why were most slaves in the New World Africans especially considering West
Africa is thousands of miles away fro the Americas in Europe slavery has
existed in multiple forms throughout history and across a wide variety of
cultures but slavery in the early Americas meaning the North American
colonies Central America South America and the Caribbean was ultimately powered
by the labor of enslaved Africans and their descendants and there’s an important question many people don’t
stop to ask why Africans there was nothing inherent to the social or
psychological makeup of West Africans and their descendants in the 17th through 19th
centuries that made them more prone to enslavement so to get to the
heart of her question we should first ask ourselves why did Europeans set
out to colonize the Americas to begin with okay so before I dive into the
answers to these questions I think it’s important to note that there is no such
thing as benevolent slavery since any system that’s predicated on the exploitation and extraction of labor
through violence and force cannot be considered fair however the purpose of
this rough timeline is to sketch a comparison without creating hierarchical
values of assessing harm inflicted on enslaved people to set the scene of the
early American colonies European powers
such as Spain followed by Portugal the Dutch British and French ventured out in
search of conquest and capital their early explorations of the Americas
starting in 1492 and continuing up until the 18th century weren’t driven by
wanderlust and a desire for adventure no matter what Disney fied versions of
colonization we learned in the movie Pocahontas instead they were looking for
one primary thing wealth and this could mean gold and silver ore could mean land
farmland and commercial crops the driving incentive for exploration was to
increase European power and to fatten the Royal coffers but initially slavery
was not the source of this wealth the early Spanish colonists to Central and
South America in the 16th century wrested control of silver and gold mines
that had been controlled by Incan and astok empires by forcing native groups
to extract silver and gold from the mines they had already established
colonists were able to meet their desires for high profits with low labor costs
aka no labor costs because they weren’t exactly intent on paying anyone
and the colonists were brutal by working native people to death cutting off limbs
if they didn’t extract enough materials quickly or threatening them with murder
the Spanish were able to increase their mining efforts in these regions and to
meet their specific demand for increased wealth throughout the 16th century
and despite European expectations and other regions like North America or the
Caribbean there weren’t huge repositories of gold and silver to send
back to Europe but even though there was little precious metal to be found the
Marquis and the early colonists who arrived in these areas were equally
intent on yielding high profits so they turned to crops that yielded high
profits like sugar tobacco rice and later cotton in order to assure the
highest profits they began to look to slavery since European laborers an
indentured servants required payment or other forms of protection so next we
have to ask when did colonist in the Americas turned to the African continent
as a site for extracting slaves the first enslaved Africans arrived in the
North American colonies under control by the British the areas that would later
become part of the u.s. in 1619 when xx were forcibly transported to Jamestown
Virginia by the Dutch but the first enslaved Africans had arrived in the
Caribbean in Latin America prior to that starting as early as the first decade of
the 16th century because remember folks the colonies established in the Americas
plural covers South North and Central America plus the Caribbean and not just
the present-day US but the transportation of African people into
slavery began before the colonization of the Americas according to an article by
Professor dr. Hakim Adid the Portuguese began enslaving Africans in the 15th
century when they arrived on the African continent for the purposes of trade
around that time they were enslaved Africans among other enslaved and free
populations in Portugal so even though it wasn’t the only or necessarily most
widespread form of slavery at the time this 15th century precedent would set
the stage for later decisions surrounding slavery that were to come
and during colonization in the Americas but at that point in time captivity
wasn’t extended exclusively to black people or people from the African
continent and was often the result of raids warfare or slave trading that
included Islamic traders West African groups and Europeans among others ok so
we’ve established the precedents leading up to the explosion of the West African
slave trade so our final question is why did European colonists start to look exclusively at
West Africans as a source of slave labor and how did the emergence of chattel
slavery in the Americas differ from pre-existing forms remember that the
colonies were established to make money for royal families and wealthy colonists
and a small class of wealthy colonists who owned large plantations looked to
increase their margins through not paying for the labor that generated
their cash crops so it wasn’t that slavery was needed to develop the
colonies but rather that it was decided that this was the quickest way to enrich
the people invested in getting rich black slaves continued to arrive in the
Caribbean North America and South America through the 16th 17th and 18th
century and it wasn’t until the 19th century that slavery began to be
eradicated however by this point there was a large slave population in the
Americas and the condition of slavery was considered legally hereditary with
children taking the status of their mothers in perpetuity when Europeans
arrived in the Americas colonists found that the previously established system
that relied on enslaving conquered enemies was not functioning for several
key reasons namely first early attempts in the Americas to enslave Native
Americans proved difficult because they
had familiarity with the terrain of their own nations and land as a result
the potential for escape or revolt was high this made using a system of leading
raised and then enslaving whoever lost about a less achievable since colonists
had little to no idea how to survive in
these new regions and often fell prey to diseases which Europeans had no immunity
to namely malaria the subsequent rampant genocide of Native American people and
the introduction of new diseases that tesa mated their population namely
smallpox from Europe made widespread enslavement less possible but by
transporting people from West Africa to the Americas European colonists wanted
greater ability to control and slave populations by making a scape more
challenging and reducing the risk of those who did flee blending it to
neighboring native nations although the fact that there continued to be slave
revolt amongst enslaved Africans and their descendants proves that this
calculation was often mistaken second West Africa was often the source of
forced and kidnapped laborers because
ofits proximity to seaports which made contact between
these three locations more possible also laborers from West
African countries were more familiar with the agricultural methods needed for
mass cultivation of these kinds of crops in the new so how does it all add up well even
though the slave trade brought an estimated 9 to 12 million people here
from Africa’s cargo conness eventually
resorted to reproduction within the
colonies as a method for sustaining slavery
this meant that slavery could be
passed down as an inherited status from mother
to child and to justify this
never-ending enslavement we started to see the evolution of false race science
and racialization used as a justification for why one group of
people specifically people of African descent were the only ones who could be
enslaved but this shift erase the reality that prior to turning to West
Africa as a labor source slavery existed across racial lines and was dictated
more by battles and military capture than by skin tone the resulting idea we
had about race evolved out of a desire by people engaging in the slave trade to
find an after-the-fact justification for
enslaving people from one specific
region over others.


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