Equality and Civil Rights: a Chronology of Black History di Giulia Tomasi Cont, Davide Pignata

Africans in chains

Looking Ahead

After the end of this section, you will be able to:

- explain why the demand for slaves grew;

- describe the sequence for buying and selling Africans in the Triangular Trade;

- describe the conditions of slaves in ships;

- read a bar graph to learn the size of the black population in the colonies;

- tell about the first slave protest.

As more colonies were founded in the Americas, the demand for slaves grew. Europeans began to take people in large numbers from Africa’s western coast, especially from what are now the countries of Senegal, Ghana, Congo, Angola, Guinea, Benin, and Nigeria.

In the 1660s, the English began to play a role in the [E1] [E2] [E3] [E4] [Es] slave trade. The English government gave the [E] [F] [I] Royal African Company a monopoly on English trade in Africa. Because of the Royal African Company, it became cheaper for a colonist to buy a slave than the contract of an indentured servant. The number of slaves grew while the number of indentured servants declined. This increase in cheap labor was happening at the same time planters in the Southern colonies were developing tobacco, rice, and indigo plantations. [E] Indigo is a plant used to make blue dye.

Triangular Trade

As the demand for slaves grew, the buying and selling of people became part of a regular trading pattern. Called the [E] [Es1] [Es2] [Es3] Triangular Trade, it joined Africa’s west coast, the island of the Caribbean, and the colonies of North America. On each of the three parts of its voyage, a ship carried a different cargo. It set out for Africa from a colonial port loaded with rum, cloth, beads, guns, and other goods. Along Africa’s west coast this cargo was traded for human beings. A black African woman might be traded for about 7.6 litres of rum and five beads. A man might be worth seven guns, two cases of rum, and some cloth. The Africans then began the [E1] [E2] [E3] Middle Passage, the second part of the Triangular Trade route. This was the trip across the Atlantic.

On slave ships, Africans were forced into spaces that were sometimes no more than 45.6 centimetres high. Aboard ships, the Africans lived chained together for six to ten weeks. They were given little food or water. The air was foul. Occasionally, in good weather, they were taken on deck for fresh air. Historians estimate that perhaps one third of the Africans died during the Middle Passage.

Although the number of slaves arriving in the Americas was much less than the original cargo, slavers made large profits. Many plantation owners were willing to buy Africans as slaves. For these reasons, the slave trade lasted into the 1800s.

The Middle Passage often ended on the islands of the Caribbean. Even slaves who were later taken to North America usually spent some time in the Caribbean. On Caribbean plantations, slaves worked long hours and were trained in the daily routine of plantation life. This was called seasoning. Buyers in North America preferred slaves who had been seasoning.

Survivors of the Middle Passage were exchanged for goods made in the Caribbean islands. The most important was molasses, which is made from sugar cane. On the third part of the trip, the molasses was taken to one of the colonies where it was made into rum. Some of the rum was exchanged for other trade goods. But most of it was used to buy more slaves on the next trip.

Slaves were considered property and were treated the way. Most Africans who were brought to the colonies were sold in the South. New York, however, had many slaves. It was the largest importer of slaves north of Maryland. In Philadelphia and Boston, too, blacks made up 10 percent of the population by the mid-1700s.

In New York and the Southern colonies, most of slaves worked as field hands on the plantations and large farms. A few blacks were cooks, maids, butlers, or other servants in the homes of their owners. Most slaves in New England and in the other Middle colonies were house servants of craft workers. This was also true of the large cities in the Southern colonies, such as Savannah and Charles Town.

Because plantations were self-sufficient, owners trained some slaves in blacksmithing, tanning, spinning, weaving and similar crafts. Craft workers had the greatest freedom to work and move about the plantations. Often, they were hired out for a time to other plantations or small farmers. Their owners received their pay.

[E] Slave Protests

Although slaves were constantly watched, they found ways to protest their chains. They protested by working slowly or doing such a poor job that they had to do the work over. They broke tools, took food, farm animals and other items from their owners. And in spite of punishment they ran away.

Runaways were hunted down by bloodhounds and recaptured. Owners used such punishments as whipping or cutting off part of a runaway’s foot to keep slaves obedient. To gain their freedom slaves sometimes turned to violence. One such slave uprising occurred in New York City in 1712. Twenty slaves set fire to a building and waited for white colonists to come. When they tried to put the fire out, the slaves killed them. The slaves attempted to run away but were captured, tortured, and killed. Colonists felt that by cruelly punishing the blacks, they could discourage future revolts. However, another slave revolt occurred in New York in 1741. This revolt led to the end of New York’s slave trade and a rise in the number of white workers. Other blacks looked for a legal end to slavery. As early as 1766, slaves in Massachusetts asked the General Court for their freedom. Their requests were turned down.

Looking Back

- Describe the three parts of the Triangular Trade.

- Use the bar graph to answer the following questions:

a. Which colony had the largest black population?

b. Which colony had the smallest?



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