servitude. Later years evidenced the subjugation of black slaves to the maximum limit. They were not granted freedom even if they accepted Christianity. Furthermore, it was made illegal for slaves in 1684 to sell goods in New York. The Pennsylvania Quakers approved the first official antislavery resolution in 1884. The first anti-miscegenation law was passed in Virginia in 1691 that prohibited whites and blacks or whites and Native Americans to marry each other. The first comprehensive slave codes were passed in South Carolina in the same year. Following the tradition of legalizing slavery, Pennsylvania did so in 1700 ("TIMELINE OF SLAVERY IN AMERICA 1501-1865").

1700 -- 1800

Samuel Seawell, a jurist and printer in Massachusetts published the first North American antislavery tract renowned as "The Selling of Joseph" in 1700. Slaves were declared by the Virginia lawmakers as the property of the owners in 1705. The laws also made it legal for the owners to kill or destroy their runaway slaves ("Historic Timeline of Slavery and the Underground Railroad"). The slaves were prohibited to marry without the consent of their owners in French Louisiana in 1724. The King of France, Louis XV, declared certain rights for the mother and child slaves' freedom in 1735. The members of Pennsylvania Quakers were prohibited to own slaves or participate in the slave trade in 1758. The autobiography by a slave named James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw's was published as the first autobiographical slave narrative. In 1774, slave trade with Britain was banned by the First Continental Congress that also guaranteed the discontinuation of the slave business by early December. The next year started a revolution with the emergence of the first Abolitionist Society founded by Anthony Benezet of Philadelphia. The world-famous Benjamin Franklin became the President of this society in 1787 ("TIMELINE OF SLAVERY IN AMERICA 1501-1865"). In 1793, a Fugitive Slave Act was passed in the United States that outlawed any efforts to encumber the imprisonment of runaway slaves ("Historic Timeline of Slavery and the Underground Railroad").

1800 -- 1900

Slave Trade was banned in the United States of America in 1808. However, the slave smuggling continued. By 1820, slavery was forbidden in any subsequent areas located to the north of latitude 36°30'. Slavery in England was also abolished by 1838. In 1857, the famous Dred Scott Decision was given deciding that the Blacks would never be given the rights of the state's citizen. It also declared that Congress possessed no authority to outlaw slavery in any American sate. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was declared by President Abraham Lincoln which confirmed that all slaves in Rebel territory would be freed on January 1, 1863. At last slavery was completely abolished in 1865 with the introduction of the 13th Amendment to the United States ("Historic Timeline of Slavery and the Underground Railroad").

1900 -- Present

The slave trade did flourish after the end of the First World War. Dramatic decreases have been noted in the number of slaves towards the end of the 19th century. This horrible and brutal institution has luckily died out in the first decade of the 20th century. However, the atrocious and cruel practice of owning, controlling and exploiting human beings and their capabilities has lingered on in various forms even today's contemporary world (Toledano iii).

There have been continued efforts of United Nations to achieve worldwide slavery…

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Cite This Thesis:

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