Slavery in the American Colonies

1. In the American colonies, Virginians switched from indentured servants to slaves for their labor needs for many reasons. A major reason was the shift in the relative supply of indentured servants and slaves. While the colonial demand for labor was increasing, a sharp decrease occurred in the number of English migrants arriving in America under indenture. Slaves were permanent property and female slaves passed their status on to their children. Slaves also seemed to be a better investment than indentured servants. Slaves also offered masters a reduced level of successful flight.

2. Most American slaves came from the coastal region of West Africa.

3. Around 10 or 11 million African slaves were brought to New World. Only about six percent of these African slaves wound up in the American colonies.

4. Slavery on the North American mainland emerged first in the tidewater region of the Chesapeake colonies. Tobacco provided the basis for a highly commercial, increasingly prosperous, and mostly rural society in the upper South. The second regional slave economy developed along the coast of the lower South. Rice became the staple crop in the region in the 1690’s. The third regional slave economy developed in Louisiana. Sugar eventually became a staple crop near the end of the 18th century. After being purchased by the United States, it became the leading producer of sugar and cotton and the site of the largest slave market in the United States over the next half century.

5. The South emerged as a slaveholding society in which whites made up a considerable proportion of the population, while non-slaveholders made up a majority of the white proportion. In most of the Caribbean, where the sugar was the dominant cash crop, blacks outnumb...

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...ued to perform agricultural labor. Originally, slaves resisted the efforts of missionaries and remained untouched by Christianity. After the Great Awakening, many slaves converted to Christianity. By the middle of the 19th century, Protestant Christianity was favored and accepted by the slave community.

10. Along with the nature of slavery and the slave population, masters developed a paternalistic outlook that would reach completion in the antebellum period. The existence of these attitudes did not vitiate slavery’s cruelty. However, the application of that power was less crude and naked than before and needless violence was less frequently flaunted. Despite living so close to their masters, slave lived completely different lives. At the very time that whites and blacks were becoming more like each other in many ways, class and racial lines were actually hardening.
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