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Causes And Effects Of Slavery In The U.S.

1448 words - 6 pages

Slavery has been described as a "social institution defined by law and custom as the most absolute involuntary form of human servitude." . The three main characteristics of slavery are that the people are regarded as property, they are forced to serve (often through violence), and they are subject to the owner's will.

The most famous example of this kind of slavery is found in America, during the 16th, 17th and 18th century. During this time, America's southern states were dominated by slavery, and the vast majority of plantations were essentially run by black slaves, imported from Africa. The slave trade was founded in 1444, by the Portuguese who, sensing the need for more slaves, ventured to use Africans. They realised that the sheer numbers of slaves needed to work in Europe and the European colonies an America could be easily acquired from the African tribes people who were already using slaves in their own communities. The Portuguese realised that the slaves could be used to make a profit, and during the early 16th century, the Spanish began to travel to Africa to get slaves. Shortly after this, English colonists and merchants also joined the now expansive slave trade.

Legal recognition of slaves was begun in 1641, by Massachusetts, who recognised the need for some sort of legislature to control the use of slaves. The state of Massachusetts was shortly followed by Connecticut in 1650 and Virginia in 1661. However, these laws were not intended to protect the black slaves. They were intended to protect the rights of slave owners. By the time of the war of independence, the Africans had become slaves in the fullest sense according to law and custom. The law protected the plantation owner's rights over slaves, and thus the slaves were left with no rights whatsoever. If they tried to escape to other states, ones that were anti-slavery, they were not free. Instead, they were classed as fugitives. In this way, slaves were left with no way to become free. Their only option was to work on the plantations for life.

By this stage, slave owners had begun to realise that the only way to control slaves was by using violence and threats. A new culture had been introduced: one of black inferiority and white superiority. Many white plantation owners used extreme violence to make their slaves work, as they had no other means with which to control them. They could not reward the slaves by decreasing their length of servitude; the slaves were used for life, and their monetary value was too great for the plantation owners to reprieve them. However, sometimes the violence became so extreme that the slaves died, which decreased the plantation's profit. This use of violence extended to rape of black women and children, mutilation and branding. Rape of slaves produced an inter-race community, although this was violently unstable due to the racial and social discrimination present at that time. The plantation masters branded their slaves so that if...

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