A History of Slavery in the United States

Slavery is a sensitive topic in today’s America, it is portrayed as the nineteenth-century version and that all people involved were gross with low moral standards. Many do not know that slaves came before 1619 and they were treated as and that many were freed in their lifetimes. Slaves in the seventeenth century were much like indentured servants. Most plantations had less than 20 slaves. They lived a somewhat normal life as they lived in family units, got to visit family and friends on their off times and were freed. Many worked on tobacco plantations sometimes along with their owners. As time went on the population of the slaves grew to be self-sustaining. Past indentured servants started to revolt making the planters fearful.

Going into the 1700s slavery was slowly changing as laws began to be passed making slavery legal and adding restrictions. An example is in 1705 the Virginia slave codes made black people and their children legal property of their owners for life, and so stated who was a slave when they entered the country. And also be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, and it is hereby enacted, That all servants imported and brought into this country, by sea or land, who were not Christians in their native country, shall be accounted and be slaves, and as such be here bought and sold notwithstanding a conversion to Christianity afterward. (Laws on Slavery. ) . By 1750 nearly half of Virginia’s population were from Africa as slaves. By 1790 the tobacco trade was declining, the need for slave labor became less necessary in Chesapeake. To try to make up for the lack of labor needed the Planters would divide up their land and rent it and their slaves to farmers. Others would rent out their slaves as city workers and laborers. Many were let free and others were sent to work in the fields in Mississippi. (AP UNITED STATES HISTORY 2010 SCORING GUIDELINES (Form B) ) As cotton trade picked up so did slave breeding in Virginia.

Many things caused the change in attitude towards slavery like the American revolution when states separated in half into free and slave states, the decline in tobacco trade making slaves less valuable and more costly. Many of the slaves were sold to go work on cotton and rice plantations in the south. With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 changed the pace at which slaves had to work to produce cotton. The environment of the plantation was different depending on the of the master, and if they were involved with the plantation. On large plantations, women worked as seamstresses, cooks, nurses, or maids in the master’s house. Men worked as butlers, coachmen, valets, field worker, drivers, mechanics, or craftsmen. (AP UNITED STATES HISTORY 2010 SCORING GUIDELINES (Form B) ) Two systems were used in the fields the gang system the more strict of the two, an overseer or driver watches 20 -25 slaves, this system is mostly used on cotton plantations. The second method, the task system, the slaves were given a daily task and worked at their own pace, most commonly used in rice fields. Work hours were long slaves were in the field 15 to 16 hours a day, Sundays were given off. Clothes and shoes were made from a piece of cloth that was distributed once a year.

Slavery will always be a big part of American history and will always be questioned and brought up. It is always said to be something we should learn from yet it is still happening today in other parts of the world. Slavery was not always a cruel and it brings into question, did the American way of slavery shape the way slavery is done today.

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