The economic basis for African Slavery in the U.S and its impact on the emerging nation
Although slavery was widely practiced in many societies during the 17th and 18th centuries, the practice had certain effects in human history that became very unique to the U.S.A. Slavery in colonial America existed as a result of many factors but the most notable of all was the financial growth that it gave to the people and their nation. The most notable economic factors that contributed to the practice of slavery were individualism, racism, and capitalism although other factors such as urbanization and plantation farming also played a very significant role in the growth of this institution. Individually, slavery is attributed to tremendous economic growth in the early American colonies but from a collective approach, the practice created social divisions that the nation continues to deal with to the present day. Slavery affected the emerging U.S nation because the legacy of slavery exacerbated racism, encouraged segregation and the African Americans were subjected to a long history of discrimination and oppression. This discrimination became the beginning of a long history of race and labor protests that culminated in the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s (Katchy 2007, p. 1; Anderson & Steward 2007, pp.22, 49-52, 59-60).
When colonialists settled in the New World, it was mainly in search of religious and political freedom as well as an escape from the oppressive authorities back home. This later developed into an attitude of individualism and personal worth with the belief that all human beings were created equal in the eyes of God. Yet, the privilege of personal growth was restricted for slaves and they were given no opportunity to better themselves but had to depend entirely on their masters for existence; a factor that subjected them to a controlled livelihood under very strict limitations by their masters. Based on the old-age system of slavery that had marked human history for many centuries, racism became another major factor for slavery in the U.S. The establishment of African slavery in the U.S, therefore, resulted also from an old age belief in White superiority and slavery became characteristic of the dark skin. White slave masters used this as a basis for exploiting the Africans for the accumulation of wealth because Africans had no way of escape from their dark skin. At the time of the drafting of the U.S Constitution, the issues of race and slavery were ignored and the hopes of freedom that African slaves had nurtured after the war of independence was shattered as their status remained unequal to that of Whites. The Whites failed to extend the freedom that they had so much desired from the tyrannical rule of their colonial masters to the African slaves. An anti-African attitude developed by the Southerners was to affect the U.S nation for generations to come (Katchy 2007, p. 4; Anderson & Steward 2007, pp.55-59).
Slavery was used by southern slave owners to promote their stature and wealth. Plantation owners in the south needed a source of labor for which they did not have to pay reasonable wages and found the solution in slave labor. Besides, few Whites were willing to work in the grueling heat of the Southern hot sun and slaves became a better option because they were able to persevere the conditions also with little pay. This left the plantation owners with enough capital to reinvest in the land and acquire more slaves to work on it. There was ample land for expansion and the agrarian ideals of the time encouraged the creation of plantation agriculture which helped to maintain slavery especially in the south. The economy of the colonies depended on plantations as each colony produced what the other could not. Crops grown in the colonies could also be sent back to Imperials countries where they were processed into consumer goods which were in turn sent back to the colonies. This created a network of economic production that would contribute to slavery in the U.S for over 100 years. Slave owners also used slavery as a good way method of controlling the industrial and economic growth of the black race and in such a way we’re able to dehumanize the Africans and maintain White superiority. African slavery became a means for economic advancement and helped to solve unemployment and labor problems (Anderson & Steward 2007, p.54; Katchy 2007, pp. 5-8).
Slavery divided the U.S nation between North and South because while the South valued the institution and wanted to expand it, the North thought it was an old age practice that needed to be done away with. The Northerners believed slavery was unconstitutional and it became the subject of many legal battles as one side fought to control it and the other fought to get rid of it. With the North pushing hard for its abolition, slavery became an issue in the politics of the emerging U.S nation (Anderson & Steward 2007, pp.62-65).
- Anderson, T. and Steward J (2007). Introduction to African American studies. Baltimore, MD: Black Classic Press.
- Katchy. (2007). “The economics of slavery in colonial America.”