How Slavery Affected Colonial America


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Slavery was a practice in many countries in the 17th and 18th centuries, but its effects in human history was unique to the United States. Many factors played a part in the existence of slavery in colonial America; the most noticeable was the effect that it had on the personal and financial growth of the people and the nation. Capitalism, individualism and racism were the utmost noticeable factors during this most controversial period in American history. Other factors, although less discussed throughout history, also contributed to the economic rise of early American economy, such as, plantationism and urbanization. Individually, these factors led to an enormous economic growth for the early American colonies, but collectively, it left a social gap that we are still trying to bridge today.

Capitalism has always been a double edge sword for the United States. It began as the driving force in pushing along economic growth, but it came at the price of the African society. It was implied, and enforced, that Africans were of a lesser class through the means in which they were "used" by the slave owners to promote their wealth and stature. The larger their plantation, the wealthier and more successful people were seen. But in order to do this, the plantation owners needed workers, but if they had to pay workers reasonable wages, they could not yield a profit. Also, in the South, it was hard, rough work in the hot sun and very few whites were willing to do the work, therefore, most plantation owners purchased slaves to work the land. The plantation owner gave the slaves shelter and a small food allowance as a salary. Thereby, the plantation owner "saved" his money to invest in more land, which of course required more slaves to continue to yield a larger profit. An economic cycle was created between plantation owner and slave, one that would take generations to end. Slaves were now a necessity on the larger plantations to work the fields. They were pieces of property that quickly transformed into required elements of plantation machinery. African slaves were regarded as a large, dependable, and permanent source of 'cheap labor' because slaves rarely ran away and when caught they were severely punished. The creation of the plantation system of farming were essential factors in maintaining the idea of slavery.

Ironically, the New World was created to find political and religious freedom and escape oppression.

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The ideas of personal worth and individualism. How strange then for such a society that encouraged and promoted such beliefs would contradict itself by excluding the African slaves who were not considered equal to whites. They were considered the lowest of the low on the social ladder. The colonial society believed in providing the necessary means for personal growth and development, and yet limited and controlled the lives of slaves. Personal development and growth was not an option for slaves. They were unable to attain any personal wealth or economic growth, which left them "dehumanized" and limited in life they could lead. They were given no means to better themselves, and this was done so that the slaves had to remain dependent upon the slave owners for their survival.

Perhaps the most profound factor, and the one most difficult to discuss in slavery, is racism. The ideas of slavery or indentured servant had all been around before the colonies were established; so, why was it so different in the Americas? The belief in white superiority and black inferiority was imposed upon the African slaves. With very few exceptions, all slaves were African and brought to America for the sole purpose of free labor and thereby all people with dark or black skin were labeled something less than human in comparison to the white population.
In America, Africans were put "out of bounds" of regular society because their place was racially defined and therefore, incurable. Slave owners believed that there were five steps in the character molding of a slave: 1) strict discipline, 2) a sense of self-inferiority, 3) a belief in master's superiority, 4) an acceptance master's ideals, and 5) a deep sense of their own dependency and hopelessness. Most of the time, the slaves were exploited for the accumulation of the wealth of the whites. The Africans could escape slavery, but not their race and if ever caught they would be punished harshly.

The urbanization and industrialization of early America became another underlying factor in the economics of slavery. Initially, Southern slave owners thought that the slaves were "too stupid" to understand the machinery, so they would not work well in urban areas. They were also believed to be "too careless" to use complex tools in the factories. As a result of this thinking, it impeded the growth of industrialization in the South and maintained the chains of slavery.

Slaves were an economic positive but a social negative in history. They helped the economics of the country thrive and grow, but it was also a insult of a race. Africans also had a history that they should have been proud to have. Instead, they were denied their heritage and were made to be ashamed of the people that they were. The development of slavery was the white slave owners' way to maintain control of the growing population of Africans, socially and industrially. If the slaves were confined to the fields of the plantations for supervision, the whites would remain dominant race and maintain their theory of "white supremacy." It also freed the slave owners from the worries of labor strikes and unemployment. It proved to be a strong economic advantage. One could state that the increasing economic growth of early America was due to the slave's labor. One could also state that the growth was due to the investments of the land and crops by the white slaveholders. Either way it is stated, it is true, slavery had a huge impact on the growth of a new and emerging nation, but it was also the abuse of a race.


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