In this assignment we will explore the slave trade in North America. Begin the assignment by reading the mini-lecture page on African Odyssey. Take time to read the Mini-lecture and then go to the Discussion Board and make a posting on the topic I have started. Then, create a major posting that discusses the topics featured at the end of the mini-lecture, using the paper to show your knowledge of the readings. Try to include a balance of your own thoughts combined with specific examples from your studies.
Final day to make Major Post: Wednesday, January 13, 6 pm
Make sure to also read the current Announcements.
Mini-Lecture: AFRICAN ODYSSEY
Africa in 1500 AD, like the Americas and Europe, featured a population of diverse cultures and languages. The African continent featured everything from densely populated urban trade centers to remote jungle villages. By the 18th century, the peoples of this continent would become the largest immigrant group coming to the Americas. However, unlike most immigrants, this would be a forced immigration as Africans became caught within the web of an expanding slave trade. For European nations, the Americas provided virtually unlimited resources for economic development. All that was lacking was sufficient labor. Africans would be called upon to provide the labor that would develop America’s lands.
Slavery is a practice that is as old as history itself and it still exists today. However, the slave trade that escalated in this period took on a nature that was significantly different than most traditional forms in earlier times. This newer form of slavery became commercially driven as Africans became a human commodity that could bring riches to successful traders. Unlike earlier forms of slavery that typically might last a generation or two, Africans became trapped in a racially defined system that did not allow freedom for their progeny. It is important to note that race-based slavery did not develop overnight, but rather took years to develop.
African slave raiders would capture other Africans, who were typically from rival tribes, and trade them to other African traders for European manufactured goods such as textiles, tools and firearms. The enslaved individual would then begin their travel from one village to another until they reached the west African coast. The trip to the coast was dangerous as perhaps 50% of the captured might die before reaching the coastal trade centers. There they would be traded to European traders who would load them on ships and begin the trip across the Atlantic to the Americas. This transatlantic voyage was called the “Middle Passage” by European traders as it represented the middle leg of the trade routes among the Americas, Europe and Africa. 95% of captured Africans were shipped to areas other than the British North American colonies, destined mainly for the sugar plantations of the Caribbean and Brazil. This still left over 400,000 who would come to British North America, with most going to the Chesapeake or the Carolinas.
Once ashore, Africans had to attempt to rebuild their lives. Although the Americas are often called the “New World”, this term seems most appropriate for enslaved Africans. Separated from their family, village, language, culture and oftentimes even given a new name, they had to reconstruct their lives in a very unfamiliar setting. It is the attempt to rebuild and reclaim lives and culture that you should consider in the readings. Also consider how the slave experience varies based on the setting Africans find themselves in. Finally, read about Anthony Johnson and his life and consider how race-based slavery evolves.
The following links are not required reading, but do provide in-depth information for those who are keen to learn more on this topic. Perhaps the most comprehensive site on the experience of Africans enslaved in North America is PBS’s Africans in America site. At the site you can read about the origins of the Atlantic slave trade and how slavery was perceived in African society. You can also read the thoughts of current historians on various subjects such as how kidnappings affected African lifestyles.
Reviving the voices of Africans enslaved in the 17th and 18th centuries is difficult work. Duke University’s online exhibit “Third Person, First Person: Slave Voices From The Special Collections Library” attempts to address this problem with a variety of primary documents related to slavery in Colonial America. Africans forced to work against their will rebelled in many different ways. Runaway slaves, or even the threat of slaves fleeing their captivity, was a constant problem for slave holders
People enslaved in the Chesapeake worked primarily on tobacco plantations. You can read about everyday life as a slave in the Chesapeake and read about experiences at a contemporary reenactment by going to the “History Explorer” link at the Colonial Williamsburg site. Africans in the lower South were generally forced to work on rice plantations. Slave holders had to constantly find ways to reconcile the use of enslaved labor as talk of liberty, equality and freedom increased in the years preceding the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson’s “Notes on Slavery” reflects an early attempt to justify slavery through a scientific explanation theorizing white racial supremacy.
Readings: Oakes, Chapter 1, pp 10-11, Chapter 3, pp 68-70, Chapter 4, 97-100 & Chapter 4, pp 126-129. Focus on the struggle to make a life in a “new world”, along with the diversity of experience based on the type of setting one finds them self in.
Also, check out the PBS presentation, “Africans in America: The Terrible Transformation” on You Tube. Just watch about the first 26 minutes on Anthony Johnson and the development of race-based laws.
Create a major post that discusses your readings and the online video. The post should be a minimum of two well developed paragraphs, although it is recommended you go beyond that minimum. Include key quotes and specific details from our class sources. Some ideas on what to discuss might include;
1) What was the “Middle Passage” and how did it relate to the economy of England’s North American Colonies?
2) Were Africans coming to a “New World?” Explain your reasoning using examples from our readings.
3) What does the video mean by the title “The Terrible Transformation”? What does Anthony Johnson’s story tell you about how a race-based slave and social system evolve in Colonial America? Did this system have to occur? Why did it? Is racism natural?