The slave trade era in the United States of America (U.S.) was the period where human beings, especially Africans, were subjected to forced labor during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the process, the slaves were subjected to a series of activities that they had to undertake against their will. According toFenske and Kala (2017), during the era, black slaves played a significant role, though unwillingly and without being rewarded, in establishing the foundation of the American economy in most parts of the country, especially the South. For many years, since the 1500s, millions of black people were taken into slavery and transported across the Atlantic with the aim at providing cheap labor in various parts of the U.S.
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The movement of African slaves to the U.S. during the slave trade era is considered to be among the most massive transoceanic migration. Later, slavery became a way of life in the Southern region, and most slaves were subjected to free labor in cotton and sugar plantations (Newman, 2017). Essentially, although Native Americans from the North were beneficiaries of the slave trade and plantations from the South, slavery was not common in the Northern region. Nevertheless, the history of the slave trade was a process that took place for several decades and can be attributed to a combination of several factors.
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Slave Trade History among African-Americans in the U.S.
The practice of the slave trade in the U.S. was common even when the country was a British colony. By the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the slave trade was already legal in most parts of the country.O’Connell and Reece (2018) assert that slave trade in the U.S. began in 1619 when a Dutch ship carrying 20 African slaves brought them to the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia. From then, most European settlers in North America began sourcing slaves from Africa, as they deemed them cheaper and could provide more labor than the servants who were mainly Europeans from poor backgrounds (Newman, 2017). According to O’Connell and Reece (2018), although it is difficult to estimate the exact number, it is approximated that between six to seven million black slaves were brought into the U.S. during the 18th century. During the 17th and 18th centuries, many black slaves were brought to work in tobacco, rice, and indigo farms of the Southern coast that ran from colonies of Maryland and South Virginia to Georgia (Newman, 2017). In this regard, the history of black slaves in the U.S. can be attributed to the need for labor in plantations located in the Southern region.
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The legalization of the slave trade in the U.S. was first witnessed during the 17th century. Notably, the sentencing of John Punch in 1640 to slavery after attempting to flee his service was the first time when the law was applied in the slavery concept (Littlejohn, 2018). Later, in 1641, slave trade later became legal for the first time in the colony of Massachusetts. Littlejohn (2018) asserts that by 1720, almost 65% of the population in South Carolina was made up of slaves, especially those with African backgrounds. The Southern region depended on agriculture that needed a huge number of laborers who were mainly black slaves. More so, the number of black people working as slaves in the U.S. had grown to about four million by the 1860 census, which accounted for about 12% of the national population (Littlejohn, 2018). The rate of black people being subjected to slavery in the U.S. was growing almost twice than in European countries. During the slavery era, most slave owners were aimed at making their slaves completely depended on them thorough restricting their movements and prohibiting them from reading and writing (Littlejohn, 2018).
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During the time, most slave masters used to exploit women slaves sexually as well as rewarded and punished the obedient and rebellious slaves respectively (Littlejohn, 2018). In this way, the growth of slavery among African-Americans was facilitated by laws enacted in the country as well as made dependent on their owners. The end of the slavery began with people from the North advocating the abolishment of the slave trade and later the formation of anti-slavery movements as well as a rebellion by the slaves (Bunting & Quirk, 2019). However, the end of the slave trade in the U.S. is attributed to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, by President Lincoln and passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 after the end of the Civil War (Bunting & Quirk, 2019). Therefore, the history of the slave trade began during the early 17th century with European settlers seeking labor for their plantations and ended during the 19th century after the end of the Civil War in the country.
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All in all, one of the aspects that characterized the 18th and 19th centuries in the U.S. was the enslavement of Africans. Slave trade in the U.S. was brought about by European settlers who were seeking for cheap labor for their plantations. Although there were European laborers from poor backgrounds, the settlers preferred the black slaves, as they offered free labor and could do more work. Most of the slaves used to work in the Southern region that had tobacco, rice, and indigo plantations. Notably, the Northern part did not depend on agriculture, and there was no need for slaves. The abolishment of the slave trade in the U.S. began with the formation of anti-slavery movements as well as a rebellion by the slaves. Furthermore, the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln in 1863 and the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 after the end of the Civil War were some of the main reasons for the abolishment of slave trade in the U.S. In this sense, slave trade that involved enslavement of Africans was a concept that lasted for several centuries.
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