Skip to main content

Slavery in America Through the 1800s

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience. She holds degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Slavery Wasn't New

Slavery was not a new institution when the American colonies began to develop. It was not some new part of life that they had invented. It had been around for many many centuries. Asia had used slavery for thousands of years. The Middle East used slaves in all aspects of life. Europe used slaves to support the infrastructure. Slavery was a part of the development of civilization.

So, what was so different about slavery in America?

The Status of Europe

Take a look at the rest of the world during the early colonization of the Americas. It was crowded. There were so many people that occupied the lands. Europe was bursting at its seams which is one reason the New World was so inviting.

Europe had thousands and thousands of slaves. The buying of selling of men, women, and children was not uncommon. It was a part of life. The Mediterranean countries had been dealing in the slave market for centuries. The African nations were experts at capturing neighboring tribal members and selling them into slavery. But in America, the population and the culture were small and exposed.

Slavery became a larger part of the culture in America. The number of slaves was vastly larger than it was in other parts of the world.

New Chances in the New World

When the vast resources were discovered in the New World, the settlers began to realize that there was no conceivable way to farm all that land by themselves even with new arrivals from Europe. A few of them were wonderful as indentured servants, but what was needed were long-term helpers that had no choice but to work the fields and help in the homes. The solution was to look toward the old ways of getting help. Slavery became the answer.

Manpower Was a Resource

The colonists found a vast resource of manpower in Africa and eventually even in China. Warring tribes were more than happy to sell the captives to the slave traders for plenty of gold. The amount of human resource seemed endless, which caused the amount of slave trading in the Americas to increase at such an alarming rate that very soon it became the most slave-populated area in the world.

Accepted Institution

Slavery in the Americas could not be hidden as it could in the more populated areas of Europe. It was very evident and widely used. Now, the treatment of the slaves begins to take over political conversations all over the Americas and in Europe. The topic of the humane treatment is on the forefront of everyone’s minds.

In some cultures, slavery has been a very humane way of treating prisoners. Some civilizations viewed them as just unpaid help and some even viewed them as part of the family but without the freedom that the family had. But the idea of slavery that we have today comes from many slave owners who viewed their slave labor as nothing more than animals.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation


The Ugly Side of Slavery

Slavery in the Americas exposed the ugly side of the practice. It showed how many were raped, beaten, and killed sometimes at the whim of their masters. Were all masters like this? No. In fact there were many that followed the more “civilized” way of handling slaves by treating them well and even granting them their freedom after a time. Others, unfortunately, saw them as just things to abuse and mistreat.

Due to the ugliness of the slave trade, many voices began to be raised demanding that the institution of slavery be abolished everywhere. It began in Europe but quickly made its way to the Americas. It took many years and lots of struggles in the political circles and out in the real world. Laws were slowly passed that stopped any new purchases of slaves. Over time territories and states began to ban the practice. It was only after the American Civil War is an obvious shift toward complete abolishment of slavery seen.

Slavery in America was not a new institution. It was a corrupted one that met its legal end with much pain and blood.


Jesus rosas on January 10, 2017:

Write away!!!!! Let me know when you do :)

Rebecca Graf (author) from Wisconsin on September 24, 2016:

Write away!!!!! Let me know when you do :)

Virginia Kearney from United States on September 24, 2016:

You are absolutely right that there was a big difference between having slaves living with them and having them far off in a colony. Many of the first people to advocate for abolition of slavery wanted to ship the slaves back to Africa (The American Colonizationist Movement). However, at the time of the Civil war, there were about 4 million Americans from Africa, so this wasn't really practical, even if it had been a good idea in the first place. However, the African country of Liberia was founded based in order to try to do that. There is so much that we can learn about our history of slavery and I think that maybe we need to study it more so we can learn from the past. Someone born in 1816 in the South inherited the problem of slavery, just as someone born in 2016 today inherits the problem of racism in America. We need to work together to try to solve this. Maybe looking at the past can help. Ok--too long of a comment! I think I need to write a Hub about this!

Related Articles