C.- Political Globalization
b) The First Nations of North America and Afro-Americans under American Imperialism
Afro-Americans under American Imperialism
I — Introduction
As I was reading through the various statistics , documents and essays concerning the history of Afro-Americans since their arrival as African slaves in North America beginning in the 17th century , I could not but feel the same human disgust for European colonialist and later on American colonialist policy with respect to what Native Americans had experienced in their own history, as First Nations, within their own native territories of thousands of years.
As a Greek person, I personally feel uneasy and politically alienated for belonging to a European political culture with its ‘’supposedly’’ democratic political ideals and Christian humanistic values, and why not , I feel distraught for being part of ‘’modern human civilization’’, which for the last 6,000 years, has devoted most of its human energy and potential in accumulating and consuming irrationally the earth’s natural resources to the physical and spiritual detriment of his own specie and to the physical destruction and poisoning of his natural environment which keeps his specie alive. The ‘’modern’’ and ‘’evolved’’ human specie has shown itself to be dysfunctional and in disharmony with respect to all other living organisms; reinforcing a self-destructive and nihilistic human evolution which will naturally end with his own ‘’extinction’’ , as it had occurred in the past with the dinosaurs.
The history of the Afro-Americans during the last 400 years, is essentially the story of Black Slavery originating in the continent of Africa beginning in the 16th century, and which represented a major historical factor in Western Imperialism and Globalization, economic, political and cultural. Black Slavery controlled by Western European Powers, represented a critical economic component to Western Globalization, and especially American Globalization within the Western Hemisphere. Therefore, if we are to better understand American Globalization and the socio-political and economic status of Afro-Americans today, we should begin our analysis with the socio-economic institution of Black Slavery as it evolved in North America from the 17th century.
In the first section of our article on Afro-Americans, we will first examine the various aspects of Black Slavery as it was introduced and applied in North America since the 17th century, throughout the American colonies and later on in the United States of America when it was founded as an independent nation-state in 1776. We will then examine official American government policy with respect to the civil status of Afro-Americans till the present day. Finally, in this section of our article, we shall look into at the involvement, the contribution and the civil status of African-Americans as fighting or military combatants within the defence apparatus of the American colonies and consequently , within the American Armed Forces. The civil status of Afro-Americans as regular soldiers or combatants, is a very accurate historical indicator to their socio-political status and their civil rights within this North American geopolitical entity and its political culture during the last 400 years.
We shall now note down definitions of political terms and concepts which I believe are relevant with respect to our article on the historical experience of Afro-Americans during the last 350 years.
They are the following:
Apartheid – a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)
Colonialist – a person who supports the practice of gaining political control over other countries and occupying them with settlers (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)
Authoritarian – favouring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)
Oligarchy – a small group of people having control of a country or organization (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)
Ethnocentric – evaluating other cultures according to perceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)
White supremacist – one who believes that white people are racially superior to others and should therefore dominate society (www.thefreedictionary.com)
Racism – prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)
Lynching – putting a person to death by mob action without due process of law (www.thefreedictionary.com)
Assimilation –assimilation, in anthropology or sociology is the process whereby individuals or groups of differing ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture of a society (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)
Segregation – the enforced separation of different racial groups in a country , community or establishment (www.collinsdictionary.com)
Social Integration – the combination of previously segregated social facilities into a non-segregated system (www.collinsdictionary.com)
Political Culture – Political Culture is defined by the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences as ‘the set of attitudes , beliefs and sentiments that give order and meaning to a political process and which provide the underlying assumption and rules that govern behavior in the political system (https://en.wikipedia.org)
We shall now register personal observations by three Afro-American political leaders who greatly influenced the socio-political evolution of Afro-Americans during the 20th century. These political protagonists provided Afro-American society with the ideological and social guidelines to define its historical identity within American society, as well as the political tools to promote their own civil rights and socio-economic interests within the United States of America.
W.E.B. Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was a Harvard trained historian, sociologist, journalist, and political activist. He was a Socialist and a Segregationist. He came from a family of small landowners from the state of Massachusetts. Du Bois was one of the founding members of the NAACP(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), which was established in 1909 by a group of bi-racial activists and which represents the oldest civil rights organization in the United States.
In 1910, Du Bois organized and became the editor of this political organization’s official magazine , ‘’The Crisis’’, whose publication permitted young writers and journalists, both black and white, to register the evolution of the early civil rights movement, which continues its civil rights mission up to today. ‘’The Crisis’’ by the end of its first decade of publication had achieved a monthly circulation of 100,000 copies.
As a Black Nationalist and a Socialist political activist, Du Bois was always in a political confrontation with the American Intelligence Services and with the American government. In 1951, the American government confiscated his American passport and withheld it for many years. In 1963, Du Bois relinquished his American Citizenship, becoming a citizen of the African country of Ghana, where he died that same year at the age of 95.
W.E.B. Du bois, in his autobiographical book ‘’The Dusk of Dawn’’, relating the civil status of Afro-Americans to Western Imperialism, makes the following commentary.(p.619, The Dusk of Dawn-The Library of America,1986)
‘’…Never before, in the modern age has a great and civilized folk threatened to adopt so cowardly a creed in the treatment of its fellow citizens, born and bred on its soil. Stripped of verbiage and subterfuge and its naked nastiness, the new American creed says: fear to let black men even try to rise lest they become the equals of the white. And this is the land that professes to follow Jesus Christ. The blasphemy of such a course is only matched by its cowardice…’’.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)
Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and an Afro-American political activist who became the most important spokesperson and leader of the Afro-American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968, in Memphis Tennessee. He was born and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, while his father was also a Baptist minister there. He advanced the civil rights of Afro-Americans through his political philosophy of nonviolence and civil disobedience.
In 1948, Martin Luther King received a B.A. in Sociology from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, while he acquired a Ph.D. in Theology in 1955 at Boston University. In 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combatting racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.
In his autobiography, Martin Luther makes the following observations, equating the political repression of Afro-Americans by the American government with that of Western Colonialism and Western Imperialism around the world.(pp.106-107- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.—Edited by Clayborne Carson, Warner Books, 1998)
‘’…This determination of Negro Americans to win freedom from all forms of oppression springs from the same deep longing that motivates oppressed people all over the world. The rumbling of discontent in Asia and Africa are expressions of a quest for freedom and human dignity by people who have long been the victims of colonialism and imperialism. So, in a real sense, the racial crisis in America is a part of the larger world crisis …’’.
Malcolm X (1925-1965)
Malcolm X was the son of a Baptist minister from Nebraska, where he was born and grew up. He was a proponent of Black Nationalism and the non-integration of Afro-Americans in White American society, challenging the multiracial nonviolent approach of Martin Luther King Jr. . He greatly influenced the Black Power Movement of the 1960s in the United States, even though as a converted Muslim his political and ideological affiliation was with the American religious organization ‘’The Nation of Islam’’. Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 in Harlem, New York, by members of the Nation of Islam because he had severed ties with this organization’s founder and leader, Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975). Malcolm X had great political and ideological appeal with young Afro-Americans at the grass root level.
In his autobiography, he presents the following description related to early life when he was growing up in Nebraska, in the 1930s.(p.27,The Autobiography of Malcolm X—Ballantine Books, New York 1992)
‘’…What I am trying to say is that it just never dawned upon them (referring to his White neighbors) that I wasn’t a pet, but a human being. They didn’t give credit for having the same sensibility, intellect, and understanding that they would have been ready and willing to recognize in a white boy in my position. But it has historically been the case with white people in their regard for black people, that even though we might be with them, we weren’t considered of them. Even though they appeared to have opened the door, it was still closed. Thus they never really see me…’’.
We shall now end this introduction to our article on African-American history by providing a quote written by Ajamu Baraka, National Organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace, and the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket , who in September 2017, in an essay linking American Globalization and American Imperialism to the civil status of Afro-Americans in the United States, states the following:
‘’…The Trump administration’s bellicosity in response to the delicate and dangerous situation with North Korea is just the latest, however crude, iteration of warmongering that has characterized settler-state’s bloody march across the North American continent and continuing to the present… The task for those of us who have historically been the victims during this 522-year-old nightmare of Western colonial/capital exploitation and systematic dehumanization is to make sure that we don’t confuse our interests and realties with the interests and agenda of the U.S./E.U./NATO axis of domination. For the black liberation movement, we must be clear about our friends and our interests, but even clearer about who our enemies are and their interests…’’. (https://www.pambazuka.org)
II — Black Slavery in the Americas
I shall begin this part of the essay which will analyse the historical aspects of Black Slavery in the American Continent, and more especially in the United States of America, by quoting Ms. Daina Ramey Berry, Associate Professor of History and African Studies, at the University of Texas in Austin, from her article ‘Slavery in America: back in the headlines’, published in the academic journal ‘’The Conversation’’, in October 2014.
In her text she notes, ‘’…The elephant that sits at the center of our history is coming into focus. American slavery happened- we are still living with its consequences…’’.(http://theconversation.com)
I absolutely agree with the political position expressed by this Afro-American professor from the University of Texas, because I truly believe that no one piece of American history has affected more the socio=political and the socio-economic edifice of the United States, as well as its cultural image than Black Slavery which was introduced in North America during the 17th century.
Black Slavery provided the United States of America with the economic and social base to make it one of the most powerful capitalist countries in the world, beginning in the 19th century. It transformed the country into a military power which in the 19th century, had defeated the British, the French and the Spanish on its territory, ensuring its geopolitical independence and its expansionist policies in North America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.
Finally, Black Slavery in America, influenced the political culture of the United States, whose government maintained and still maintains that it is a Constitutional Republic, yet its policies throughout its history, towards the its Native Americans and its Afro-American inhabitants, clearly demonstrate that it is essentially a ‘’state oligarchy’’ of vested economic and political interests. This American Establishment or the Deep State as it is referred today, rarely has followed the tenets of the American Constitution, nor the Laws and Constitutional Amendments that the American Congress has ratified through the years, which ‘’in theory’’ promoted social and economic justice for all its citizens.
The pivotal potential of Black Slavery in transforming the United States into a major economic, political and military power in the world, and eventually into the Global Super Power after WWII, was that slaves provided the necessary ‘’cheap labor force’’, but also often, the ‘’specialized manpower’ , to maintain ,reinforce and expand its power base economically, politically and militarily.
Yet, what Black Slavery affected mostly American society, both black and white, was its political culture, producing a dysfunctional and conflicting social environment, undermining the country’s national unity, a popular consensus relative to its political representation and evolution, as well as a harmonious cultural and racial diversity, falsely identified by historians as America’s ‘’melting pot’’ of the world.
The essence of this American societal disharmony I believe is derived from the prevalent set of attitudes, beliefs and sentiments White Americans carry with them towards Afro-Americans, and visa-versa. There is a dichotomy between the ‘’persona’’ and the ‘’psyche’’ of these two races instilled by Black Slavery, which still affects negatively the underlying assumptions and rules that govern popular behavior within the political system of the United States.
The White American still considers the Afro-American as a human by product of Black Slavery, with no valid historical and cultural identity, therefore racially inferior and socio-politically almost irrelevant. On the other hand ,the Afro-American sees in the White American, the ‘’slave master’’ who is always ‘’willing and ready’’ to subjugate him and to exploit him, disowning him of his rights as an American citizen to participate and develop ‘’on an equal basis’’ , economically, socially and politically within ‘’his own country’’. The Afro-American strongly believes that the White American wants to keep him down as a ‘’second class citizen’’ perpetually.
These conflicting social attitudes and beliefs through the course of time have been sublimated internally, both for the White American and the Afro-American, but the dichotomy between their ‘’persona’’ and their ‘’psyche’’ , is real and active, lurking in their subconscious. It is always ready to resurface consciously, exploding at any moment into a total and destructive racial confrontation as it had occurred ‘’sporadically’’ and on a ‘’limited level’’ throughout the United States during the 1950s and the 1960s.
Before we discuss the various aspects concerning Black Slavery in North America, we have to mention the historical fact that the first use of slavery in the Americas occurred during the 16th century, with the Spanish colonialist expansionist policies in Mexico, California and in the American southwest and southeast. During this historical period, the slaves which were exploited were not African slaves but Native American slaves.’’…As early as 1542,when Juan Rodriguez Cadrillo, a Spanish explorer , claimed the California territories for Spain, the forced servitude of Native Americans resulted as many of the soldiers used native free labor to help build battlements, forts, and Catholic missions…’’.(https://historycooperative.org)
Throughout the 17th and 18th century, religious missions in Mexico and the southwestern North America, captured Native Americans, baptized them as Catholics, and then forced them to work in the various missions of Spain’s vast American Empire. These indigenous slaves worked as planters, masons, cattle herders, carpenters, and more, and even though these Native American slaves were cheaper and easier to get than African slaves, in time, it was recognized that they were less reliable, and physically less able to endure the harsh working conditions of slave work as the African slaves. As a consequence, the labor demands for a thriving economy for cotton, tobacco, rice and other agricultural products in the south of the United States, led to a large increase of the African slave trade and a drastic decrease of Native Americans as slave labourers . (https://historycooperative.org)
Africans first arrived in the Americas in the late 16th century, not as slaves but as explorers , together with Spanish and Portuguese explorers. From the introduction of slavery in British North America, around 1619, when a Dutch ship brought 20 enslaved Africans to the Virginia colony at Jamestown, nearly 240 years passed until the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, legally but ‘’not pragmatically’’ ending slavery in 1865.’’…This means that 12 generations of blacks survived and lived in America as enslaved people- direct descendants of the nearly 500,000 enslaved Africans imported into North America by European traders…’’.(https://www.researchgate.net)
In the beginning, the Black Slave Trade received state backing by the Western Powers, like the Netherlands, Britain, Spain, France, Denmark and Portugal. After the 1700s, the slave trade with Africa became a free economy, controlled by various merchants and commercial enterprises. From Senegal to the Niger Delta, Europeans had built a multitude of forts near the Atlantic coastline to oversee and regulate the slave trade, exchanging European ‘’luxury products’’ and ‘’weaponry’’ with the various African tribal chiefs, who traded their own people as ‘’chattel’’; from villages in the interior with populations between 2,000 and 20,000 inhabitants. Most of the slave trade was undertaken through the exchange of goods and commodities, but there were also raids on villages by the combined efforts of European traders and their African partners or associates. (pp.207-213, L’Amerique avant les Etats-Unis(1497-1776), Flammarion, 2013)
From 1676 to 1800, at the height of the Atlantic slave trade, 6,5 million slaves were transported to the Americas. From 1801 to 1867, almost 3,5 million slaves were moved, while in the 16th and 17th centuries, there were 1 million Africans taken into slavery. Portugal transported 46% of the total , with 5 million slaves, while Britain 28% of the total with 3 million slaves. France transported 1,5 million slaves, the Netherlands and Spain with 500,000 slaves each , and finally Sweden and Denmark with 1 million slaves together. From the statistics that we have just mentioned, we can conclude that the Transatlantic Black Slave Trade was an economically very powerful transnational enterprise, supporting a Globalized Economy.
The main geographic locations where African slaves originated, were Senegal, the Gold Coast, the Gulf of Benin, the Bay of Biafra and the west-central coast of Africa. In the eastern coast of Africa there were Somalia, Mozambique and Madagascar.(pp.216-217, L’Amerique avant les Etats-Unis(1497-1776), Flammarion, 2013)
There are two more aspects involving the Black Slave Trade, active from the 17th to the 19th century, furnishing ‘’cheap labor force’’ to European and American commercial enterprises in the Americas , that are not widely known.
The first one has to do with the fact that ‘’alcohol’’ represented one of the major commodities exchanged by European traders and merchants with African chiefs to acquire African slaves.
As it had been in the case of the commercial transactions between the European settlers of North America and its indigenous peoples, the Native Indians, ‘’alcohol’’ in the form of beverage, played a major economic role as a commodity to be traded with African chiefs for Black Slaves, not only because it was profitable for the European slave merchants and the European commercial enterprises which manufactured alcoholic beverages like ‘’rum’’( in the Caribbean islands, Brazil, North America and Europe), but also because it was an addictive chemical substance which produced ‘’drug dependency’’ on its African consumers. ‘’…Indigenous peoples of Africa were abused in a similar way( as the Native Americans), when European slave traders brought ship loads of rum across the sea to African tribal leaders and gave some of the barrels of rum to them…..By neglecting to warn them of the addictive and dangerous qualities of alcohol, the European slave traders intentionally tricked the African tribal leaders. The tribal leaders’ addiction to alcohol caused them to capture many of their own people for the purpose of trading them for more rum…’’.(https://www.towakhon.org)
The second historical information related to the transatlantic Black Slavery Trade , and which is almost unknown to the great majority of historians and academics, is the fact that European Jews played a pivotal role in the Black Slave Trade not only as merchants but also as large plantation owners in South America, the Caribbean and in southeastern North America. This historical data came to the surface through two reliable and legitimate sources.
First, this information was communicated to the Jewish Telegraph Agency by a prominent Dutch rabbi, Lody van de Kamp, and was published by ‘’The Times of Israel’’ in 2015.
Second, these historical facts were made available by the American religious organization, ‘’The Nation of Islam’’, through its publication of a book entitled ‘’The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews’’, in 1991, using authentic historical material, especially from Jewish historical documents.
Both of these printed sources substantiate the historical evidence that European Jews , especially merchants from Holland and great plantation owners residing in Brazil, the Caribbean and southeastern North America, dominated some of the most important slave-trading markets in the West.
From the book published by ‘’The Nation of Islam’’, we discover that in many cases in all of the European colonies in the Americas, whether French, British or Dutch, the Black Slave Trade was frequently dominated by Jewish merchants and Jewish plantation owners, but even early on , Jewish slave traders were very active in North America.’’…This was no less true on the North American mainland, when during the eighteenth century, Jews participated in ‘triangular trade’ that brought slaves from Africa to the West Indies and there exchanged them for molasses, which in turn was taken to New England and converted into rum for sale in Africa…’’.(https://noirg.org)
In the article published by ‘’The Times of Israel’’ in 2015, Dutch rabbi Lody van de Kamp, basing his conclusions on historical evidence, expresses his belief that European Jews , especially Jews from Holland, were very active participants in the transatlantic Black Slave Trade. He says,’’…Money was earned by Jewish communities in South America, partly through slavery, and went to Holland, where Jewish bankers handled it…’’. He then adds, ‘’…Non-Jews were also complicit, but so were we. I feel partly complicit…’’.(http://feujn.org)
Over 90% of African slaves were sent to the Caribbean and South America. Only 6% of African captives were sent directly to British North America, nevertheless by 1825, the United States with its powerful economy had one quarter of blacks in the New World, this because many of the African slaves imported in North America came from the Caribbean islands where they worked in large European plantations.
In the Caribbean, Dutch Guiana and Brazil, the slave death rate was so high and the birth rate so low, that plantation owners could not maintain their slave population without importing slaves from Africa. As a consequence, the African slaves in the United States were more generations removed from Africa than those in the Caribbean or South America.’’…In the nineteenth century, the majority of slaves in the British Caribbean and Brazil, were born in Africa. In contrast, by 1850, most of U.S. slaves were third-, fourth-, or fifth generation Americans.(https://www.gilderlehrman.org)
From 1500 to 1900, about 12 million African slaves had arrived alive in the Americas. By 1808, when the transatlantic Black Slave Trade to the United States ended through the legal restrictions imposed by the American Congress, only about 6% of African slaves landing in the New World, had arrived in North America. At the time of the American Revolution (1765-1783), less than 10% of the half million slaves living in the Thirteen American Colonies were located in the North, working primarily in agriculture and as household servants.(https://eh.net)
The ship voyage transporting African slaves to the Americas, took between three to six months, while by the end of the slave trade era in the early 1800s, it took six weeks or less. The conditions of the voyage were so harsh and brutal due to the unpredictable weather conditions at sea and the living conditions on board the ships ,that they lost many of the slaves. Even part of the crew died during the trip, where the mortality rate was approximately 20%.
The living conditions of the African slaves on board the ships which were transporting them to the New World were very unhealthy, inhuman and life threatening.’’…African slaves spent most of their day below deck in cramped quarters and were brought on deck only for short periods of forced exercise. Research published in 1794, calculated that a man was given a space of 6 feet by 1 foot 4 inches, a woman 5 feet by 1 foot 4 inches, and girls 4 feet 6 inches by 1 foot. The air below deck was hot, stale, and filled with incessant smell of vomit , sweat, sickness , and death: Water was restricted to 24 ounces a day, the equivalent to two 12-ounce soda cans of fluid per day- and the diet consisted mainly of horse-beans and rice…’’.(https://www.thegospelcoalition.org)
During the Revolutionary period(1764-1789), more than half of all Afro-Americans lived in the Chesapeake region of northeastern North America, which included Virginia and Maryland. Afro-Americans in this territory made up 50 to 60% of the total population, the majority but not all were slaves. The United States Census of 1790, indicates that 8% of the black population of the United States were free.
The majority of blacks living in the Chesapeake area, worked in tobacco plantations and large farms. The cultivation of tobacco was labor intensive, therefore, slave labor was used irrespective of whether slavery was morally right according to the strict religious tenets of the Quakers who belonged to the Church of England and who were the first European settlers of the British colonies in North America.’’…Tobacco was an eleven-month crop. Cultivation began in late January with the preparation of the fields for planting, mending tools, and laying out the seed beds. Once the soil was ready (usually in March), tobacco seedlings were transplanted to the fields. By midsummer, tobacco was growing in the fields, but the delicate plant required constant care. At harvest time, tobacco was gathered and prepared for its shipment to England…’’.(https://www.history.org)
Contrary to the image projected of Afro-American slaves by many school texts and history books as laborers with very few specialized ‘’intellectual capacities’’ except for their physical strength and stamina, enslaved Africans and the African slaves that followed them, could be found in every region of North America, accomplishing every type of labor essential for the smooth running of a modern economy. Afro-American slaves tended the wheat fields and the fruit orchards of the New England states, they mined iron and lead in the mines of the Ohio Valley, they piloted fishing boats and worked at the docks in the major Atlantic sea ports, they operated printing presses in New York City, dairies in Delaware, and managed households from Florida to Maine.
Many of the skills and trades which Afro-Americans exercised in shaping creatively and effectively the industry, commerce and agriculture of the American colonies, and later on of the United States of America, had been brought with them from their homelands in Africa.’’…West Africans with experience navigating the waterways of their homeland, helped open the rivers and canals of the Northwest frontier to boat traffic, and seasoned African cattle drivers were able to apply their skills to ox teams and livestock. Many Africans were deeply familiar with large-scale rice and indigo cultivation, which were completely unknown to European Americans and their descendants; without the skills of Africans and their descendants ,the rice fields of South Carolina and Louisiana might never have existed…’’.(https://www.loc.gov)
Finally, we should not forget the influence that African slaves have had on American culture, bringing from their native lands forms of worship , family organization, music, food and language, which were developed and refined through hundreds of years, becoming part of America’s traditional culture. The most evident example of a cultural influence on American modern society by African traditional culture has to be in the form of American song, music and dance. Even if Afro-Americans were excluded from public performances of their songs, music and dance due to American society’s racism through state segregation laws( Jim Crow laws) up to the 1960s, in most of the United States, North, South, East or West, traditional African music represents the core of modern American music, whether it be ‘’the blues’’, ‘’the spirituals’’, ‘’ragtime’’, ‘’jazz’’ or ‘’rock n roll’’.
Another very important information that has to be mentioned here concerning Afro-Americans and Black Slavery in the American colonies , and later on in the United States , is the fact that not all Afro-Americans were slaves, some of them were living in freedom. Some of the ‘’free’’ Afro-Americans were former slaves who had been freed by their masters or were descendants of freed slaves. Some, had escaped slavery , some had bought their own freedom, and some lived in American states or territories that had abolished slavery. This population of free Afro-Americans increased steadily during the duration of the slave era. In 1790, 60,000 free Afro-Americans lived in the United States, in 1830 there were 300,000, while in 1860, there were 500,000 free Afro-Americans in the country.(https://www.loc.gov)
When African captives or African slaves arrived at their destination in North America, they were moved into primitive barracks or holding pens, separating them from their African shipmates, fellow tribal members and families, and then they were put up for auction. Each of the African captives were declared to be private property or ‘’chattel’’, and were organized socially and legally in order to legitimize their subservient societal status. According to the law and to the great majority of White Americans then, the African slaves or captives had no authority to make decisions concerning their own lives, their own welfare and security. The slave-holder or the slave-master was the one and only person who could sell, torture, reward, educate or even kill his own slave.
The great emphasis put by law and White American society was on how to ‘’dehumanize’’ the African slave, making him or her , into an obedient and passive working instrument, with no personal will or social identity, similar to an ox which tilled the slaveholder’s farm or plantation.’’…All the most crucial things in the lives of the enslaved African American- from the dignity of their daily labor to the valor of their resistance, from the comforts of family to the pursuit of art, music, and worship- all had to be accomplished in the face of slave society’s attempt to deny their humanity…’’.(https://www.loc.gov)
Due to the harsh physical conditions of travelling through the Atlantic to the New World, and due to the inhumane living and working conditions in North America’s plantations and farms , the slaves from Africa or Afro-Americans suffered greatly from a variety of serious and even deadly diseases. Most of these ailments were linked to deficiencies in proteins, minerals and vitamins, from the food they consumed , or the amount of food they consumed. Common ailments among the enslaved population included ‘’beriberi’’ (caused by a deficiency of thiamine); ‘’pellagra’’(caused by a niacin deficiency); ‘’tetanus’’(caused by deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D); ‘’rickets’’(caused by deficiency of Vitamin D); and kwashiorkor(caused by severe protein deficiency).
Because of their weak immune system, the slaves also suffered from diarrhea, dysentery, whooping cough, and respiratory diseases , which brought their infant and early childhood death rate to twice experienced by white infants and white children.(https://www.gilderlehrman.org)
The domestic slave trade in the United States moved large populations of Afro-Americans throughout the South and West of the country, and although America’s Congress had passed a law making the African slave trade illegal in 1808, the internal slave trade expanded, and America’s slave population tripled over the next 50 years.
In order to make slavery more profitable, the slave owners supplied their slaves with the minimum of food and lodgings, just to ensure their survival. The slaves were expected to work from sunrise to sunset , having Sundays off so that they could maintain their living quarters and have some time with their families. Although the young adult male had the highest work output, the average price of a female slave was higher up to puberty age, this because female slaves were able to have children, who according to European and then American law, were also slaves of the owner of the mother.(https://gilderlehrman.org)
Slaves working on farms had a lighter workload than those working on plantations, whether tobacco, cotton or rice plantations. Due to the variety of crops and livestock, the slaves working on a plantation or farm, had some advantages compared to the ones working in an urban setting or a household. These slaves, lived in complete family units, they were expected to work throughout the day , while they generally had Sunday off. Nevertheless, plantation and farm slaves, were more likely to be sold or transferred than those working in households, while they were also more likely to experience brutal and harsh treatment, since they were considered less valuable than household or urban slaves.
There were few male slaves working in households, because household chores used mostly female slave labor. Most male slaves working in urban locations were coachmen and waiting men, while others worked in shops or were hired out to others for a variety of tasks.
Urban slaves did not have the degree of privacy that the field slave had, they lived in loft areas over kitchens, laundries and stables. Urban slaves worked seven days a week, while the variety of their chores did not depend on daylight time. The great advantage of a slave working in an urban environment was that it was cosmopolitan , permitting more daily experiences and greater physical mobility. ‘’… Urban and domestic slaves usually dressed better , ate better food and had greater opportunity to move about in relative freedom. They also were go-between for field slaves and the owners. They were privy to a great deal of information discussed in ‘’the big house’’. They knew everything from the master’s mood to the latest political events. The marketplace became the communal center, the place for ‘’networking’’…’’.(https://www.history.org)
Living conditions of slaves in North America, especially in the South, are considered by historians as some ‘’of the worst in human history’’. In some cases the plantation owners would provide slaves with living quarters , but in most cases, slaves had to build and maintain their own homes during the ‘’free time’’ they were allocated , which was extremely limited. Generally, slaves built huts similar to what they had in Africa, huts with thatched roofs. Sometimes, there were as many as ten people sharing a hut. They had very little furniture and their beds were made usually out of straw or rags. As slaves did not have money, they had to depend on their slave-masters to provide them with housing or building materials, pots and pans for cooking and eating, as well as food and clothing. Some slaves, used a hollowed out pumpkin shell called ‘’calabash’’ to cook their food in.
Most plantation owners provided their slaves with enough food for them to maintain their physical strength and stamina at an efficient working level, that is the reason why slaves lived mainly on a diet of fatty meats and cornbread. Some plantation owners allowed their slaves a small plot of land to grow crops in order to supplement their own diet. Most slaves had to work from sunrise to sunset. Some owners made their slaves work every day , others allowed their slaves one day a month off, while others let the slaves have Sundays as a rest-day.
Slaves during their ‘’very limited free time’’ were fixing and mending their huts, making cooking and eating utensils, cooking or relaxing with their families. Slaves were not allowed to read or write, but some were permitted to go to church on Sundays. Most of the slaves accepted passively their brutal and inhuman lifestyle , doing their very best ‘’to just survive’’. The slaves rarely complained, fearing the physical punishment they would have to endure at the hands of their slave-masters, like whipping, incarceration, with little food or water, or branding.(https://www.historyonthenet.com)
In the domestic slave trade, slave traders transported 2/3 of the slaves who moved westwards, only a minority of them with their families and permanent master. Slave traders did not want or needed to transport slaves in family units, since the plantation owners required only the young male slaves, which meant the separation of family members once again. Eventually this practice was changed because plantation owners decided that it was more profitable to maintain a ‘’self -producing labor force’’, therefore they started to purchase equal numbers of men and women, and promoting individual family units of slaves.
Slavery had become an essential dynamic component of the national economy of the United States.’’…for instance, the banking , shipping and manufacturing industries of New York City, all had strong economic interests in slavery, as did similar industries in other major port cities in the North. The northern textile mills in New York and New England processed Southern cotton and manufactured clothes to outfit slaves. By 1822, half of New York City’s exports were related to cotton…’’.(https://en.wikipedia.org)
The internal slave trade in the United States became the largest economic enterprise in the South outside the economic activities of plantations, while its economic infrastructure represented the most advanced one in the country in its use of modern transportation, finance and advertising. In the beginning of the American Revolution (1765-1783) and in the first two decades after the postwar era, every state in the North had abolished slavery , ending with the state of New Jersey in 1804, even though some of the existing slaves were not liberated immediately.
By 1815, the domestic slave trade had evolved into a major economic activity in the United States which lasted into the late 1860s. In the 1860s,the slave population of the United States had reached 4 million, while of all 1,515,605 White families in the fifteen slave states, nearly 400,000 owned slaves, about 25% of the population, which represented 8% of all American families in the United States.(https://en.wikipedia.org)
As slavery was a critical component in the national economy of the United States since its creation in 1776, provisions were made in its Constitution regarding slavery which took effect in 1789.
In Article I, Section 2,there is a clarification of what a slave represents as a ‘’member of American society’’, referring to the slaves as ‘’other persons’’, while assigning to him or her an evaluation of a 3/5 of a human being, which would be counted when Representatives in Congress and taxes would be determine for each American state according to its population.’’…The number of members of the House of Representatives allotted to each state is based on its population. ’’All other persons’’ means slaves. The southern states wanted to count slaves in order to have more representatives in Congress. Northerners felt that slaves should not be counted. The three-fifths clause was their compromise. A slave could not vote, but counted as three-fifths of a person for population purpose…’’.(p.99 – Freedom , a history of U.S., Hakim, Joy, Oxford University Press, 2003)
In Article I, Section 9, the law forbade the Federal government from banning the importation of slaves before January 1, 1808, while in Article IV, Section 2, the law prohibited states from freeing slaves who fled to them from another state, and required the return of this ‘’chattel property’’ to their owners.
These legal clarifications which were stipulated in the American Constitution relative to the social status of a slave, strengthened unequally the political power of the Southern political Representatives in Congress, as 3/5 of the non-voting slave population was counted for Congressional appointment, and most of the slave population of the United States was located in the South.
In order to comprehend more clearly the importance of slavery as a social institution in the everyday American life of Whites, one has to just identify the number of American presidents who were slave owners, beginning with America’s first president, George Washington(1789-1797) to the last American president who owned slaves, which was Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877), almost 100 years later!!!
George Washington , the first president of the United States(1732-1799), ‘’the land of the free’’ and a Constitutional Republic, owned 317 slaves. Thomas Jefferson(1743-1826), the second president of the United States(1801-1809) who wrote in his Declaration of Independence in 1776, that ‘’all men are created equal’’, had 600 slaves. Thomas Jefferson was a large plantation owner and slave trader, who had a black slave mistress, Sally Hemings(1773-1835), who bore him 6 children and acted as his official wife after his wife’s death , Martha Skelton(1772-1836). Thomas Jefferson had many other children with his female slaves.(https://en.wikipedia.org)
In total, twelve presidents owned slaves at some point in their lives, eight of whom owned slaves while serving as president.’’…in the 72 years between the election of George Washington and the election of Abraham Lincoln, 50 of those years had a slaveholder as president of the United States, and, for that whole period of time, there was never a person elected to a second term who was not a slaveholder…’’.(https://en.wikipedia.org)
On December 6, 1865,the American Congress under the government of President Abraham Lincoln, ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which ‘’officially’’ and ‘’legally’’ ended slavery, but history would show that ‘’pragmatically’’ and ‘’objectively’’ this would not be the case in America’s political and social everyday reality as a whole. Individual state laws and the social consensus in the former slave states of the South, defined the political philosophy of White Supremacy, imposed those socio-political and socio-economic impediments which could maintain the Afro-Americans as ‘’second class citizens’’ in their ‘’own country’’!!!
The Thirteenth Amendment to the American Constitution, ratified on December 6, 1865, states that,’’…Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction…’’.(p.162—Freedom, a history of U.S., Hakim, Joy, Oxford University Press, 2003)
Black Slavery in America