A Respectable Trade and Amistad
An unfortunate part of history and labor involves European, American, and African slave traders engaging in the lucrative trade in humans. The movies, A Respectable Trade and Amistad show two slightly different slants to the same evil side of the concept of slavery. They point to an all too realistically gruesome picture of this despicable economic system. Although slavery contains some similarities to capitalism, it contains in it many differences as well, making it a distinct system from others that have existed.
Slavery. The term and all that it embodies inspires revulsion, anger, and sadness. The history of this nation is intertwined with slavery-as many things are the result of African-American sweat and blood-(brought to these shores in slave ships). The institution of slavery had a significant impact on this society's institutions, such as the family, and on its social thought, law, and economy.
Slavery was a form of dependent labor that can be differentiated from other forms by the fact that in any society the general consensus is that it was considered to be the most degrading and most sever. It can be characterized by a relationship that was founded on the notion of dominance and power. To mention briefly, humans have created other forms of dependent labor as well: serfdom, indentured labor, and peonage. However these are not the same as slavery. A "serf" was usually subject to the law, and thus had some rights of his or her own. A serf was also usually bound to the land in comparison to the slave who was usually bound to his master and thus had to live where the master told him to and could be sold whenever the master wanted to sell them for money. The serf also usually owned his grain, livestock, implements, etc… but the slave owned nothing-usually not even his or her clothes. The lord's interference with the serf over marriage and reproduction to form a family was much less than the owner's (master's) interference with the slave. Furthermore, serfs often had to pay taxes, serve in the army, etc… whereas slaves were usually exempt from such things since they were considered to be chattel.
An "indentured servant" was a person who borrowed money and thus usually "voluntarily" agreed to work off the debt during a specific time period. While working off the debt they essentially became a servant, to those from whom they had borrowed money, for a specific period of time. Although contracts varied, sometimes they specified that the servants, when set free, were to be set free with some money, or a plot of land, or even a spouse. In contrast, if slaves were set free they simply had to hope for the generosity of their owners to prevail in any shape or form-which it often did not.
"Peons" were another group of laborers. They were people that were either forced to work off debts or they were people who were criminals. They did not have any prespecified length of time...