SOLD AT AUCTION
When the freshly-purchased African slaves arrived at their respective plantations or businesses, production was expected immediately. The Spanish and Portuguese, who were the original explorers of the Americas, settled with their slaves in what would become the Southern United States of America. They typically focused on cultivating tobacco, rice, and corn. Slaves worked between 10–14 hours each day - a sun-up-to-sun-down work ethic. A few "freedoms" were given to the slaves of Spanish and Portuguese settlers: the African slaves could create their own personal gardens on the property and sell crops produced, could purchase their freedom for low prices, could engage with the Native Americans who were in neighboring lands, could marry and create a family; children also received automatic freedom. The British immigrants that followed, had a different agenda, and a different way of managing slaves.
As the British arrived in the initial 13 colonies – the American “North”, which included New York, New Jersey, Massachussetts, Pennsylvania, and New England – the foundations of their empires were reliant on the purchase of African and the Africans born in America for labor. Slaves sent to the American North could expect primarily indoor work or building production. Some states, like Pennsylvania had a need for agricultural workers, but slaves were mostly employed in other capacities: craftsmen, blacksmithing, domestic servants, laundresses, artisans, ship workers. The African slaves were also common laborers in lumber factories, steel mills, salt mines, and in railroad creation. Masonry and metalwork were needed, along with support to keep factories and equipment functioning. Household servants in the North were generally accepted by Northern society, and they demonstrated high social ways, were taught to speak affluently, read, and write.
The African slaves that were sent to the American South suffered much harsher working conditions. Although there were some house slaves that saw similar work as slaves did in the North, the majority of the labor required of the African slaves was in the field. Field-work could consist of planting, plowing, weeding, tending to and picking crops such as corn, tobacco, cotton, sugar cane, and various vegetables. Planters came to rely increasingly less and less on slave arrivals coming in from Africa, and instead turned their attention to their exiting slaves to reproduce. Unlike during the Spanish colonial period, White British immigrants did not offer emancipation to children born on plantations, nor did they offer the option to purchase freedom - children born from slaves were automatically slaves, and the only time one could purchase their freedom is if they were useless to their master. Because slaves were seen as a long-term investment and almost-guaranteed stable income, paired with the elite-prestige that was associated with slave-ownership in the South, White American slave masters were often dismissive of the possibility of their freedom.
Sugar, tobacco, and salt plantations were often the harshest as far as fields to work in. Field working hours depended on the seasonal crops, but typically ran from 4a to 7p with one midday break. In the sugar fields, planting, manuring, and cane-cutting, were assigned to the strongest and healthiest slaves. Children were labored to clean and drive away birds so they wouldn't eat or pick at the crops. Some of these plantations converted sugar into raw sugar, and then into rum, which furthered the demand for field work. Rum became a booming product in the South. Other plantations, that focused on cultivating tobacco, coffee, and cotton ran similarly. Each plantation had “overseers” that managed the slaves, which normally consisted of 1 African slave who kept close tabs on fellow slaves, and 1-2 White males who supervised above him. Labor life was dictated by the agricultural crop cycle. Sugar crops took six months to harvest, tobacco exceeded 18 months, whereas crops like cotton only took 4 months to cultivate. Field work on the plantations was arduous, as temperatures ranged 80-100s in the warmer months, combined with weather conditions that African were not accustomed to in their homeland continent Africa, and the slaves struggled greatly.
African female slaves generally worked outside in the fields with males, and quota expectations were only slightly less than male slaves. Consistent household work developed for women over time, with responsibilities including cooking, cleaning, baby sitting, bathing and dressing their masters, serving and entertaining guests, sewing, and dressmaking. British-American White slave owners regarded their female slaves as property, just as they had males, and felt it their natural right to use them in any suitable matter - it resulted in serial rape. Many slave owners would start raping their African slaves as young as 12, but would begin familiarity with them as young as 5. African American female slaves would who became impregnated by their masters after being raped had 2 options: experience a botched and painful field abortions with wrought irons, or give birth to mulatto children (half Black, half White).
African children were used in many degrading fashions, as they were incapable of producing the same results as adult slaves, and could actually slow down production. Responsibilities of African slave children included fanning their masters by hand in warmer months, acting as human-ottomans for their master's relaxation, and human scratchers for their master's heads and backs. In addition, children would deliver drinks and other snacks, act as a human-coat hangers while guests were present and more. Most disturbing were how wealthy plantation owner wives would leverage the young children. Besides using them to wash their feet, brush their hair, file their nails and toenails, they would force the children to change their bloody towels during monthly menstruation, and the child's warm hands were seen (and used) as comfort over their swollen, cramping abdomens.
Slaves lived in cabins – or slave quarters – located on the plantation. Each cabin consisted of a single open room that was roughly 18 x 18 feet. An outhouse – or a dry toilet – was located 20-30 feet away from the cabins for all of the slaves in the plantation to share. There was normally at least 10 slaves living in each cabin, and in smaller plantations (where there were usually at least 15 slaves), all resident would be crammed into a single cabin to save money and space. Floors were made of dirt, roofs were cheaply made and were rushed in production so weren't leak-proof, walls had gaping holes that were not resistant to letting in bugs or other rodents, and chimneys were prone to catching fire so were used in limitation. No bricks or was wood were allowed to build slave cabins, so the stability of the homes were unreliable. There were no wash rooms or mirrors, and slaves usually bathed themselves in the rivers or by boiling water and washing themselves off behind their cabins. There was no furniture inside of the slave cabins, besides a bed and sometimes a wooden chair; benches were made by the males and stacked on the patios outside. There were no forms of art or decor allowed inside or outside of the cabins - some British-American White slave owners would later allow "crosses" inside slave quarters, upon a slave being baptized in Christianity. African slave families were allowed to keep a small 10 x 10 personal garden outside of their slave quarters, in order to grow crops of their choice, and to raise their own poultry. The slaves would eat only off of the crops that they grew themselves, and the meat produced by the animals they raised.
Family life was hard to keep consistent because of the likeliness of children, spouses, and other relatives being auctioned off at their masters will, at any time and without any notice. Despite this, the African slaves attempted to build communities similar to theirs in Africa. Each home they built was close to the next so slaves could rely on one another, and be involved in each others lives. They also shared gardens on the quarters, that would benefit them all resourcefully, and it was in each of their best interest to ensure production was successful - all played vital roles in it. The most bearing issue on the incoming slaves from Africa was communication. Because the Africans were unfamiliar with each others languages, religious beliefs, traditions, and lifestyles, it made communicating, or creating a family, difficult. Slave masters solved this problem by forcing African male slaves to have sexual intercourse with female slaves to impregnate them and develop their families. Many of these African slaves were from different countries, tribes, and had different cultures. It was nearly impossible for each unique group to find another from their native land, or actually reproduce with them. Africans from various countries, tribes, and backgrounds mixed and reproduced with a variety of different Africans while in America, resulting in the creation of the African American.
Violence was the ultimate way of threatening African slaves and their American-born children from partaking in any act of rebellion, and to tame their obedience, similar to what was done on the slave ships. Although weakly enforced, it was actually a crime to kill slaves in the United States, and because the slaves were heavy financial investments, White American slave owners turned to other forms of punishing and breaking them. Lashing - also known as "flogging" - was the most familiar form of violence the African and African American slaves saw and endured. It was used as a form of punishment for a wide range of offenses - from working too slowly to reading - and was even used in a cavalier fashion. Whips were made out of tough and flexible raw hide. They ranged in size, ranging from 4ft to 20ft, and each whip caused unique forms of pain when they made hard contact against flesh. White American slave owners would ordinarily administer the lashing of their Black slaves, but it became a norm for slave owners to initiate the first few whips, and then instruct a fellow slave to finish the torture. This created distance between the Black slaves from trusting each other, as it was hard to determine if a Black slave was your friend or looking out for their own best interest. Slave masters supervised the lashings, and would often instruct more cruel and more painful lashings to be carried out by Black slaves, just to create more distance between them. If the Black female slave was pregnant but "deserved" a lashing, fellow slaves would dig a hole for her to rest her belly in while she was being whipped, to protect the slave owner's future property.
Lashing became such a routine for of punishment, that whipping services were established for slave owners that didn't want to be burdened with the activity. These businesses were usually located next to markets, so were easily accessible to owners and served as a convenient pit-stop while out shopping for other items. At these "whipping posts", as they were commonly referenced, Black slave men were stripped of their shirts, and Black women removed their tops or dresses from shoulders to their waists. It was usually a spectacle to watch a Black slave get whipped by one of these services, and they attracted owners and patrons from surrounding businesses as a form of entertainment. Black slave children were often brought to watch the lashings take place, to instill fear that they would face the same fate upon disobedience. Watching the whippings also eliminated a lot of the respect Black children had for their parents, as they often looked to their fathers and mothers as strongholds (as most children do), but watched them weak, helpless, and at the mercy of White men, pleading for the torture of the lashings to end.
On the plantations, lashings were carried out in deviant fashions and were extremely daunting. Black men were stripped of their clothes entirely to prepare for whippings, and were tied usually with their hands behind their backs or stretched around and object (i.e. a post or a tree) to widen the exposure of their backs. Once making contact with the skin, the whip would make a "snapping" sound, and the flesh of the area where the the whip hit would fly off the slave completely. The interior muscle and bones of the slave's body were visible once the flesh was removed, which caused excruciating pain for those inflicted. Black slaves were typically whipped 20-40 times for minor crimes. To further intensify pain, slave owners would often demand their wounds be bursted when blistered, then rub the open wound with turpentine and red pepper. After slaves were whipped, they were drug back to the slave quarters, where female slaves would gather together in administering medicine to heal the flesh. This included skin needling, scar flattening, and aloe vera treatment.
Slave collars were also a normal form of punishment for misdemeanor "crimes" committed by Black slaves. The neck collars were made of iron, ranged between 10-20 pounds in weight, and had four individual 2-3 feet bars that stretched in a compass-style, with spikes protruding out each end. It would prevent the Black slave from being able to lean, walk near bushes or other slaves, lay down, or sleep. The slave would have to hold the metal bars that stretched in front of him so moving about was even possible, otherwise the neck would break. Muzzles were also placed as forms of punishment for petty crimes like speaking (when not instructed to do so), forming a group, reading, writing, teaching others to read and write, attempting to learn how to read and write, preaching, or intentionally eating dirt (which caused sickness and eventual death if unstopped). Iron gag machines were popular for breaking slaves. They were used frequently in Scotland, with the "Scold’s Brtitole" being most popular. The device was a muzzle made of iron, within an iron framework, that surrounded and enclosed the head. A “bridle-bit” – or curb plate – was roughly 2 inches in length and 1 inch in width, and was projected into the mouth and pressed down on top of the tongue, making speaking impossible. The curb plate was normally studded with sharp spikes and edges, so that if the slave moved his or her tongue, it inflected excruciating pain or could even cut the tongue off.
Other forms of breaking or punishing the African and African American slaves were much more savage. Castration was often one of the first forms of punishment inflected on Black men. Their penises were kept as souvenirs, and shown as such. Other forms of physical mutilation was a form of torture that slave owners, their wives, and other overseers (who were usually poor Whites who couldn't afford their own plantations) viciously practiced. Fingers, toes, ears, lips, hands, arms, and legs of Black slaves were cut off, depending on the "crime" committed. Reasons behind mutilating slaves included theft, refusal of a demand, for their own personal medical experimentations, and for fun. Depending on the body part removed, those that suffered from mutilation were given lighter work loads and shifted assignments, but remained enslaved. Branding was a form of mutilation that was used originally by the Spanish colonial slave owners generations prior, for identification of ownership. But White American slave owners branded slaves with letters identifying their crimes, as well as markings placed in visibly identifiable parts of the body (such as the face) for humiliation.
Animals were active in the torture and torment of African American slaves. Dogs, particularly hound dogs, were fed dead or close-to-dying Black slaves by White slave-owners to train them in hunting for potential escapees. The dogs would roam the fields with White overseers, antagonize and threaten Black slaves during whippings, and while they were in the fields doing their daily work. Hound dogs were the ultimate resource used for locating most escaped runaways. Horses were used mostly for "slave-breaking"- to train fellow slaves obedience and submission to their White masters and overseers. A slave owner or overseer would take a slave, usually of strong productional value, that had committed a crime, and used him as an example to the other slaves. The slave would first be brought in front of the other gathered slaves at the plantation by his White master or overseer. Then the overseer and other workers would tie the Black slave's left ankle to the back leg of one horse, while the right ankle was tied to the back leg of another horse on the opposite side, facing the opposite direction. The slave-owner or overseer would then violently whip both horses so that they would become erratic and attempt to run away, in their respective opposite directions. This would go on for 10-15 minutes. The whipping stopped when the horses broke free of the slave they were attached to, leaving the slave completely ripped apart to pieces, dead or dying from his wounds. This would shock and traumatize the slaves who watched the atrocities, ultimately "breaking" them to not commit the same offense and instilling fear of Whites. It was among the most effective ways of showing the African American slaves that they were under their White slave master's control.
Although not as frequent as other ways of torture, African American slaves could easily find themselves knocked unconscious by their overseers, and awakened hanging from a Hawaii-style pig roast. Here slave owners and overseers would place fiery stones underneath the Black slave hanging above it, which would melt the skin and flesh off of their backs. They would then take turns poking, prodding, and burning them with iron objects. Foot-slapping and foot-burning, were also pains inflicted on the slaves who hung helplessly. Owners and overseers would also pour boiling hot water atop of the face and body of the slave hanging.
Sexual abuse was of the most atrocious forms of violence and abuse inflicted on the African American slaves. White plantation owners, their sons, brothers, guests, and male acquaintances, raped African American slave women without fear of consequence or punishment. White women also participated in sexual abuse against Black women, especially those who were engaged in the forced sexual activities with their slave-owner husbands, and those impregnated by their husband's rape. Most slave owners did not hide their raping of African American female slaves, as they believed it was normal to use one's property for service. Many slave owners would neglect their White wives sexually, or refuse to have sexual intercourse with them at all, because of their lusting desires for the African American slave woman. And because the African American female slave body was physically much different than the typical White woman's body, owners would grow accustomed to the bodies of the slaves they were frequently laying with, and would rarely have intercourse with their wives as a result. This was an issue that continued for White women for hundreds of years until many were able to physically alter their bodies with tanning salons, lip injections, breast and buttock augmentation through surgery and other means.
Many White women would, unbeknownst to their husbands, locate the Black female that they despised, and while he was gone, would torment and torture her physically and sexually. Slave-owner wives would also abuse incoming Black slaves who they felt their husbands would find attractive. Wives were known to slice pieces of the body off of the Black female slaves - particularly the nose, cheeks, or ears - and burn their skin; White children were taught these same practices, and the necessity behind doing so. When Black women committed "offenses" or were slow in production, slave masters and overseers were typically lenient, which further infuriated the wives. In attempt to lure their husbands away from the Black female slaves, wives would attempt to literally destroy the genitalia of the slave women. This would included them prodding the slave's genitalia with sharp objects, penetrated them with the end of wooden broomsticks, thin tree branches (also known as a "switches"), long vegetables, wrought irons, and other objects that they could find to fit inside of them, to stretch and rip them apart. Many Black women died from their injuries, or if they survived, lost the ability to bear children, or was no longer at the sexual desires of their White slave masters.
White women would also participate in raping African American men, in secrecy of their husbands. Many wives, their female friends, and daughters, would unite in the practice of raping African American male slaves. Young African American boys, as young as age 8 were desired by White women, and trained to please them sexually. Many women believed that the younger the boy they raped, the lesser the risk of getting pregnant. Children were threatened with a torturous death for themselves and their families upon mention to anyone of the rape and sexual abuse. This didn't stop Black children from speaking about the abuses to their parents or other Blacks in the slave quarters, but would rarely be reported to owners or overseers. White women still became pregnant and gave birth to mixed-race Black children. The White women would usually carry on their pregnancy, attributing a White man as being the father. It wouldn't be revealed that the child was a prodigy of a Black slave, until it's birth, when the baby appeared with darker skin. The women would then accuse that a Black slave raped them, and that was the reason behind the pregnancy, citing shame and embarrassment as their reasons behind not coming forward earlier. The accused Black slave was lynched immediately, and the child was killed unless the White mother requested it stay alive.
Rape from male slave owners would be used as a form of punishment for any crime - such as slow production - but was mostly done out of lascivious desires for the Black slave woman. As punishment to Black male slaves, their Black slave wives were raped by White masters in front of them. In the result for many, they were subsequently forced to raise the bi-racial children - at the time referred to as "mulatto" - that were the result of the rapes. White slave owners were ruthless in the ways they raped Black women, often screaming horrible degrading racial and sexual epithets at them during the act, and intentionally inflected more pain by being extremely aggressive while inside of them. Black female slaves were slapped and beaten depending on their reactions while they were being raped - if they were quiet and submissive during the rape, they were hurt further, to make sure they understood their White master's dominance; if they were loud and resisting while they were being raped, they were beaten until they were quiet or unconscious, then the rape continued.
African American slave children were not exempt from "slave-breaking", abuse, or torture. Most children were punished and abused for being slow in the fields or when service requests were made, or hiding and saving extra food for their families. Punishment was generally lashing, although slave children were also known to be forced to stand outside atop small posts in direct sunlight, carrying weights (usually bricks), for long-periods of time, without water or food. Them falling off the posts would result in added hours and lashes. Outside of physical torture, African American slave children were abused mentally, emotionally, and psychologically from a very early age. It was for years believed that African American children could take illnesses away from their White slave masters, by physical transfer. Masters who were sick with colds, flus, and other viruses, would lay flat on their bed, and then their physicians would instruct a child to lay nude at the foot of the bed, where the master would then place his bare feet on the child’s stomach. After laying and doing this for at least 12 hours straight, the slave master would normally report feeling some relief, and a decrease overtime of their illness, while the child now carried the sickness. An African American child’s blood was also an expensive commodity during this time for slave-owner’s wives. At the conquest of discovering the secrets behind aging, blotchy, and acned skin – which African Americans rarely experienced – slave-owner wives, like Delphine LaLaurie, would bleed Black slave children and store their blood in jars at room temperatures. The women would then spread the blood across their face, and leave it on as a mask for 30 minutes to an hour, believing that it would exfoliate their skin, and provide them with smoother skin similar to the African American slaves.
Money, and the African American slaves that were at the epicenter of making it for White Southerners, were the cause of the American Civil War. The American North was able to slowly phase out slavery, once African Americans helped urbanize their cities and continued performing many of the responsibilities they did while they were legally bound to their masters, and were also innovative contributors to making White businesses more successful. But the American South was less fortunate, didn't advance like their Northern neighbors, and instead concentrated on profiting from plantation crops produced by African American slave labor. Southern White plantation owners looked to expand their agricultural businesses into other territories, which meant expanding slavery into other territories for production, not slow them down. Over the course of 50 years, the United States achieved a vast territory expansion through trade, purchase, and conquest. Slavery was initially banned in the newly acquired states - referring to them as "free states" - which was an immediate issue, until leaders who wanted to expand in those areas (particularly Kansas) would fight for their succession to allow slavery. When territories like New Mexico, Arizona, and California were gained by the United States from Mexico, Southern White slave owners were eager to expand operations there. However, Northern Whites strongly opposed, especially once they outlawed slavery in many of their States in the North, and sought to curtain any further expansion of it in the rest of the country. The conclusion on both sides was that the "power to decide the question of slavery for the territories was the power to determine the future of slavery itself".
Abraham Lincoln was a Southern sympathizer to slavery, even though he didn't like it and didn't want it to continue. He made no banishment of slavery prior to the Civil War breaking out, and made his intentions clear before elected to the Presidency on slavery, in hopes to ease concerns of Southern Whites. Lincoln supported the amendment (that passed before Congress) which proposed that slavery was protected in the states where it already existed, and that the Government would not interfere with slavery without Southern content. He shared his beliefs with his friends and society by repeating his disdain at the thought of interracial marriages, and saying "while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the White race”. Lincoln additionally declared "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.". Lincoln himself was a known racist, and made no attempt at hiding it. He even married Mary Todd Lincoln, who was also a racist and came from a prominent slave-owning family in Kentucky. She was raised by African American slave women after her mother died when she was 6. She made her opinions of slavery clear to her husband, which often opposed his beliefs, but tried to influence him by sharing stories from her upbringing, claiming that slavery was indeed good for African Americans. The Lincolns hired African American slaves as "servants" in the White House. But Lincoln's racist views couldn't get him the support he wanted from Southern Whites, because it seemed that he was slowly taking more rights away from Southern slave owners, or keeping them stagnant, rather than strengthening them.
Across the Southern states, White slave owners and society unitedly joined together in preserving Southern laws and ways of life, keeping slavery in their territories. Northerns tried to compromise with Southerners, allowing them to keep slaves in their states, but said they could not expand into the new territories. Southern Whites denounced the block, stating it was an infringement of their Constitutional Rights. Once the Republican Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency, with the Republicans (who were abolitionists) supporting him, he denounced the continuance of slavery. The Whites in the Southern States would follow in their ancestral roots and rebel against their home country - just as their forefathers rebelled against the British to establish the United States 100 years prior - separating from their government, and seeking independence. South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas congregated in establishing their own federal government. They named their country The Confederate States of America. Most of the Southern states identified the Northern threat of removing slaveholders' rights as the cause of the secession. Texas made mention of slavery repeatedly for it being the cause for their secession into the Confederacy, and also their lack of protection as they expanded into Western (Native American and Mexican) territories. The Texans additionally proclaimed that equal civil and political rights applied to White men only, and that slavery was beneficial for African Americans, for they were lost without it, and that it would bring "inevitable calamities upon both races and resolution upon the fifteen slave-holding states" if they abolished it.
Although this was widespread treason in the South, newly-elected President Abraham Lincoln pleaded for the Confederate States to rejoin the United States. Within a year of Lincoln's Presidency, 11 out of the 34 states succeeded from the United States of America and joined the new country, the Confederate States of America. But the Southern Whites were adamant about keeping their nation's separate, since they had different beliefs, customs, traditions, and were clearly on opposite ends with respect to slavery. The Confederate States of America, had their own elected President - Jefferson Davis - as well as their own fully operating government, with federal policies, their own Constitution, military, Confederate "White House", a capital, and their own currency. The Confederate States of America was a fully functional and successful country while it existed. Instead of Southerners sharing the wealth that was accumulating on their plantations with White Northerners, they looked for other countries to trade with and profit from. This was devastating the North, whose wealth was more reliant on the Southern states than they expected.
The Confederate States of America was governed by almost all Whites, although there would be some monumental exceptions in incorporating new ethnic groups into American society. Judah P. Benjamin served as Secretary of State of the country, and was Jewish - he was the first Jewish United States senator who hadn't renounced his faith. Benjamin was an advocate and a spokesperson for slavery. He sought to protect the Southern Whites in their property ownership, and felt that the abolishment of slavery obstructed their Constitutional Rights. Benjamin would help other Jews obtain positions in the Confederate States, and was the main advocate in recognizing the Confederacy as a separate nation to Britain and France. However, his loyalty was short lived - when the Confederacy would begin losing the war, he fled without warning to Europe, never to return to the United States again. It would nonetheless spark future relationships between many Jewish peoples and conservative Whites in America.
The 2 countries - the United States and the Confederate States - were completely divided without conflict for 5 months. When the Confederate government demanded the United States Army - who was located in their territory - to leave, warning that their Confederate military would strike it, tensions grew high immediately. Lincoln and his administration had no idea that the Confederate States even had a legitimate army, but to their surprise, the Southern States had built one within months. The Confederate Army kept their word, and in the Battle of Fort Sumner drove out the United States military. Immediately following, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the treasonous rebels in the South, but it backfired - it resulted in an additional four Southern slave sates to also declare their secession and they joined the Confederacy. This would begin the American Civil War.
Union soldiers (the military of the Northern States) mainly believed that the war was to emancipate the slaves and unite the States, as well as their respective economies. Confederate soldiers (the military of the Southern States) fought mainly to protect their independent Southern society, with slavery as an integral part of it. The Union was led by future United States President Ulysses S. Grant, while the Confederacy was led by Mexican-American war hero Robert E. Lee. Additional states would soon join the Confederate United States of America; many states remained neutral on the division of the country and the formation of the Confederate States, and tried to stay out of the politics around slavery. The war lasted over 4 years, with African Americans - both free and slave - fighting on both sides of the war. African Americans that fought on the Union side, wanted to fight for their freedom from slavery, or if they were free, the freedoms of other African Americans. Some Blacks fought on the Confederacy at the demand of their masters, while others did so because they were told by their White masters that it was in their best interest to do so. Most Black slaves in the South were unable to read or write, and went by their master's word.
When the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in the closing of the war, ex-slaves were energetically recruited by the military, and used to meet their state quotas. In 1863, when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation - a document proclaiming the African American slaves that were held in the rebellious Confederate States of America were legally free - many African American slaves tried to leave their slave owners, but were unable to. White slave owners reminded Blacks who acknowledged the document that they were under law of a different, new country - The Confederate States of America - and therefore the law from the United States of America did not apply to them. Many African American slaves that were able to runaway and tried to join the Union weren't even accepted by the Union until the Emancipation Proclamation was announced.
The Confederate States desperately needed to be recognized as an independent nation by Britain and France, or else other nations in Europe or Asia wouldn't follow. If Southerns could achieve this, they would have a strong chance at advancing over their Northern neighbors. France was making progress in recognizing the Confederate States as an independent country from the United States, but basically said that their loyalty would be determined on if they won the war for their independence. If the Confederacy won the war, they would undoubtedly be recognized as their own country, and would likely be seen as the dominant country in North America - Europe relied on mostly Southern imports, and the South was producing the supplies that the North was selling. The North needed the South to survive. Robert E. Lee had been successful in the Civil War, going toe-to-toe for 4 years in battles against the Union army until he was finally surrounded in 1865. Lee, although a fighter and leader for the Confederacy, faced personal conflict because his wife was an abolitionist, hated slavery, and detested racism. Although Lee was beloved by Southern Whites, and seen as a hero to their racist beliefs and causes, Lee was secretly empathetic to the African American cause. It would be revealed later in Lee's personal diary and letters that he was actually very troubled with the thoughts of slavery, and was proud that the Confederate States were broken, saying "I am rejoiced that Slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interest of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this that I would have cheerfully lost all that I have lost by the war, and have suffered all that I have suffered to have this object attained".
President Lincoln suffered similar split in his personal views, due to his wife's beliefs. Mary Todd Lincoln was for the Confederacy, and her brothers and several close family members fought for the Confederacy, many even dying in the war. In a gesture and sign of respect, after Lee was surrounded by Union soldiers and surrendered, General Ulysses S. Grant permitted Lee to keep his sword and his horse, Traveller. The Confederacy won the first battle of the Civil War, and had even won the last battle of the war, with some loyal brigades continuing to fight even though the surrender was announced. Just 5 days after Lee surrendered and called a documented end to the war, Lincoln was shot by a Southern sympathizer - John Wilkes Booth - and died the next morning. Confederate States President Jefferson Davis, who had not surrendered in wake of his military doing so, was captured a day after the newly-appointed President Johnson declared an end to the fighting. The Confederacy finally surrendered it’s forces, after bravely defending it’s beliefs and independence until the very end on June 1865. The Civil War was over, and Black slaves were legally freed.
BREAKING A MAN, MAKING A SLAVE
NEW HOME, NEW LIFE
Even though the Spanish were the first to immigrate to Americas from Europe, the British became the dominant immigrants to North America by the 18th century. It would be their expansions, industrial advancements, religious colonization, and other innovations, that paved the foundation for what is now the United States of America. Some of the British immigrants that were living in the 12 colonies in America were displeased with their ruling government, which was thousands of miles away in England, and didn’t respect their reigning King George III. These British-born settlers were particularly dissatisfied that they were still under British law, even though they were allowed to maintain their own government. Because they were running daily operations in America and responsible for overseeing production, they wanted to set their own rules. Even though the British were also ruling America’s neighboring country Canada, as well as The Carribeans, Jamaica, and most of Central and South America, the British-born American settlers were not fond of one rule the British government gave them: abolish slavery.
Slavery was generally hated by the British public by 1783, which led to the King ridding of it soon after. A similar order was to carry over into the newly-colonized Americas, but unlike in Great Britain, the African slaves were at the core of American development. To remove them would be devastating to the growing economy. The idealism of being a poor degenerate farmer - which many British immigrants who came to America were - who could transition into a wealthy plantation owner was the overnight rags-to-riches that led to the concept of the“American dream”. The possibility of British government abolishing slavery led to the first major conflict between White British-settlers in America and Whites in Great Britain. Documents would soon be created from the British settlers in America that would declare their independence from British authorities, such as the Declaration of Independence – a manifesto for human rights and personal freedom. This document was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson, who eventually became the third President of the new country, and was a wealthy plantation owner. Jefferson owned over 200 African-American slaves during the time of the Declaration of Independence was being written. In the initial draft, Jefferson had language that promoted the enslavement of the Africans and their offspring born in America, but it was removed. It was the issue of slavery, combined with the hatred for paying taxes to the British, that stemmed the rebellious British settlers living in the 13 colonies to reject the British monarchy and aristocracy, overthrow their authority, and found the United States of America.
The country erupted in war, referred to as the Revolutionary War, and the rebellious British immigrants in America fought for independence and the freedom to run the new country to their liking, without control or governance from their home country, Great Britain. African slaves were mixed in their actions during the war. Most wanted to fight for their freedom. Officers of the British Army - called Loyalists - offered emancipation for any slave who would fight against the rebellious British settlers, referred to as Patriots; this was affirmed through the act of Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation. Between 3,000 and 4,000 African American slaves signed their name on the ledger of the Proclamation and fought for their freedom. There were records that reveal over 25,000 African American slaves escaped to the British in South Carolina, and thousands of others followed in Virginia and Massachusetts. The rebellious Patriots, originally excluded enslaved Africans and African-Americans from enlisting in the army out of sensitivity to the southern slave owners, but reluctantly recanted and lifted the ban against them once they saw the amounts of African American recruits who joined the British Loyalists. Initially there were conditions that wouldn’t allow slaves to possess weapons on the Patriot side, and their responsibilities consisted more as navigators; Patriots feared that slaves would rise up against their masters with the weapons instead of engaging in the war to defend their enslavement in America. Slave owners who had tight control over their slave populations, weren’t concerned, and forced many of their males to fight on the Patriot side, instead of leaving them at home unaccompanied with their families; since the Africans and their children born in America were legally “property” to their masters, they could be forced to perform any service request.
African slaves played vital roles in the American Revolution. They fought at some of the most famous battles of the war, including the Battle of Bunker Hill, and also helped lead future leader of the nation, George Washington, get across Delaware. It was also an African slave, Crispus Attucks, who was the first casualty of the American Revolutionary War. African slaves in America formed small all-Black units in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for the Patriot cause, when George Washington personally promised that they would be free upon the Patriots winning the war. That promise was unkept, and almost all of the African slave men who fought for the Patriot cause would be sent back to their masters following the end of the war. There were an estimated 5,000–10,000 Africans in America who served during Revolutionary War, on both sides. The war had at times opened various opportunities for slaves to escape in some cities - the British emancipated nearly 20,000 slaves at the end of the war, while some others were able to free themselves by running away. The British would literally visit every plantation they came across, which were usually unoccupied by head masters (who were usually off fighting for the Patriot cause), and cut off the shackles for every African American slave they encountered. In the state of Georgia alone, 1/3 of the slave population had escaped captivity, with a quarter of them maintaining their freedom. Unfortunately, because these Africans were freed from their oppressive plantations and businesses, but had no documentation legally proving their freedom, the majority of those who were set free or escaped to their freedom, were returned to their masters once noticed. Any person who looked African walking about freely was victim to questioning about their slave status (if they were free or not). If papers proving their freedom were unavailable, they were sold off and returned to slavery; many legally free African Americans were returned to slavery just for living their lives outside of a planation. Those who fled and weren't caught mostly migrated to various provinces of Canada, while also finding sanctuary in Great Britain. The African slaves promised freedom for fighting on the British Loyalists sides, were freed as promised, even though they lost the war. The African slaves who fought for them were relocated to Jamaica, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain. The defeated British Loyalists were ordered to return all property, including slaves, to the Patriots, as part of their provisional treaty. The British broke it to help thousands of documented African slaves flee to other countries, rather than return to slavery.
Congress put laws put in place that secured rights for slave owners shortly after the war concluded, such as the Fugitive Slave law, which notoriously provided for the return of slaves who escaped one state and fled to another state or territory, and made assisting runaways or fugitives a punishable crime. The Declaration of Independence declared that "all men are created equal" and that man has the basic freedoms being "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". But the Declaration of Independence did not specify African slaves in America or their children born in America - they were still seen as subhuman, property, with no rights. Almost every major leader of the Patriot cause in the Revolutionary War - George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin - who also signed the Deceleration of Independence were slave owners or racists who believed that African slaves in America were property and shouldn't be seen as an equals to Whites. George Washington had over 300 slaves in Mount Vernon, and even housed a separate quarter for sick slaves. Jefferson, who had owned over 200 slaves, would later become the 3rd President of the United States, and has been honored as a founding-father of the nation and one of the most beloved Presidents in American history. Those who were believed to be abolitionists - like Alexandar Hamilton - weren't fans of slavery, but cared about the interests and development of the United States of America first and foremost, and because slavery was a vital contributor to the economy, they didn't attempt to end it when opportunities arose. But John Adams, the second President of the United States of America, and other founding fathers like John Jay, would team in their disgust with slavery, and adamantly sought to abolish it. Slavery of Africans in America only worsened during its increase after the Revolutionary War ended and the United States of America was born.
A captain arriving at port typically wished to sell his slaves as quickly as possible, to realize his full profit and minimize his personal risk through revolts. The day of docking at Americas, crew would gather all of the Africans captives and prepare them for auction. Preparing them would consist of slaves being washed, lathering their skin with grease or tar to give them a smooth and healthy appearance, darkening grey hairs with tar or oil, and the covering of any physical wounds. Men were forced to drink 2 shots of rum to awake them and loosen their moods during auction. In some cases, when African slaves were suffering from stomach illnesses that they contracted onboard, crews would place corks as plugs in their anuses so that the appearance of any sickness - like sudden bowels (diarrhea) - would be masked. Wealthy large plantation owners often pre-purchased their slaves, as they already knew what type of labor was needed in their fields, and some only purchased their preferred ethnic groups in Africa that they believed were stronger laborers and would offer a bigger payout. The Mandika (also referred to as Mandingo) was a major ethnic group that was in high demand for slave labor. The slaves that were not pre-purchased, were up for sale at auction.
The sale of slaves took place inside of slave pens, on ship decks, and at city Court Houses. Auctions were advertised as soon as it was confirmed when a slave ship was due to arrive. Posters labeled the incoming Africans as “merchandise” and were displayed all over towns that had existing plantations; auctioneers notified prominent plantations owners well in advance so they could prepare their funds or potential trades. There were two main types of slave auctions: those that sold to the highest bidder, and “grab-and-go” auctions (also known as scrambles). Some auctions hosted a sale of more modest amounts, ranging 10–40 slaves, but larger auction houses sold 50 to a hundred slaves in a single day.
During auction, the African slaves in America were inspected and evaluated by their prospective buyers like merchandise on display. While nude, their mouths were pulled open to view their teeth and they specifically looked for any sign of disease; their limbs were pinched to determine muscle mass, and their bodies were slapped to witness the slave's sturdiness; each slave was forced to bend over in different directions to ensure they weren't hiding any hidden wounds, and were made to walk up and down to detect any signs of limpness in their step. Men, women, and children all lifted various heavy items to test their physical strength. Women’s anatomies were thoroughly examined by the slave owners, as they were eager to use them at their sexual disposal. Women were seen as sexual objects first, laborers second. Their breasts, vagina, and buttocks were gawked at, rubbed, slapped, poked, and pinched, to determine how the women would respond - if their resistance was minimal to the treatment, they would be more inclined to increase their purchase amount. Buyers would have little (if any) time to ascertain the true health conditions of their African slaves, and would only discover diseases if it became apparent in the future. Once the inspections were complete, the African slaves were finally made to stand on a raised platform nude (or with a groin cloth for men), so they could be seen in their full extent by prospective buyers, and then the auctioneer started the bidding.
Healthy young men between the ages of 15 and 45 usually sold first and at the highest value, as they were considered long-term investment property – they could work the fields and produce children that would automatically become slaves. Older men and unhealthy men were also sold, at lower prices, but there was still a strong market for them, particularly amongst new plantation owners who were just starting in slave investment; elderly men were also popular as "gifts" to new young families that needed butler service or personal assistance to help keep their new household in tact. At traditional auctions, buyers would bid against each other at the starting price determined by the auctioneer, and the person who bid the most would then become owner to that slave. But for slave auction “scrambles”, a starting gun would be fired to initiate the purchase, and the buyers would surge into the slave pens to collect the individuals they desired. Fights broke out often amongst the buyers, who were determined to buy the slaves they wanted, making traditional auctioning (i.e. highest bidder) the standard practice for purchasing slaves.
The British had rules around slave rights, some that included the preservation of slave families – for ex: a man would not be parted from his wife, and a mother would not be parted from child. The White European Americans in the South however, did not share the same philosophy. They deemed the Africans subhuman and solely as merchandise, which resulted in apathy from plantation owners on keeping enslaved families together. American bidders didn’t normally purchase entire families, and instead opted for the strongest and healthiest member, or the most affordable, so the auctions were generally the last time existing families saw each other. Children were the last to be purchased, as there was littlest use for them, and they were given miniscule tasks in the field and as servants in the house until they could be more useful in production. Mothers of children would scream and cry during the separation process, often falling out, and would have to be carried away from the auction by other slaves. This resulted in immense depression amongst African slave mothers, who were unable to cope with the displacement of their children.
A healthy man during his prime years was typically worth $1,600 (approximately $38,500 in 2015 dollars), whereas a man with even the slightest disability had a reduced sale price of $300 to $500. Elderly men were priced between $400 and 800, and were mostly servants inside of the plantation household, and didn’t endure the harsh realities of the field. African women were sold from $500 and $1000, but most were sold in the $600 range (approximately $15,000 in 2015 dollars). For those with injuries or a disability that rendered he or she from servicing their master to full capacity, purchasing freedom at the end of their lives was an option. In one a single recorded auction, where 400 men, women, and children were sold, the total amount of the day sales were over $300k (equivalent to approximately $6,900,000 in 2015).
Following the completion of the auctions, auctioneers documented via manuscript the transfer of ownership from previous owners to their new American plantation owners. These owners paid for the slaves on the spot, cash, although some offered credit-based systems paired with cash-in-hand or with a significant trade. Africans were given new names from their plantation owners, in which the name was documented alongside the new owner, and then at that moment, the African was legally a slave. Auction “scrambles” were less formal: buyers lined up with their shackled slaves by their side (usually after physically fighting for them), paid for them, and then the slaves were branded with the initials of their new owners on the spot - then they were legally a slave. After the auction and purchases concluded, the newly purchased African slaves were either forced to march to their new homes by foot or loaded onto wagons for transport to their respective plantations and businesses.
A CIVIL WAR
DEMAND & CAPTURE
BIRTHING A NATION
Slave fortresses – or slave trading posts - housed luxury suites in the upper levels for European visitors. The suites featured rich tapestries, parquet floors, fine dining menus and 24-hour butler service, live entertainment, and breathtaking views of the Atlantic oceans. Shopping malls with dozens of merchants were on-site at larger fortresses and available to guests throughout the day, and included unique imports from Europe and Asia (especially India and China); some of the treasures gathered from the African kingdoms that were overthrown and captured were also available to purchase as souvenirs to European guests. There was even a chapel in most castle enclosures for officers, seamen, traders, and their accompanying families, to provide religious home-like comforts while waiting for their slave purchases to be complete. Most of the buyers were extremely religious (of Catholic faith) and wanted quick access to priests, confessionals, and a place for general worship while away from home.
The slave dungeons at the fortresses, like at Elmina and Cape Coast Castle, were kept below. They were dark, cramped, and had poor ventilation. Most had a single light bulb that was faintly illuminated, and only turned on when traders needed to view the Africans to account for them still being alive. Light was only accessible when it entered through a doorway or small holes near the ceilings. Cells were fit to capacity, and depending on the size, could hold between 200 and 1500 Africans at a given time. The African captives were kept in shackles while they were being “stored” in the dungeons, without room to sit or lay down. There was no water given to them, nor were meals offered within the first few days of their arrival. There were no sanitation facilities, and because the Africans remained shackled to each other in the dungeons awaiting their (unknown) sale and departure, the floors they stood on were flooded with their urine and feces. The dungeons would be cleaned once a month. This caused illnesses like malaria and yellow fever between many Africans shortly after their arrival, resulting in many dying within just days of their confinement. The dead lay shackled with those who were living; dead bodies were removed no more than once a week from the dungeons.
The African male and female captives were immediately separated from one another upon arrival - they both had their own dungeons at opposite ends of the fortresses; young children stayed with women. Because the African women were in their own dungeons separated from men and shackled, they were left vulnerable to European sexual predators. Captors raped the women regularly, some several times a day, and used them for their own personal pleasures on demand. African women were also frequently molested by their captors in the presence of African male captives, which was used as a tool to demonstrate European control and dominance. Some fortresses - like Elmina - kept their female slave dungeons directly under their Catholic church. The governor of Elmina requested a staircase be built leading directly from his chambers to the women’s dungeons below, so he could have easy access in selecting his concubines - the women were raped constantly. He and his officials had the rights to use any African woman that was "stored" in their fortress until their sale and subsequent departure. Upon new arrivals, women would be washed down, oiled, then displayed in the main courtyard, naked, for the governor's choosing. Defiant women had cannon balls (20-50 pounds) added to their shackles and forced to accustom their daily life with the newly added weight.
Revolts were not tolerated and were disciplined to the fullest extent - death. There could be no exceptions to saving the African male captive's lives once they participated in a revolt, because it was seen as leniency and could set the stage for a larger, more organized revolt. Men were sent to "confinement cells", where there was no lighting, and no ventilation. They were small, pitch-black spaces for those that were labeled rebellious, revolted, or posed a "threat". The men would stay inside the confinement cell until they died from suffocation or from being starved. The Europeans would check on those within the cells by knocking on the door and awaiting a response - if there was no response it normally meant they were dead, and the traders were safe to enter and remove their bodies. Women who didn’t comply were beaten in front of other female slaves and then chained to cannon balls in the courtyard. The cannon balls proved to be very effective in eliminating repeat offenses - if a woman "dropped the ball", her neck would snap. African female captives that were being held at the slave fortresses were also punished with rape for their disobedience. Revolts were minimal at the trading posts and slave fortresses because they held Africans from various areas of the continent, each with their own unique tribal languages, which made communication about what was happening to them, let alone how to escape it, nearly impossible.
The fortresses were ultimately the last stop of the Africans before exiting to the slave ships, and the last time they would see their homeland again. The Africans seized and held at the slave fortresses would spend anywhere between two weeks to three months there – depending on their health, as well as ship availability – before even being shipped to the Americas. Since millions of Africans didn’t survive the voyage to arrive in the Americas, the castles were the last piece of land they set foot on. Once purchases were finalized and documented, the Africans, now slaves, walked through a narrow portal where they were lowered into small boats. These small ferry-boats held 20-100 persons at a given time, and carried the slaves further out to sea, where they would be loaded onto large slave ships.
Slave ships were normally much smaller than traditional cargo ships, but carried between 350 to 450 enslaved Africans at a given time, with roughly 20 to 30 crew members overseeing their transport. Most captains ran their ships with the “tight-packing” method, which opted to have as many slaves aboard during departure as possible, to compensate for potential "lost" slaves at sea - those who died during the voyage. On average, slaves had about 6 square feet of deck space. Male captives were nude or had their genitals covered with a groin cloth, and were normally kept chained together in pairs to save space – right leg to the next man’s left leg, right wrist to the next man’s left wrist – while women were only chained to self or with their accompanying children. Heavy shackles, made of wrought iron, bronze, or copper, were worn throughout the days and nights of their journey, including during forced exercise and sleep. Males spent most of their time in coffin-sized bunks or pinned to floorboards, which would wear the skin of their elbows down to the bone. Some females that were admired by their captors were allowed to be free of their shackles during sexual engagements with them and received extra food rations for their compliance. Heavier shackles were placed on male slaves, as a means to strengthen them for future usage during labor.
How slaves were fed depended on the captors that were feeding them. Because the Africans slaves were believed “cargo”, each captain had their own ideology in how to best feed them and ensure their safe arrival in the Americas. They were all fed like animals, in rows, forced to eat with their hands and drink with their hands. The English were known to feed their slaves twice a day, putting blended food in small tubes; the Dutch fed their slaves three times a day and meals consisted of mostly vegetables; the French fed their slaves stew and sometimes added turtle meat; the Portuguese and Spanish were the most frugal with their rations, normally feeding their slaves rice, kola nuts, beans, or corn, in a mush, once a day, if at all.
The extreme conditions (both weather and living conditions) were catastrophic for the newly-enslaved Africans. There was poor ventilation and minimal fresh air in the below decks where slaves were held, and during warm seasons the holding quarters were so humid that layers of filth (dirt from skin, and dead skin) covered the floors throughout the voyage. Their conditions hastily worsened during the colder seasons. Africans had not experienced snow-level climates, nor hurricanes, and because of their near-nudity on the ships, were easily susceptible to fevers and other diseases. The most common disease during the voyage - dubbed the Middle Passage - was the “bloody flux", also known as gastroenteritis (a serious stomach flu). But it was amoebic dysentery and scurvy that caused the majority of deaths on board. European crews additionally spread smallpox, syphilis, measles, and sexual transmitted diseases throughout the quarters and to the slaves.
Slaves were given buckets for their daily excrements in their slave quarters, but there was usually one bucket per 30-40 slaves, making its usage and availability while being shackled to fellow slaves challenging. As a result, many African slaves were unable to utilize the buckets for their waste, and in turn would urinate or defecate on themselves and those chained to them. Most Africans had also never been on a boat, let alone a ship, so were not familiar with the constant rocking movement of the ocean. When sea sickness or motion sickness occurred, shackled slaves vomited on themselves, and each other, further contributing to filth and the spread of disease within the quarters. To lighten the moods for the male slaves deemed most valuable onboard - usually large, muscular and strong - sailors would force a female slave to satisfy their sexual desires, in hopes to shift their views.
If slaves survived the conditions aboard, it didn’t guarantee that they would live to see the Americas – suicide and murder was typical on slave ships. Self-starvation and suicide were the most average ways of resistance from African slaves. Even though captors gave small amounts of food to slaves, they sought to feed them just enough to keep them alive until they reached the Americas, for it was their job responsibility to transport the slaves safely for purchase or to their new homes. When slaves resisted meals, crews forcefully fed them. Female slaves had a higher rate for suicide than males did, because they were more depressed from being sexually tortured and raped by captors aboard, along with the separation from their children. The female slaves would grip cannon balls to their chest and jump overboard. This was an unfortunate fate for the slaves that were attached to those committing suicide, as many were chained together while on deck, forcing them to succumb the same fate even if unwanted. Slaves generally believed if they jumped overboard, they would be reunited with their family, village, and ancestors in the afterlife. Some African people, such as the Kru, developed a reputation for being too proud to become slaves, and attempted suicide immediately upon losing their freedom. The direct murder of the enslaved Africans was also a common practice during the Middle Passage, to literally lighten the weight of the ship. Dozens of African men, women, and children, were shackled together with heavy cannonballs and stones, then holstered overboard into the sea, meeting their deaths in the ocean.
Roughly 10 to 20% of the ships that departed the African coast never made it to the Americas. Thousands of vessels were overthrown by enslaved Africans - many were warriors and chiefs of prominent tribes in Africa who united in killing ship captains and crews. But since Africans had never been on boats of that size, and most had actually never been on a boat before - or at sea - they did not know how to navigate it after killing their captors and freeing themselves. Many slave ships disappeared at sea, while some were fortunate in returning to Africa (if the ship was overthrown from at a short distance to the African coast), or ended up at other lands in route that they mistook as Africa. Although there were numerous successful slave rebellions, including the Creole Ship Uprising and The Little George Ship Revolt, the most famously documented is the uprising on La Amistad. It was a Spanish-owned slave ship - ordered and financed by Queen Isabella II of Spain - that illegally acquired Mende slaves in West Africa and was attempting to sell them in Cuba and the Carribean Islands. When the African slaves suddenly took control of the ship, killing it’s captain and some crew, they ordered the captors they left alive to sail them back to Africa. The Spanish secretly maneuvered the ship to head towards the United States of America, and ended up off the coast of Long Island, New York. A battle over the African slaves right to freedom was fought between retired President-returned-lawyer John Quincy Adams, Cuban buyers, and the Spanish survivors of the revolt who represented Queen Isabella II and claimed ownership over them. The case went to the United States Supreme Court and ruled that the slaves had been illegally captured and transported, rebelled in self defense, and were free. 35 of the survivors returned to Africa a year later.
The last few days aboard the slave ships were normally quiet and peaceful in contrast to early capture. When getting closer to shore, some slaves were freed from their shackles, given clothing and given bigger meals. They were usually photographed within a few days of their arrival, to be used as a marketing tool to show their safe (and healthy) transport to the Americas using their ships. Fattening the slaves would help market them at auction and garner a higher sale price. Although, through sickness, murder at the hands of crew, and suicide, the average loss of slaves during the Middle Passage were between 10 and 20%. Recent numbers predict that the between the 15th and 18th century, the numbers reflected 1 out of 3 slaves died before arriving in America.
In the American North, slavery was legal as it was in the American South, and although it was perfectly normal to have at least 3 slaves for personal use (assistant, cook, and Nanny), there was much less of a presence. African slaves in America and their children born in the United States, African Americans, made significant contributions to the economy and infrastructure in the American North, working on roads, mills, canals, as well as the construction of major cities like New York City and Philadelphia. Many Black male slaves took on responsibilities such as wagoners and carriage drivers, while female slaves catered to serving White female masters and their children, acting as companions, cooks, and maids. Many White slave owners, their spouses, and associates in the American North began teaching African American slaves how to read and write. In addition, African American slaves in the American North were typically given opportunities to make their own money, and the ability to purchase their freedom; Black slaves who had the funds were typically given opportunity to purchase the freedoms of their families or other slaves if the White master was willing to sell. In addition, African American slaves were known to experience more "freedoms" than those enslaved in the South; they were allowed to leave their masters or business to travel to markets, attend events (such as weddings) at other plantations, and run errands for their masters. This became like a folk-tale to Black slaves in the American South, who dreamed of more lenient conditions and break from the abuses they endured.
From the late 1700s to the late 1800s, Black slaves in the American North normally lived in small cottage-style houses that were located on wide streets, in cul-de-sac-style communities, with houses made of wood or tabby, evenly spaced in European fashion. They were averagely 14 to 16 by 20 feet (roughly 300 square feet) in size, and in either a rectangle or in "shotgun-house" style. They likely had a door that faced the street, one window, with window-shutters made of straw, roofs covered with wooden boards or shingles, and a chimney made of brick or sticks and mud. Once African American slaves were reading and writing, therefore being able to better communicate with their masters, and fellow slaves, White society in the North started to question whether or their enslavement was moral - similar reactions started in Britain over 100 years prior, which led to the abolishment of African slavery. The morality behind slavery of the African and African Americans, was that they were no more than animals, with no culture, no traditions, no religious beliefs, were born and bread to work as slaves, and were merely disposable property. As African Americans proved otherwise, Whites in the North increasingly released their Black slaves or made it possible for them to buy their freedom.
In the American South, slavery of African Americans was seen in a much different light. In American Southern society, there were only two social statuses: those who had slaves, and those who didn't. Those who didn't own slaves were seen and regarded as "poor White trash", who were incapable of running businesses, and must be under the direction of another White man. There were several statuses and classes between the Black slaves, established by their White masters. The highest in hierarchy were the house servants: butlers, mistress-maids (which were not cleaning "maids", but rather personal assistants to female masters), nurses, chaimbermaids, or cooks. Next were those that were deemed intelligent enough to manage normal White daily activities, and held roles as carpenters, gardeners, barbers and hairdressers, wagoners, and slave foremen. These classes of Black slaves were given better quarters to live in, with more than one bed or multiple chairs indoors, and were rarely beaten by their masters. Lastly there were the lowest-tier in the hierarchy, the “field” slaves, whose roles consisted of wheat cradling, cotton-picking or cotton-gin feeding, threshing, plowing, planting, watering, and tending to the crops cultivated on the plantation.
In the American North, the lowest-tier for Black slaves were those were doing outside work - such as railroads, paving roads, working on construction sites - as opposed to having house responsibilities, and were seen as unintelligent. Division was created amongst the different classes of Blacks because of this - the better treatment from White masters made those in the lower-tiers jealous and resentful of Blacks in higher statuses. The division was the greatest in the American South, where Black "house" slaves were almost isolated completely from Black "field" slaves by White masters; many Blacks in higher classes began encouraging their segregation and were harsh towards "field" slaves, to make their superiority clear and showcase loyalty to their White masters.
In the mid-1800s slavery and purchasing slaves become so normal, that auction houses were located in market plazas, near tobacco, alcohol, and appliance stores for convenience. Buying and selling African American slaves was a top trade, for both financial gain and as a hobby, and there were dozens of businesses that catered to the demand. More employment and entrepanuereal opportunities opened for Southern Whites because of the demand, one notable was bountying runaway slaves. With the increasing disdain for slavery in the American North, and the idealism of freedom or at least an easier slave life in the American North, many African American slaves in the South were attempting to flee there. This catapulted a steady business in bounty hunting - which would be the precursor to police detective work - with new tactics for identifying, tracing, and capturing Black runway slaves.
Slaves in the American South plantations normally worked 14 hour days, some longer depending on how early they had to prep meals or if human-fans were needed. Black slaves would hold up large peacock feathers and ostrich feathers to cover bedroom windows all night, so bugs would not enter the room or disturb their master's sleep. They were normally supervised by a fellow African American slave, who would take turns in enforcing discipline and phycial punishement when they were underperforming or just to maintain consistency in good production. White slave owners were usually hands-off on daily slave management, they had Black slaves supervise other slaves, and then if applicable, a white overseer to supervise the entire operation. Just to maintain consistency during strong production months, overseers (who often abused their power) would force all of the Blacks in the plantation to lay down in rows, and they would be beaten on demand. No one was exempt when this was practiced, children and the elderly were included in the lashings. If a Black slave performed well then they wouldn't get beat as hard, but they would still get beaten. Larger plantations usually practiced this twice a week.
Black slaves ate the crops that were grown on their personal gardens on the slave quarters, and raised chickens, hogs, and cows. For additional meat, they mostly grew accustomed to rodent animals, like raccoons, squirrels, and opossums, but also ate rabbit and fox. Slave owners only gave Blacks chickens or other animals to raise if they "earned" it by performing well in their responsibilities. Beef existed in African American diets but was a rarity, unless there was meat left over from White meals, or if there was a special occasion to where slave-owners allowed Blacks to feast (Christmas or Easter). Because meat was craved by Blacks and they had minimal accessibility to it, rodent meat became the stable meat for slave dinners. For a rodent like an opossum, Blacks found innovative, thorough ways to prepare the meat so it was edible. The process would start with a young Black child who would bring the dead rodent in, and wipe him clean. The adult slaves would then skin the animal, and soak it all night in salt water. It would be taken out in the morning, drained, wiped dry, and parboiled for a short while. Then the rodent was greased with butter, rubbed all over with flower and red pepper, based with the juice he was parboiled in, and put in the stove for baking. Sweet potatoes were cooked around the rodent while baking, to provide a sweet flavor to the meat, masking its intense flavor. It wasn't the best quality meat, but it was enough to get by. Black slaves would wait for their slave owners to throw food scraps to their dogs, in hopes to get better meats and food for their families. African American slaves regularly ate kush, which was corn bread mixed with raw onions and ham gravy poured atop of it. Ash cake was common also, which was made of meal or flour, wrapped in a damp cloth and cooked on hot ashes. Cornmeal dumplings were with almost every meal, and were boiled in turnip greens, collards, cabbages, or snap peas, all which Black slaves believed kept them strong and healthy.
Black female slaves in the American South gradually adapted to the sexual abuse and rape from their White masters and overseers, although it caused immense mental, physical, and emotional damage. Slave masters taught their male offsprings how to select African American slave mistresses, the process of raping them, and how to coach the slaves in pleasing them sexually. Rape, from slave masters, their children, overseers, and male acquaintances became grossly normal after importing slaves from Africa became illegal. "Slave-breeding", was done by nearly every slave owner in the American South immediately following the law change. There were even some White businessesmen who captilized on the market demand, by having African American slave breeding plantation houses. Most Black female slaves were required to be mothers by age 12. Many slave masters would network with other slave owners nearby and request that their young Black slave girls be impregnated with their largest Black male slaves, in hopes to produce a new generation of strong workers.
It would be common for an African American female slave, who wasn't with child by the expected time, to be raped 1-2 times a day until their was a pregnancy result. White slave masters would force larger, dominant males to have sex with the female slaves consistently, which caused enormous strain in the relationship and trust between the African American female and male slave. Some women were able to cope with this by resisting reproduction, so they wouldn't have to bear constant unwanted childbirth from the rape of their masters or forced rape from fellow slaves. They learned how to create their own contraceptives, such as chewing on cotton root - which was the most popular method - to force miscarriages. Gossypol was one of the many substances within the cotton plant, and was described as a poisonous pigment that inhibates the development of sperm or restricts the mobility of sperm. In addition, it is believed to interrupt the menstrual cycle by restricticting hormones.
White slave owners and their wives, were typically not family-oriented, didn't have many traditions, and spent most of their time entertaining guests, enjoying their social circles, and living leisurely. When a White baby was born, all of the slaves would be called in and introduced to the new master for them all to service. African American slaves would bow low and greet the baby, at the threat of an overseer who would lash slaves otherwise. Tending-to and raising White children was a duty of Black slaves upon their birth. Because most master's wives were focused on prestige within their social settings, they weren't fond of the physical affects of pregnancy, childbirth, or the changes to their bodies afterwards. To decrease the time spent on regaining or readjusting their physical bodies, master wives would leave natural mothering duties, particularly nursing, to their African American slaves, while they spent time relaxing, healing, and exercising. It was typical to have at least 2-3 female slaves pregnant or recently-pregnant on a Southern plantation at a given time, so Black female slaves would take turns in breast feeding White babies into their toddlerhood; breastfeeding rights were given priority to White newborn masters, before feeding their own newborns.
White babies were awakened, fed, changed, bathed, entertained, and put to sleep, by African American female slaves and their Black slave children. Infants toys mostly consisted of African American slave toddlers and children, who were forced to entertain White babies and ensure they were happy. White babies and children were allowed to hit, slap, kick, pull, and ride on top of Black children for entertainment. Riding atop of a young African American slave girl or boy's back for horse play was among the most common games that young White girls requested, until their parents purchased them a real-life pony or horse. These White children were also bred to oversee Black slaves as they performed their work duties, reported their results, and took turns in their discipline. African American slave women were instructed to teach White children how to discipline slaves upon their shortcomings, and were forced to teach them how to perform lashings and other physical abuses for punishment. From birth, into childhood, thorough adolescence and their teenage years, White children were catered to hand-and-foot by Black women; Whites had their hair brushed, were bathed, dressed, nursed, companioned, fed, entertained, and advised by African American slave women. Elderly Black slave women watched all children throughout the work days, both White and Black. Because of the treatment they were given by Blacks since their birth, most of these White children would grow up to be White adults expecting the same treatment, and carried the notion that they were superior to Blacks, and were entitled to such treatment.
Having a secure family household was almost impossible as an African American slave in the American South. There was no guarantee on a slave's future at their current plantation - they could be sold, traded, or auctioned at will by their slave masters. There was also the probability of an arranged slave-breeding marriage between a Black female slave and a male slave on another plantation, or on theirs, leaving choice of spouse impossible. Black slave children were born for additional support in production, not for the joys of reproducing life. And just because a slave mother gave birth to a child, it did not make it hers for keeps. Masters would often use newborn Black babies as means to repay a debt. Marriages between slaves did occur, some at the forced will of their White slave masters, who claimed to be Christians, and didn't feel it was "Christian-like" to force sexual relations amongst slaves without them being legally married. Some African Americans chose spouses for themselves, within their own plantations, and some were allowed to marry those in neighboring plantations. But the classes of slaves (i.e. field vs. house) also divided them, and they did not marry outside of their classes, causing further strain amongst Blacks. The slaves were hardly ever legally married, although some slave masters documented the marriages, and did so especially if the marriage was to a slave in an outside plantation, for rights over future offspring. Others were mostly married by a slave master laying down a broom, and then instructing the male and female slave to jump over it.
Singing and dancing was the most common form of entertainment of the Black slaves, and for entertaining their White masters - music was the culprit to expressing themselves. If an African American slave was having a hard day in production, and may have experienced lashings, he would sing about it. At the same time, if he was having a good production day, and received no lashings, he would sing about it. African American slaves would take bits and pieces from songs they remembered or had heard in Africa, from religious ceremonies, special occasions, and from everyday life, and would recite the melodies butting the words to express what they were going through at that moment. If they were picking cotton, sowing throough corn fields, chopping wood, among others, they would come up with lyrics, on the spot, in a melody, and sing to the rest of the slaves. The slaves would then repeat each sentence as it was sang, in a call-and-respond singing style. Black slaves would create flutes out of reed cane, and drums were made of pans and bottles - the drum was the essential part of the musical sound, with other instruments being secondary or not needed, because harmonious voices were what filled in the music. White entertainment on plantations consisted mostly of forcing Blacks to sing and dance for them, as well as perform in sports (usually baseball). White slave owners also notably barbarically sponsored Mandingo fighting - a fight amongst slaves of other plantations, similar to a boxing match, but to the death. This became so popular that there were Mandingo fighting houses, betting bookies, and more.
It was the growth and expansion of the Southern wealth into the North that sparked interest on them visiting Southern states. Suddenly, White Southern famers, who were thought of as poor, ignorant, trash, who were not sophisticated enough to live in the North, were millionaires, and began establishing and investing in businesses outside of the South. White Northerners would travel to the American South to visit their business partners, and saw the glamorous lives in which they were living, along with the Black slaves that were doing the work. Slavery was soon realized to be the reason behind all of success of the plantations owned in the South. Many Northern Whites would make mention of the abolishinist movements taking place in their regions, as well as the advancements they were seeing with Blacks being freed from slavery and joining their societies, to Southern dismay.
Southern White Americans argued that African Americans were inferior to Whites, and that the institution of slavery was in the best interest for Blacks. Suggestions to free African Americans from slavery was always dismissed by Southern wealthy Whites, as the enslavement of Blacks were the basis of their businesses, that was impossible to survive without them. Plantation owners in the South made it painfully clear to Whites in the North that everyone in the United States was benefiting from slavery. Traders of slaves were paid a fee for their services, and collected buy and sell profits; White slave owners in the South profited in the people they sold and through the crops that the slaves produced and sold; merchants who supplied clothing and food to the slave traders also profited, and had a million dollar business; railroads, steamboats, and shipowners who transported slaves were also paid top dollar to ensure their safe arrival to the United States; Northern Whites profited by investing in the banks that handled the exchange of the funds for the buy and sell of slaves, and by launching insurance companies that provided Whites slave owners the ability to collect insurance benefits on their slaves, if they were "damaged", "lost", killed, or stolen; some Northern Whites offered reduced mortgage rates on slaves, as well as "first-time slave buyer" programs, similar to how we see first-time home buyer programs today. In addition, the American North, who was at the forefront of the abolitionist movement, was also the home of American's cotton textile industry, which only grew rich off of the African American slaves who were picking the cotton in the South. The growth of the American economy was built on the back of the African American slave.
Africa produced nearly all of the top sought minerals in the world, and Europeans relied on African exports as means to their industrial advancement and survival. The Portuguese established one of the largest and most profitable trading posts of that time - in Cape Blanco, Sierra Leone and Elmina - dominating the market for exported African goods, and navigation routes for explorers. The trans-Saharan trade routes between Songhay and the North African traders provided the Europeans with gold and were used to trade spices, silks and other luxuries from China and India. There were shortages of gold throughout Europe, particularly Portugal, so any excursions or possibilities for colonizations in Africa - where there was the highest reserve known - were supported and encouraged. Shortly after the Portuguese arrived in Africa, they partnered with African tribal leaders to start capturing their rivals and enemies, and sold them off as slave laborers to develop Portugal; prisoners of war were also among the first sold to the Portuguese who had a high need for cheap labor to develop their cities and serve their monarchs. Other European nations shortly followed suit in this coerce so they could also quickly develop their countries - the British, French, Spanish and Dutch Empires were top purchasers and traders of slaves. However, when the Spanish embarked on their journeys to the New World (The Americas), spearheaded by Christopher Columbus, the slave trade amassed to a scale no one predicted.
Because there was no regard for the millions of people already living in America - the Natives - as the land-owners over their own land, Columbus’ settlers and the subsequent European settlers that followed, ambushed areas they felt would be most agriculturally profitable. The plan was to become a wealthy agrarian society, and then start industrialization. A once poor explorer could become a land and therefore plantation owner in the New World overnight, which sparked an immediate demand for cheap labor to work their fields, and make them rich. The Europeans who settled in America originally attempted to enslave the Native peoples on the land, but many Natives died as a result of European diseases that they had never been exposed to, while others were forcefully displaced and/or killed for territorial gain. Most Natives were under guidance from their tribal leaders and Chiefs, who outright refused to partake in slave labor, and violently resisted - some ended their own lives (or the lives of their children) when it appeared slavery would be their fate. Because of this, European settlers focused on their larger task at hand with the Natives - removing them from their land, and finding another group to enslave. Indentured servants from Great Britain willingly came to North America as laborers, but failed quickly in the fields because they were unaccustomed to the extreme heat, and unbearable conditions required to work the crops. Since there was already slavery existing in Africa - where Africans used their enemies and prisoners as servants - the Europeans saw an opportunity to exploit. After the first few African leaders showed openness to selling their captives (generally their competitors or enemies) to the Europeans, the demand for people-as-property skyrocketed to develop the Americas.
African tribal leaders kept up for a while with the market demand. They supplied their neighboring rivals, which generally consisted of chiefs, subsequent government officials, their armies, and their tribal elite. African villagers and bushmen (average African citizens) were rarely captured and sold for slavery. For smaller African tribes, the potential of eliminating their much larger enemies, accumulating power, and enjoying seized assets seemed like an obvious winning solution. The Africans were encouraged to trap and trade their rivals for advanced European goods, particularly firearms, which had yet to be seen in many African countries. Firearms were viewed as an offensive advantage against neighboring tribes and kingdoms, so it was a welcomed trade. Once seeing that the Africans were adopting this practice, and the demand continued to increase for slaves in the New World, the Portuguese capitalized on the market need for quick accessibility to African slaves. They developed Euro-African trading posts throughout the coast of West Africa, stocked with trade goods (i.e. firearms, alcohol, textiles) that were valuable to Africans for barter.
When African tribal leaders couldn’t keep up with the increasing demand for slave laborers, the Europeans changed tactics in how they were captured. Children of slaves became slaves automatically, which hadn't previously existed. Slaves additionally could not buy their right to freedom, which had been a standard in most original slave-trading agreements. There were also laws put in place that sentenced criminals to slavery as punishment, along with their families, even for petty crimes. Debts were mostly repaid through slavery. But the most successful and most efficient way for the Europeans - particularly the Portuguese - to capture slaves was simply to kidnap them. Because tribal African weaponry consisted primarily of pole and bladed weapons, firepower proved an easy solution for capturing and controlling African subjects. Slaves were taken by net, bound (usually by shackle) by their hands and ankles, beaten upon resistance, under final threat of a firearm. The kidnapped Africans were aligned and chained together, and forced to march to a centralized location - usually a large fort created by the European trading companies or in small wooden compound - where they were documented and prepared for shipment and sale.
Slavery has existed throughout the history of man’s existence. Various peoples in the world have documented their tragic experiences living through it, and slavery is also included in nearly every ancient religious doctrine, validating it's earliest impressions. However, European powers changed how slavery impacted the world forever once they began exploring new lands in the 15th century.
As Christopher Columbus famously discovered the existence of the Americas during his explorations in 1492, he also would monumentally bring the first African slaves to America, as they joined him on his voyage. The birth of the Americas, also launched the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, which exterminated millions of Africans, and ultimately forced surviving captives to become property. Between the 1500s through the close of the 1800s, 10.7 million out of 12.5 million Africans that were shipped as cargo across the Atlantic survived the voyage, and became slaves as they entered the New World - the Americas.