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SLAVERY. The Beginnings…. Household slaves had long been a part of world of Mediterranean Europe. War captives would be sold to wealthy families and put to work as servants. Sugar and Slavery. Columbus brought sugar cane and soon after sugar plantations were is full operation.

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The Beginnings…

  • Household slaves had long been a part of world of Mediterranean Europe.

  • War captives would be sold to wealthy families and put to work as servants.

Sugar and Slavery

  • Columbus brought sugar cane and soon after sugar plantations were is full operation.

  • The indigenous population was devastated by war and disease so the colonists began importing slaves from Spain.

Native American Slave Labor

Europeans tried to force Native Americans to work on their plantations. They ran into the following problems:

1. subject to fall ill from disease.

2. could easily run away.

3. could blend in with former


Indentured Servants

*During the 1660’s the labor system in the colonies began to change as indenturedservants began to leave the plantations.

*There was so much land in the Americas that it was easy for a servant to leave once they worked off their debt.

African Diaspora

  • The forced migration of African people to the Americas.

  • This is the largest forced migration in world history.

  • Prior to the 19th century, Africans outnumbered Europeans in the Americans 6 to 1.

  • It is the most brutal chapter in the history of the Americas.


It represents an ancestral figure emerging from the underground railroad. The tracks are connected to him because the experience is a part of who we are...part of our roots. The light in the upper right represents the north star...or direction towards freedom.

ROOTS- By Alex Haley

  • Alex Haley's Roots is the monumental two-century drama of Kunta Kinte and the six generations who came after him. By tracing back his own roots, Haley tells the story of 39 million Americans of African descent.

  • The story of Roots begins in 1750.

  • It ends seven generations later at the Arkansas funeral of a black college professor.

  • Many African Americans can only trace their ancestry back to the Civil War.

  • Roots serves as a history for all African Americans.

The Mini-Series

With 130 Million Viewers it is the most viewed television mini-series of all time.

Starring: Levar Burton, Cicely Tyson, Louis Gossett Jr., O.J. Simpson, Ed Asner, Leslie Uggums, George Hamilton, Ben Vereen, Ralph Waite, John Amos

West Africa

  • The men and women whose labor made the tropical colonies of Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hispaniola profitable came from West Africa.

Atlantic Slave Trades

*With the decline of Native American Slave labor and increase in plantations the demand for African Slave Labor increased rapidly.


African Empire Colonial

Building Plantations

It is estimated by scholars that between 10 and 12 million slaves were transported on slave ships during the four centuries of the slave trades. About 76% arrived between 1701-1810.





The Triangular Trade was between Europe, the Americas, and Africa.

Triangular Trade

The Middle Passage

The trip from West Africa to the Americas, the “Middle Passage”, took an average of 62 days.

The ships they traveled on were narrow and the typical space between decks was 4 to 5 feet.

According to one case there was a ship where the space between decks was a mere 14 inches.

On the Coast

  • On the coast, European traders and African raiders assembled their captives.

  • Prisoners waited in dark dungeons or in open pens called barracoons.


  • Whipping and branding, borrowed from Roman practice via the Iberian-American colonies, appeared early and with vicious audacity.

Royal African Company

A London slave-trade monopoly was given to the Royal African Company in 1672.

Set up by the Stuart family and London merchants

Led by James, Duke of York, Charles II's brother.

Slaves were branded with RAC on their chests.

Between 1672 and 1689 it transported around 90,000–100,000 slaves.

The RAC Flag



  • The unwilling voyagers offered plenty of resistance.

  • As long as the ships were still in sight of the African coast the hope remained alive and the danger of revolt was great.

Amistad: 1841


  • Given they were illegally confined, the Africans were entitled to take what legal measures necessary to secure their freedom, including the use of force.

  • The Supreme Court affirmed this finding on March 9, 1841, and the Africans traveled home in 1842. The case influenced numerous succeeding laws.

  • The rebellion broke out when the schooner, traveling along the coast of Cuba, was taken over by a group of captives who had earlier been kidnapped in Africa and sold into slavery.

  • The Africans were later apprehended on the vessel near Long Island, New York, by the United States Navy and taken into custody

  • To lessen the possibility of collective resistance, traders split up families and ethnic groups.

  • Each person was inspected and branded with the name of the buyer on their back.


The Europeans shipped liquor, cotton goods, weapons, and iron to African in exchange for slaves. They viewed the slaves as a commodity.

  • The captives were brought above deck for exercise. They were forced to dance for the entertainment of the crew.

Conditions on the Ship

  • Crowded

  • Unsanitary

  • Insufficient water supply

  • Poor food

  • Epidemic diseases

  • Inadequate supplies

  • Foul smell


Daily Routine

  • Crew opened the hatch.

  • Cargo brought to the deck.

  • After the crew had their breakfast they would demand the captives to engage in a bizarre exercise called “dancing a slave”.

  • They would be sent below the decks for another night of horror.

According to sailors you could smell a slaver ship from 5 miles downwind.

A slaver was a ship used to transport slaves.


Most did not understand why they were being taken. Many believed rumors that they were captured by cannibals.

Slaves would sometimes seek freedom by trying to mutiny.

Others would jump to their death by jumping overboard.

Thrown Overboard

Illness and disease ran rampant on such ships.  Captains would not make money for sick slaves, but they would be reimbursed for drownings... 


  • 60,000 slaves were brought to the Americas per year between 1741-1810.

  • Historians estimate 10 million were forced to travel to the Americas between 1451 and 1870.

  • Once they arrived they were sold on the auction block.

Three Cultures Collide

Africa provided many of the earliest laborers for European settlement in the Americas.

Africans possessed the skill and experience necessary to establish European-initiated agriculture, and used their cultural traditions, combined with those of Europe and Native America, to create a new American culture.

As the ship approached the shore the crew prepared the cargo for market.

The toll of the Middle Passage was hard to disguise. Slaves would often times look sickly and weak.

Arrival in the Americas

  • To impress buyers, captains would sometimes parade the Africans off of the boat to the sound of an accordion and beat of drums.

  • Some cargoes were destined for one wealthy owner or to a certain merchant.

Others were destined to go to auction.

Sales were made by auction or by scramble.

Scramble was when all the slaves would be driven into a corral, and on cue buyers would rush in and grab who they wanted.

Slave Sale

Auction House

Illustration of a slave auction in Virginia.

Naming Practices

  • In African communities the children were often named after the days of the week.

  • When Africans were sold at auction they would be named by the person who purchased them.

  • English or Anglo-Saxon names were used.

African Kingdoms Weaken

  • As the slave trades intensified the kingdoms of African began to weaken.

  • Europeans began to seize whoever they pleased including people from the kingdoms they were trading with.

  • Many of the kingdoms became like machines for supplying captives to European traders.

Sugar Plantations

Slave Codes

  • A series of laws passed mainly in Southern colonies in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to defend the status of slaves and codify the denial of basic civil rights to them.

Ohio Slave Codes

In 1804 the Ohio General Assembly enacted laws to regulate the lives of African-Americans in the state.


The laws were passed to discourage the immigration of blacks to the state.

  • Their application affected both runaways and free men.

  • Blacks already living in Ohio had to register with a county clerk; blacks had to pay a fee to be registered.

  • Whites were enjoined against employing blacks who had no proof of freedom.

  • Whites were mandated to turn in any runaway slaves, and were prohibited from harboring or protecting them.

  • Blacks were forbidden to be a part of any court case involving whites.

  • They were denied public education. In 1807 the laws were expanded.

  • The stringent additions made it virtually impossible for African-Americans to settle in or work in Ohio.

  • Then, in 1850, the National Fugitive Slave Law was enacted, directing law officers to aggressively hunt for runaways in the states.

Slave Population

  • By 1860, the south was producing 4 million bales of cotton annually.

  • As the need for slaves increased, so did the value of a slave. Between 1800 and 1860, the value of an average field hand increased by 20 times the previous amount.

Families and Communities

  • The family was the most important institution for the development of African American culture.

Tracing Your Roots

Many African Americans cannot trace their roots because their families were broken up.

Families were broke up during:

-capture of Africans in Africa

-the trip to the Americas

-the process of being sold at auction.

-the process of being sold and traded by plantation owners.


Slave Quarters

Slaver Quarters at Mount Vernon

The Peculiar Institution

  • The "peculiar institution" was a euphemism for slavery and the economic ramifications of it in the American South. The term aimed to explain away the seeming contradiction of legalized slavery in a country whose Declaration of Independence

  • About 75% of all slaves were purchased as field hands. More than ½ of all slaves in the U.S. worked on cotton plantations in the south.

Religion became a great comfort to the slaves. In many areas, the slaves were allowed to hold their own church meetings.

Slaves sang spiritual hymns in church and while working.

Rare photo of slaves attending a church service.

Together We Pray

A Tradition of Music

  • Music was a major part of the lives of the people in Africa.

  • Slaveholders feared the use of African drums on the plantations and prohibited their use.

  • They feared that they might be used to signal a slave revolt.

  • To continue using the rhythm of the drums, slave resorted to hand clapping, body slapping, and foot tapping.

A life filled with hard labor

A photograph of a kitchen slave who toiled over a hot open fire while maneuvering heavy cast iron kettles and pots.

  • The laundry was boiled in these huge iron pots, beaten to remove some of the soap, and then boiled again before being hung out to dry.

  • Slaves working in a rice field.

Slave women worked in the fields, spent time spinning, sewing, weaving, preparing food, and minding children.

Slaves picking cotton as the overseer watches on horseback.

Having worked all day in the field the slaves line up and carry back their day’s load on their heads to be weighed.

Slave Resistance

Slaves did all kinds of things to rebel on the plantations.

  • Slaves pulled down fences

  • sabotaged farm equipment

  • broke implements,

  • damaged boats,

  • vandalized wagons,

  • ruined clothing

  • and committed various other destructive acts.


When runaway slaves banded together and subsisted independently they were called Maroons. On the Caribbean islands, runaway slaves formed bands and on some islands formed armed camps. Maroon communities faced great odds to survive against white attackers, obtain food for subsistence living, and to reproduce and increase their numbers.

  • As the planters took over more land for crops, the Maroons began to vanish on the small islands. Only on some of the larger islands were organized Maroon communities able to thrive by growing crops and hunting. Here they grew in number as more slaves escaped from plantations and joined their bands.


Seeking to separate themselves from whites, the Maroons gained in power and amid increasing hostilities, they raided and pillaged plantations and harassed planters until the planters began to fear a mass slave revolt

Stono Rebellion

  • The Stono Rebellion was a slave rebellion begun on Sunday, September 9, 1739, in the colony of South Carolina.

  • It was the largest slave uprising in the British mainland colonies prior to the American Revolution.

  • The rebellion was named after the place it started, the Stono River.

  • They recruited nearly 60 other slaves and killed 22–25 whites before being intercepted by a South Carolina militia near the Edisto River. In that battle, 20 whites and 44 slaves were killed, and the rebellion was suppressed.

  • A group of slaves escaped and traveled another 30 miles before battling a week later with a militia; most of the slaves were executed; a few survived to be sold to the West Indies.

Gabriel Prosser

  • Gabriel Prosser was a literate enslaved blacksmith who planned to lead a large slave rebellion in the Richmond area in the summer of 1800.

  • However, information regarding the revolt was leaked prior to its execution, thus Gabriel's plans were foiled. Gabriel and twenty-five other members of the revolt were hanged.

  • In reaction, the Virginia and other legislatures passed restrictions on free blacks, as well as the education, movement and hiring out of the enslaved.


Slave Rebellion

  • The most extreme form of resistance was armed rebellion.

  • Often times the leaders or planners of such revolts were captured and executed by hanging.

  • The most famous slave revolt was led by Nat Turner in 1831.

  • Nat Turner was born into slavery on a plantation in Virginia. As a child he learned to read and write.

  • Most slaves did not know how to read and write because it was forbidden to learn.

  • An educated slave could be dangerous.

  • Turner became enthusiastic about the Bible.

Nat Turner

  • Turner started with a few trusted fellow slaves, but the insurgency ultimately numbered more than 50 slaves and free blacks, most of whom were on horseback.

  • On August 21st the rebellion began.

  • The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing all the whitepeople they found.

  • Because the slaves did not want to alert anyone to their presence as they carried out their attacks, they used knives, hatchets, axes, and blunt instruments instead of firearms.

  • Turner called on his group to "kill all whites."

  • The rebellion spared no one, but a small child who hid in a fireplace was among the few survivors.

  • Until Turner and his brigade of slaves met resistance at the hands of a white militia, 55 white men, women and children were killed.

  • Most of Turner’s men were captured when their ammunition ran out. 16 of the men were killed.

  • The impact of Turner’s rebellion was that it inspired fear in the South.

  • Strict new laws were passed and tension over slavery increased.

  • The rebellion was suppressed within 48 hours, but Turner eluded capture for months. On October 30th he was discovered in a swamp by a white farmer and then arrested. Turner was tried and executed by hanging.


  • Peter, a slave from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1863. The scars are a result of a whipping by his overseer, who was subsequently discharged. It took two months to recover from the beating.


The Underground Railroad

  • Called "Moses" by those she helped escape on the Underground Railroad, Tubman made many trips to Maryland to help other slaves escape.

  • According to her estimates and those of her close associates, Tubman personally guided about 70 slaves to freedom in about 13 expeditions, and gave instructions to another 70 who found their way to freedom independently.

  • She was never captured and, in her own words, "never lost a passenger.".

Harriet Tubman

  • She was given a full military burial. In her honor, a memorial plaque was placed on the Cayuga County Courthouse in Auburn. Today, Harriet Tubman is honored every March 10, the day of her death.

Freed Slaves

American slavery monument in Georgia.

Cultural Impact of Slavery

  • For many years African American culture developed separately from mainstream American culture because of the persistence of racial discrimination in America, as well as African American slave descendants' desire to maintain their own traditions.

  • Today, African American culture has become a significant part of American culture and yet, at the same time, remains a distinct cultural body.

Soul Food

  • The cultivation and use of many agricultural products in the United States, such as yams, peanuts, rice, okra, sorghum, grits, watermelon, indigo dyes, and cotton, can be traced to African influences.

  • African American foods reflect creative responses to racial and economic oppression and poverty. Under slavery, African Americans were not allowed to eat better cuts of meat, and after emancipation many often were too poor to afford them.

  • Soul food, a hearty cuisine commonly associated with African Americans in the South (but also common to African Americans nationwide), makes creative use of inexpensive products procured through farming and subsistence hunting and fishing.

Negro Spirituals

  • Negro spirituals were primarily expressions of religious faith.

  • Some may also have served as socio-political protests veiled as assimilation to white American culture. They originated among enslaved Africans in the United States.

  • During slavery in the United States, there were systematic efforts to de-Africanize the captive Black workforce. Enslaved people were forbidden from speaking their native languages.

  • Because they were unable to express themselves freely in ways that were spiritually meaningful to them, enslaved Africans often held secret religious services.

African Music

  • African American music is rooted in the typically polyrhythmic music of the ethnic groups of Africa, specifically those in the Western, Sahelean, and Sub-Saharan regions.

  • African oral traditions, nurtured in slavery, encouraged the use of music to pass on history, teach lessons, ease suffering, and relay messages.

  • During slavery, Africans in America blended traditional European hymns with African elements to create spirituals.

African Dance

  • African American dance, like other aspects of African American culture, finds its earliest roots in the dances of the hundreds of African ethnic groups that made up African slaves in the Americas as well as influences from European sources in the United States.

  • Dance in the African tradition, and thus in the tradition of slaves, was a part of both every day life and special occasions.

  • Many of these traditions such as get down, ring shouts, and other elements of African body language survive as elements of modern dance.


  • Generations of hardships imposed on the African American community created distinctive language patterns.

  • Slave owners often intentionally mixed people who spoke different African languages to discourage communication in any language other than English.

  • This, combined with prohibitions against education, led to the development of pidgins,simplified mixtures of two or more languages that speakers of different languages could use to communicate.

  • Examples: Creole and Gullah

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