Slavery in America
From Colonial America
to Antebellum U.S.
Earlier Forms of Slavery
• Slavery existed in many places and forms throughout human
history: Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Muslims, Africans, Europeans
• Differed from place to place, time to time
• Majority of slaves before Atlantic Slave Trade:
• Slaves captured in wars (POWs)
• Payment for debts (could sell self into slavery)
• Usually temporary situation, at least generationally (status of
slave not inherited from parents)
• Ways of gaining status for some slaves (some social mobility)
• African slavery existed before Atlantic Slave Trade
• POWs, agricultural work, some soldiers, some gained high status
• Most were of low status or debtors
• Could marry non-slaves, children were free
Environmental And
Variety of Africa
Spread of Islam in Africa up to Middle Ages
Trade Across the Sahara
• Trade brought west African societies
into contact with Berbers, Arabs, other
African tribes
• The importance of camels – necessary
to cross desert
• Huge camel caravans to west Africa
• West African rulers and kingdoms
converted to Islam: used Islamic law,
institutions, and writing
• Link to Trade and Spread of Islam in
Africa (Art)
Islam & Slave Trade
• Muslim demand for slaves of all races: not
religious, for political power and wealth
• Variety of uses for African slaves: for household,
military, and labor
• Different than Atlantic slave trade which was
racially- and plantation-based
• Slave caravans from west Africa across Sahara
• Muslims also traded in slaves from east Africa –
coastal ports on Red Sea and Indian Ocean
carried slaves from African interior
Empires of Medieval Africa
West African Kingdoms: Ghana
• Ghana – “land of gold”
• Strong kingdom before Islam
• Controlled trade of gold & salt
• Berber traders converted elite to Islam
• Then Berbers adopted militant form of Islam –
followers were called Almoravids
• Conquered Spain, converted Ghanaians
• Art of the Almoravid Period
• Trans-Saharan Gold Trade
West African Kingdoms: Mali
• Mali (1200-1450 CE)
Mandinke People
Successor to state of Ghana
Upper Niger River
Good agriculture & lots of rainfall
• Strong Rulers: Sundiata, Mansa Uli,
Mansa Musa
• MM Pilgrimage to Mecca 1324 CE
• Very rich & powerful – visited
kings of other nations
• Timbuktu became center of
learning & culture (p. 134)
Mosque in Djenne (Mali)
Empire of Mali (1200-1450 CE)
Ife West African Bronzes
• 12th-15th-century CE
• Symbols of power
and religion
• Connection with
spirit world
• Power of kings
• To reach spirits
• Over people
• Link to images
• Link to videos
Effects of trade on West Africa
• Connections to other cultures
• Spread of Islam
• Slave trade
• Growth of African merchant class and cities
• Consolidation of kingdoms to control trade
• Power used to control trade and people:
enslaved non-Muslims and unprotected
• Example, Ife bronzes: show kings AND
European Exploration & Labor Systems
• Colonization & Empires based on exploitation of
native and African populations
• Spanish system = encomienda labor system = mining and
agriculture by natives (slaves/serfs)
• Portuguese, French, and English = enslavement of Africans
• Creation of plantations in Caribbean, No. and So. Americas
to grow staple crops: sugar, coffee, tobacco, cotton
• Racial system of slavery eventually developed – Europeans
rationalized only blacks could be slaves
Slave trade
World –
majority of
outside U.S.
Atlantic Slave Trade
• Europeans tapped into existing slave trade in Africa
• Atlantic slave trade increased demand for slaves exponentially
• Atlantic demand dramatically intensified and expanded slave
trade within Africa
• Slave trade greatly affected African societies
• Increase power of kings and elites
• Created new trader elite on coast – multilingual, multi-ethnic,
married Europeans, mixed-race children
• Affected political boundaries and states
• Led to increased warfare and slave raids, conducted with Euro.
• Created thousands of refugees
• Created African dependence on foreign goods, preventing
indigenous economic development still seen today
Slavery and Industry
• Often people think of slavery and industrialization as two
separate processes
• But there are major links and connections:
Time periods
Methods of production
Methods of labor control
Emphases on efficiency and productivity
European middle classes involved in both: merchants, bankers,
shipping, plantation owners
• Slavery and industrialization connected in major ways –
reinforced each other, affected the development of each other
Slave Captives
• Slaves were usually captured by African slave raiders
• In early years of Atlantic trade, kings or traders sold slaves that were
on hand
• As trade deepened and expanded, demand for slaves increased, and
raiders had to go further into the interior for supplies of slaves
• Usually went up one of the major rivers in canoes
• Raided villages
• Link to clip of slave capture from the film Amistad
• Raiders took slaves to coastal forts or factories run by Africans or
mixed-race trading families
• Slaves were usually kept in pens on the beach
• Many slaves died en route to forts and on beaches before ever
setting sail for the Americas
African Slave “Factory” on African Coast
West African Slave Fort or “Factory”
Tools of the
African Slave
Slave Fort and Boats
Slave Fort, Ghana, 1973
Slave Ship
Middle Passage: efficient and controlled transportation of goods AND murderous
enslavement and exploitation of fellow humans
Below-decks of Slave Ship,
Atlantic Slave Trade, 17011810
Cuban Sugar Mill
Slavery and Industry: use of new technologies, machinery, labor control for more
efficient production of consumer goods
Sugar Mill
The Merchant Ship: Industrial?
• A factory at
• Discipline
• Control
• Hierarchy
• Economic
• Engaged in
Consumption, Production, Finance
• Relationships between new forms of industry and new
forms of consumption
• New forms of popular consumption fueled and
reinforced the development of industrial production –
slave and free
• New forms of banking, finance, insurance to fund and
secure Atlantic trade
• Examples: sugar plantations, rum, coffee, tea, tobacco,
• Conclusion: most inhabitants of the Atlantic world were
connected to slave systems in some way – not equal
ways, of course
The Coffee House:
meeting place, banking, dealing, consumption
New Forms of Consumption
• Cheap sugar, textiles, guns, rum
• Not just for royalty anymore
• Growing middle-class conspicuous consumption:
• Cakes, sugary treats, for example
• But also working-class consumption
• Coffee houses – places to talk politics
• Sugar – cheap calories for factory workers
• Cheap goods for Atlantic Trade
• New consumption patterns tightened relationships,
both positive and negative
North American Slavery
• Distinctions:
• General differences between North American and
Caribbean/South American slavery
• Differences by size of plantation
• By region – northern slavery, upper vs. lower south,
western slavery
• By crop – tobacco, rice, sugar, coffee, cotton
• Changes over time (for example, after Am. Revolution;
after end of Atlantic slave trade; after LA Purchase)
• Link to clip on slavery in the Carolinas (from the PBS
series, Slavery and the Making of America (2005)
Slaves in the Original Thirteen Colonies (1750-1860)
Slaves as Percentage of Southern Population (1750-1860)
Slaves as Percentage of Southern Population (1750-1860
• What do pirates represent?
Link to National Geographic article on
Blackbeard’s ship, recent archaeological
work on the underwater wreck
Blackbeard the Pirate
Blackbeard and North Carolina
• Blackbeard hijacked French slave ship La
Concorde off Caribbean island of Martinique; set
slaves free
• Ship had been used for at least 3 slaving voyages,
around 500 slaves each
• 61 died on Middle Passage on last voyage
• 16 crew members also died
• Blackbeard plundered ships in triangle and
Atlantic/Caribbean trade
Atlantic Resistance to Power?
• At their most radical:
• Pirates represented rare form of interracial lower-class
• Whites, blacks, and people from all over the Atlantic fought
Atlantic industrial and slave systems together
• But….white resistance to power, authority, and
exploitation usually took other forms:
• Problem of racism - usually divided white working-class
from slaves and free blacks in Atlantic world
• White workers defined themselves as not slaves
• Whites gained prestige, small level of comfort &
consumption, wages for not being slaves
Popular Resistance
• There were a variety of popular responses by
people around the Atlantic in times of economic
• During feudalism (peasants vs. lords)
• Reused during transition to industrial economy
• Used to attack or undermine authority of
masters (of different kinds – slave masters,
industrial owners, middle class)
Mumming and Masquerade
Mumming was
tradition of
masquerade in
feudal and modern
Usually around
harvest or Xmas
A night when it was
ok to challenge
lord’s or
master’s authority
Lord or master
expected to share
wealth or abundance, “the treat”
Mummers showing up at the master’s door
Luddites in England
Luddites reused
tradition of popular
local protest and
masquerade to protest
new industrial system
Luddites smashed new
industrial factories and
machines to protest
control and power of
new industrial system
Often worked at night,
in masks, costumes,
under cover of
Signed protest letters
as “Ned Ludd”
Modern Mumming in Philly
Modern Mummers Day Parade in Philadelphia every New Year’s Day
History of Public Resistance
and Performance
• Context of owner surveillance and control – attempts to
limit gatherings in groups, fear of slave revolt
• Slaves, free blacks, post-slavery black Americans celebrated Emancipation Day as reminder of continued fight
for racial, social, and economic equality
• Claiming public sites or spaces when they did not have any
formal power or rights
• Examples
• John Canoe or Jonkonnu
• Pinkster and Negro Election Day
• Public religious, political, musical expression
• Often poked fun at whites through dress and mimicry
Everyday acts of resistance –
What are they talking about?
Slavery in Age of Revolution
• Revolutionary and Enlightenment beliefs had great
impact on slaves and slavery
• Ideas of liberty, freedom, equality, natural rights
circulated throughout the Atlantic world
• Adam Smith – free labor and markets are best
• Lord Dunmoore – slaves would be freed if they fought for
Brits during Am. Revolution
• Some upper south owners freed slaves after Am.
• Northwest Ordinance, 1787 – slavery banned from NW
• Gradual Emancipation in northern states in late 18th- and
early 19th centuries
Frederick Douglass and the Slave
• In what ways did Douglass resist the power of slaveholders
and slave society?
Resistance: Atlantic Abolitionists
• Britain developed strong abolitionist movement
• Quakers in 18th and 19th centuries
• William Wilberforce and reformers in Parliament –
British slave trade abolished, 1807
• Abolition of slavery in colonies, 1830s
• Strong working-class support for abolition, despite
fears of textile unemployment
• British: if they could abolish slavery, then it was right
thing for U.S. to do
• Advocated “free trade” and “free labor” instead of
slave labor
• Critics of “free labor” said it wasn’t truly free either
Close-up of Painting
Possible Student Selection
Student Comments:
Abolition: Common White Fears
• For most whites, abolition was scary
• It raised questions and fears about ex-slaves:
• Are blacks capable of being free?
• Can they live peacefully with whites?
• Will they work if not forced to? – assumed they were
naturally lazy
• Will they work for wages?
• Will they assimilate into society?
• Fears of sexual relations with whites – racial mixture
French and Haitian Revolutions
• Circulation of revolutionary ideals throughout
• Impact of French Rev. on slaves in Haiti and other
Atlantic slave societies
• Haitian Revolution, 1791-1804: only successful slave
• Haitian Revolt and Republic inspired slaves
throughout Atlantic
• Struck fear in whites – worst possible outcome in
white minds
Effects of Issues of Slavery and
Wage Labor in the Atlantic
What is a zombie?
Dead, but alive
Disguise of zombie
Group of zombies – mass conformity
Mindless, speechless
Created by some kind of disaster
Consciousness – being conscious vs. loss of control
Zombies: Atlantic Radicals?
• Product of Atlantic economic, social, and cultural
history and connections
• Loosely based on West African and Haitian vodun
(voodoo) religious practices, combined with Christian
and other influences
• Africa – Caribbean – Britain – U.S. – World
• Stories and myths - critical of power, control, loss of
• Began under slavery
• Emancipation as evolving issue – new forms of power
and control – wage labor, colonialism, Jim Crow,….
Film, White Zombie, 1932
• Meaning?
Fela Kuti, Zombie, 1977
• Nigerian Afrobeat musician
• Influenced by U.S.
Black Power movement
• Anti-colonial activist
• Activist for Nigerian democracy,
against govt. repression
Michael Jackson’s Thriller
• What is the message of Thriller?
• How does Thriller deal with white fears?
Image of Integration:
The American Dream
Image of Integration: Public Culture
Image of Religious Mystery:
Black Christianity and Folk Traditions
Image of Black Urban Culture: Street
Major Issues that Defined Atlantic World
• Control and discipline of workers (slave and
• Production for profit
• Control of time
• Control of space
• Movement and trade of primary resources in
exchange for finished industrial goods
• Growth of middle classes in ports and
industrial centers
• Growth of working-class/slave populations
• New forms of power, control, and profit in the Atlantic World
• Connections between slavery and industrial capitalism
• Popular forms of resistance to power and economic
• Wage labor developed within context of Atlantic Economy
and African enslavement – wage workers compared to slaves
• Possibilities of cross-racial resistance
• Problems of white fears: of loss of control and power
• Emancipation movements and continuing importance of
issues of race, power, freedom in Atlantic and world history

Slavery in America - Central Piedmont Community College