Chapter 4
Slavery and Empire
1441 - 1770
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Part One
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Chapter Focus Questions
How did the modern system of slavery develop?
What was the history of the slave trade and the
Middle Passage?
How did Africans manage to create communities
among the brutal slave system?
What were the connections between the
institutions of slavery and the imperial system of
the eighteenth century?
How and why did racism develop in America?
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Part Two
American Communities:
Rebellion in Stono, South
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American Communities: Rebellion in
Stono, South Carolina
Group of slaves in South Carolina rose up in
rebellion and headed towards Florida where
freedom had been promised.
Enslaved Africans greatly outnumbered the
white colonists in South Carolina.
The rebellion signified desperation but also a
sense of community.
While the history of slavery is harsh it also is a
history of community.
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Part Three
The Beginnings of African
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The Beginnings of African Slavery
Europeans were concerned with the moral
implications of enslaving Christians.
Muslims and Africans could be used as slaves
because they were not Christians.
In 1441, the Portuguese opened the trade by
bringing slaves to the sugar plantations on
the island of Madeira.
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Sugar and Slavery
The expansion of sugar production in
the Caribbean increased the demand for
Caribbean sugar and slaves were the
core of the European colonial system.
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African slaves operate a sugar mill on the Spanish island colony of Hispaniola,
illustrated in a copperplate engraving published by Theodore de Bry in 1595.
Columbus introduced sugar on his second voyage and plantations were soon in
operation. Because the native population was devastated by warfare and disease,
colonists imported African slaves as laborers.
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West Africans
Slaves came from well-established societies and local
communities of West Africa.
More than 100 peoples lived along the West African coast.
Most West African societies were based on
sophisticated systems of farming.
Extensive trade networks existed.
Household slavery was an established institution.
Slaves were treated more as family than as possessions.
Children were born free.
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This image of Mansa
Musa (1312–37), the
ruler of the Muslim
kingdom of Mali in
West Africa, is taken
from the Catalan Atlas,
a magnificent map
presented to the king
of France in 1381 by
his cousin, the king of
Aragon. In the words
of the Catalan
inscription, Musa was
“the richest, the most
noble lord in all this
region on account of
the abundance of gold
that is gathered in his
land.” He holds what
was thought to be the
world’s largest gold
nugget. Under Musa’s
reign, Timbuktu
became a capital of
world renown.
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A group of slaves being led from the interior to the West African coast by
two traders, from Rene Geoffroy de Villeneuve, l’ Afrique (1814).
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Part Four
The African Slave Trade
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The Demography of Slave Trade
Most slaves were transported to the Caribbean or
South America.
One in twenty were delivered to North America
Men generally outnumbered women two to one.
Map: The African Slave Trade
Chart: Estimated number of Africans Imported to British North
America, 1701-70
Chart: Africans as a Percentage of the Total Population of the
British Colonies, 1650-1770
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MAP 4.1 The African Slave Trade The enslaved men, women, and children
transported to the Americas came from West Africa, the majority from the lower
Niger River (called the Slave Coast) and the region of the Congo and Angola.
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FIGURE 4.1 Estimated
Number of Africans
Imported to British North
America, 1701–70 These
official British statistics include
only slaves imported legally,
and consequently, undercount
the total number who arrived
on American shores. But the
trend over time is clear. With
the exception of the 1750s,
when the British colonies were
engulfed by the Seven Years’
War, the slave trade continued
to rise in importance in the
decades before the
SOURCE: R. C. Simmons, The American
Colonies: From Settlement to Independence
(London: Longman,1976),186.
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FIGURE 4.2 Africans as
a Percentage of Total
Population of the British
Colonies, 1650 –1770
Although the proportion of
Africans and African
Americans was never as
high in the South as in the
Caribbean, the ethnic
structure of the South
diverged radically from
that of the North during
the eighteenth century.
SOURCE: Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L.
Engerman, Time on the Cross (Boston:
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A Global Enterprise
All Western European nations participated in
the African slave trade.
The slave trade was dominated by the
Portuguese in the sixteenth century, the
Dutch in the sugar boom of the seventeenth
century, and the English who entered the
trade in the seventeenth century.
New England slavers entered the trade in the
eighteenth century.
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The Shock of Enslavement
Enslavement was an unparalleled shock.
African raiders or armies often violently
attacked villages to take captives.
The captives were marched to the coast,
many dying along the way.
On the coast, the slaves were kept in
barracoons where they were separated from
their families, branded, and dehumanized.
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The Middle Passage
The Atlantic voyage was called the Middle Passage
because it was the middle portion of the triangle trade.
Slaves were crammed into ships and packed into shelves
6 feet long and 30 inches high.
They slept crowded together spoon fashion.
There was little or no sanitation and food was poor.
Dysentery and disease were prevalent.
Slaves resisted by jumping overboard, refusing to eat,
and revolting.
One in six slaves died during this voyage.
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Slaves below deck on a Spanish slaver, a sketch made when the vessel was captured
by a British warship in the early nineteenth century. Slaves were “stowed so close, that
they were not allowed above a foot and a half for each in breadth,” wrote one observer.
The close quarters and unsanitary conditions created a stench so bad that Atlantic
sailors said you could “smell a slaver five miles down wind.”
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The Middle Passage
The sale of human cargo occurred in several ways.
A single buyer may have purchased the whole cargo.
Individual slaves could be auctioned to the highest
The “scramble” had the slaves driven into a corral and
the price was fixed.
• Buyers rushed among the slaves, grabbing the ones they
In the sale process, Africans were closely examined,
probed and poked.
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Africans herded from a slave
ship to a corral where they
were to be sold by the cruel
method known as "the
scramble," buyers rushing in
and grabbing their pick. This
image was featured in an
antislavery narrative published
in 1796.
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Part Five
The Development of North
American Slave Societies
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Portrait of Olaudah Equiano, by
an unknown English artist, ca.
1780. Captured in Nigeria in
1756 when he was eleven years
old, Equiano was transported to
America and was eventually
purchased by an English sea
captain. After ten years as a
slave, he succeeded in buying
his own freedom and dedicated
himself to the antislavery cause.
His book, The Interesting
Narrative of the Life of Olaudah
Equiano (1789), was published
in numerous editions, translated
into several languages, and
became the prototype for
dozens of other slave narratives
in the nineteenth century.
SOURCE: Museum, Exeter, Devon, UK/Bridgeman
Art Library.
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The Development of North
American Slave Societies
Map: Slave Colonies of the Seventeenth and
Eighteenth Centuries
By 1770, Africans and African Americans
numbered 460,000 in British North
America–comprising over 20% of the
colonial population.
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MAP 4.2 Slave
Colonies of the
and Eighteenth
Centuries By the
century, the
system of slavery
had created
societies with
large African
throughout the
Caribbean and
along the
southern coast of
North America.
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Slavery Comes to North America
Between about 1675 and 1700 the Chesapeake went from
being a society with slaves to a slave society.
There was a decline in immigration of English servants.
European immigrants had better opportunities in other colonies.
The Royal English African Company began shipping directly to
the region and the labor shortage was filled with slaves.
Expansion of slavery prompted Virginia to develop a
comprehensive slave code.
More Africans were imported into North America between
1700 and 1710 than in the entire previous century.
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The Tobacco Colonies
Tobacco was the most important commodity produced in
eighteenth century North America, accounting for 25%
of the value of all colonial exports.
Slavery allowed the expansion of tobacco production
since it was labor-intensive.
Using slave labor, tobacco was grown on large
plantations and small farms.
The slave population in this region grew largely by
natural increase.
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The Lower South
South Carolina was a slave society from its founding.
The most valuable part of the early economy was the
Indian slave trade.
Rice and indigo were the two major crops.
In South Carolina, large plantations employing many
slaves dominated.
Georgia prohibited slavery until South Carolina
planters began to settle on the coast with their slaves.
By 1770, about 80% of the coastal population of
South Carolina and Georgia was African American.
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Residence and Slave Quarters of Mulberry Plantation, by Thomas Coram, ca. 1770. The
slave quarters are on the left in this painting of a rice plantation near Charleston, South
Carolina. The steep roofs of the slave cabins, an African architectural feature introduced
in America by slave builders, kept living quarters cool by allowing the heat to rise and
dissipate in the rafters.
SOURCE: Thomas Coram, “View of Mulberry Street, House and Street.” .Oil on paper,10 •17.6 cm. Gibbes Museum of Art/Carolina Art
Association. 68.18.01.
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Slavery in the Spanish Colonies
Though the papacy denounced slavery it was a basic
part of the Spanish colonial labor system.
The character of Spanish slavery varied by region.
In Cuba, on sugar plantations, slavery was brutal.
In Florida, slavery resembled household slavery common
in Mediterranean and African communities.
In New Mexico, Indian slaves were used in mines, as
house servants, and as fieldworkers.
Spain declared Florida a haven for runaway slaves
from the British colonies and offered land to those
who would help defend the colony.
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French Louisiana
Natchez Rebellion 1629
The Natchez Indians and the slaves of Louisiana joined
together in an armed uprising killing ten percent of the
colonial population.
Authorities crushed the rebellion but diversified economy
and French Louisiana became a society with slaves.
French settlers used slave labor but slaves made up
only about one-third of the population.
Louisiana did not become an important North
American slave society until the end of the eighteenth
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Slavery in the North
Slavery was a labor system in some northern
commercial farming areas but only made up
ten percent of the rural population in these
In port cities, slavery was common.
By 1750, the slave and free African populations
made up 15 to 20% of the residents of Boston,
New York, and Philadelphia.
Antislavery sentiment first arose among the
Quakers of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
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The London Coffee House, near the docks of Philadelphia, was the center of the city’s
business and political life in the mid-eighteenth century. Sea captains and merchants
congregated here to do business, and as this contemporary print illustrates (in the detail
on the far right), it was the site of many slave auctions. Slavery was a vital part of the
economy of northern cities.
SOURCE: John F. Watson, “Annals of Philadelphia,” being a collection of memoirs, anecdotes, and incidents of Philadelphia. The London
Coffee House. The Library Company of Philadelphia.
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Part Six
African to African
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Mum Bett, also known as
Elizabeth Freeman, was born into
slavery in a Massachusetts
household about 1742. As a
young woman she was subjected
to the violent abuse of her
mistress, who struck her with a hot
shovel, leaving an indelible scar.
Fleeing her owner, Mum Bett
enlisted the aid of antislavery
lawyer Thomas Sedgwick, who
helped win her freedom in 1772.
This miniature was painted by
Sedgwick's daughter Susan in
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The Daily Lives of Slaves
Africans formed the majority of the labor force
that made the plantations profitable and thus built
the South.
As agricultural peoples, Africans were used to
rural routines and most slaves worked in the fields.
Slaves were supplied rude clothes and hand-medowns from the master’s family.
On small plantations and farms, Africans may have
worked along side their masters.
Large plantations provided the population
necessary for the development of an African
American culture.
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Families and Communities
In the development of African American
community and culture, the family was the most
important institution.
Families were often separated by sale or bequest.
Slaves created family structures developing
marriage customs, naming practices, and a system
of kinship.
Fictive kinship was used by slaves to humanize
the world of slavery.
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African American Culture
The formative period of African American community
development was the eighteenth century.
The resiliency of slaves was shown in the development of a
spiritually sustaining African American culture drawing
upon dance, music, religion, and oral tradition.
Until the Great Awakening, large numbers of African
Americans were not converted to Christianity.
Death and burial were important religious practices.
Music and dance formed the foundations of African
American culture.
The invention of an African American language facilitated
communication between American-born and African
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Seeing History A Musical Celebration in the Slave Quarters.
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The Africanization of the South
Acculturation occurred in two directions—English
influenced Africans and Africans influenced
Africanization was evident in:
cooking: barbecue, fried chicken, black-eyed peas, and
collard greens
material culture: basket weaving, wood carving, and
language: yam, banjo, tote, buddy
music and dance: banjo
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Violence and Resistance
The slave system was based on force and violence.
Africans resisted in the following ways:
Refusing to cooperate and malingering
Mistreating tools and animals
Running away
There was always fear of uprisings but slaves in North
America rarely revolted.
Conditions for a successful revolt were not present.
Slaves had also developed culture and communities and
did not want to risk losing these things.
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Fugitive slaves flee through the swamps in Thomas Moran’s The Slave Hunt (1862).
Many slaves ran away from their masters, and colonial newspapers included notices
urging readers to be on the lookout for them. Some fled in groups or collected together
in isolated communities called “maroon” colonies, located in inaccessible swamps and
SOURCE: Thomas Moran (American, 1837-1926), Slave Hunt, Dismal Swamp, Virginia, 1862. Gift of Laura A. Clubb, 1947.8.44 © 2007 The
Philbrook Museum of Art, Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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Part Seven
Slavery and the Economics
of Empire
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Eighteenth-century ships being
unloaded of their colonial
cargoes on London’s Old
Custom House Quay. Most of
the goods imported into England
from the American colonies were
produced by slave labor.
SOURCE: Samuel Scott, “Old Custom House Quay”
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Slavery and the Economics of
Map: Triangular Trade Across the Atlantic
The slave trade was the foundation of the British
Created a large colonial market for exports that
stimulated manufacturing
Generated huge profits that served as a source of
Supplied raw cotton to fuel British industrialization
Chart: Value of Colonial Exports by Region,
Annual Average, 1768-72
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Map 4.3 Triangular
Trade Across the
Atlantic This
pattern of commerce
among Europe,
Africa, and the
Americas became
known as the
“triangular trade.”
Sailors called the
voyage of slave
ships from Africa to
America the “Middle
Passage” because it
formed the crucial
middle section of this
trading triangle.
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FIGURE 4.3 Value of Colonial Exports by Region, Annual Average,
1768–72 With tobacco, rice, grain, and indigo, the Chesapeake and
Lower South accounted for nearly two-thirds of colonial exports in the late
eighteenth century.
SOURCE: James F. Shepherd and Gary M. Walton, Shipping, Maritime Trade and the Economic Development of Colonial
America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1972), 211 –27.
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The Politics of Mercantilism
Colonies existed to benefit the mother country
The economy should be controlled by the state
The economy was a “zero-sum” game where profits for
one country meant losses for another.
Competition between states was to hoard the fixed
amount of wealth that existed in the world.
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The New England artist John Greenwood painted this amusing view of New England
sea captains in Surinam in 1757. By the early eighteenth century, New England
merchant traders like these had become important participants in the traffic in slaves
and sugar to and from the West Indies. Northern ports thus became important pivots
in the expanding commercial network linking slave plantations with Atlantic markets.
SOURCE: John Greenwood, “Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam,” 1758. Oil on bed ticking, 95.9 x 191.1 cm. Saint Louis Art Museum,
Museum Purchase.
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British Colonial Regulation
European nations created state trading monopolies to
manage the commerce of its empires.
The Navigation Acts passed between 1651 and 1696
created the legal and institutional structure of Britain’s
colonial system.
The Wool, Hat, and Iron acts reduced colonial
competition with British manufacturing interests.
Great Britain did not allow colonial tariffs, banking, or
local coinage.
The increase in colonial trade led Britain to pursue a
policy of “salutary neglect.”
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Wars for Empire
The English, French, and Spanish struggled for
control over North America and the Caribbean
in a series of wars that had their European
Wars in the southern region of the colonies
focused on slavery.
Wars in the northern region were generally
focused on the control of the Indian trade.
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The Colonial Economy
The colonial economy grew rapidly.
The New England shipbuilding was stimulated by
Benefits for northern port cities
Participation in the slave trade to the South and West Indies
Trading foodstuffs for sugar in foreign colonies
Between the 1730s and 1770s, the commercial
economies of the North and South were becoming
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Part Eight
Slavery, Prosperity and
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The Social Structure of
the Slave Colonies
Slavery produced a highly stratified class society.
Elite planters held more than half of the land and
sixty percent of the wealth.
Small planters and farmers made up half of the adult
white male population.
• Many kept one to four slaves.
Throughout the plantation region, landless men
constituted about forty percent of the population.
• Work included renting land, tenant farming, hiring out
as overseers, or becoming indentured servants.
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White Skin Privilege
Skin color determined status.
Legal and other racial distinctions were constant
reminders of the freedom of white colonists and the
debasement of all African Americans, free or slave.
Relationships between free whites and enslaved
blacks produced a mixed-ancestry group known as
Majority of mulattoes were slaves.
Racism created contempt between African
Americans and colonists.
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Thomas Jefferson placed this advertisement in the Virginia Gazette on September 14,
1769. Americans need to seriously consider the historical relationship between the
prosperity and freedom of white people and the oppression and exploitation of Africans
and African Americans.
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Part Nine
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Cortes & Montezuma, 1519